Trending Topics:

Prioritizing Palestine over the Presidency: Intersectional feminism’s challenge to Hillary Clinton

US Politics
on 28 Comments

The recent controversial endorsements of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and 1980s feminist icon Gloria Steinem brought into prominence a long-standing division between powerful, privileged white women’s “feminism,” (if it might even be called that), and intersectional feminism, with its focus on the necessity of analyzing overlapping and intersecting systems of oppression.  That rift is most pronounced when it comes to Palestine, where solidarity has been selectively extended, or rather, restricted, to a small segment of the population, thus exonerating Israel of its wholescale oppression of the entire Palestinian nation.  However, as more and more people understand the interconnectedness of struggles against state-sanctioned violence globally, and join the growing network of anti-racist coalitions, there are indications that the insularity of the question of Palestine is finally eroding.

Albright’s incongruous comment, that there is a “special place in hell” for women who do not stick together, was met with immediate reminders that she had once dismissed the killing of 500,000 Iraqi children as “worth the price” of US-imposed sanctions on Iraq.  The callousness of such a remark reeked of the anti-Arab racism that has unfortunately characterized all recent US administrations.  After all, she was secretary of state under Bill Clinton, a supposed progressive Democrat.  And Hillary Clinton is trying hard to project herself as the “more progressive than thou” candidate, with a stellar foreign policy record.  Clearly, she is not concerned by her role in the devastation of any number of Arab and Muslim countries.  And she proudly flaunts her support for Israel—unwavering, and unconditional of course.  Indeed, she seems utterly unfazed by the fact that her support for Israel comes at a time when that country itself has veered so far to the right that it now openly acknowledges that it is practicing apartheid. Obviously, in her view, establishing and maintaining a “Jewish democracy” is worth the price of the subjugation of an entire people. A self-proclaimed “progressive feminist,” Clinton thus nevertheless fully embraces the dehumanization of Palestinians that Zionist supremacy hinges on.

Clinton is sadly representative of a large segment of Global North feminists who still fail to grasp the macro-environment of Israeli, state-sanctioned gender violence against the Palestinian people, preferring instead to look exclusively at the micro-culture, and blaming Arab patriarchy and Islamic fundamentalism for the oppression of Palestinian women and gays.  Yet women and queer groups in Palestine are quite articulate in their demands that solidarity not single them out, because they will never be free so long as they live under Israeli occupation and apartheid.

It is important to note that virtually every Palestinian women’s organization is part of the Palestinian civil organization’s call for global solidarity in the form of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions on Israel until it abides by international law and stops violating the human rights of the Palestinians.  Since that call was first issued in 2005, various women’s organizations have repeatedly issued more calls for solidarity in their struggle not against Islamic fundamentalism, but against the Israeli occupation.   When a delegation of US-based women of color and indigenous women visited the West Bank in 2012, Palestinian women repeated that call, explaining: “We are not asking you for heroic action or to form freedom brigades. We are simply asking you not to be complicit in perpetuating the crimes of the Israeli state.”

More recently, in November 2015, Palestinian women in East Jerusalem issued another call, also asking for solidarity in their struggle against the largest oppressor, Israel.  “We women of occupied East Jerusalem call for immediate protection as we witness and suffer the widespread and serious violations of Palestinian human rights, including physical attacks and injuries, severe psychological threats, and persecution by the Israeli settler-colonial state and settler entities.”

The entire letter is an eloquent and persuasive expose of Israeli state violence leading to the feminization of poverty, even the feminization of slavery, couched within an analysis of Israeli violence against the entire Palestinian people, not just women and children.

The refusal of Global North feminists to acknowledge the reality of life under occupation for the Palestinian people is a refusal to hold Israel accountable for its war crimes against an entire people.  As such, it reflects a narrow focus on who can be a victim:  women, children, and, in the 21st century formulation of colonialist savior feminism, queer people. Maya Mikdashi’s aptly titled “Can Palestinian Men Be Victims?” crystallizes the denial of the humanity of Palestinian men that Zionism hinges on, which is most obvious when Global North feminists denounce the “disproportionate number of women and children” killed in Israeli assaults.

Palestinian men, according to this logic, are always-already guilty, non-civilian, terrorists, eminently killable.  “Women and children” are redeemable, but only because they are always-already victims, with no agency.  And this disempowered status can conveniently be blamed on Arab patriarchy.

This selective focus, which lets Israel off the hook, is denounced by many Global South feminists, who understand that Israel, as a settler-colonial state, is the major player in oppressive dynamics, including but not restricted to gender roles.  They understand that Palestinian women cannot be “free” until Israel stops violating their human rights as Palestinians.  Thus intersectional feminism highlights, and seeks to end, the invisibilizing of the suffering of the entire Palestinian people, old and young, ’48 and 67 and Diaspora, men, women, and children of all sexualities.

Similarly, Palestinian queers are adamant that their liberation cannot happen without the liberation of the entire Palestinian people.  Groups such as PQBDS (Palestinian Queers for BDS) and Al-Qaws have consistently denounced attempts to divide Palestinian society by focusing only on the oppression of queers that results from Palestinian homophobia.  They point out that there is no magic pink door in the Apartheid wall, and that Israel does not distinguish between straight and gay Palestinians before dropping bombs on densely-populated neighborhoods in the Gaza Strip, demolishing a Palestinian home in East Jerusalem or displacing entire communities from their ancestral land in the Naqab.

Yet there are hopeful indications that this counter-productive myopic vision—a myopia that would skim over millions of Palestinians, simply because they are men, or straight—is finally eroding in the Global North.  Among the more important recent developments is the landslide vote in favor of BDS by the NWSA (National Women’s Studies Association) in November 2015, which Palestinian feminist scholar Rabab Abdulhadi called a “browning of the institution.”

The vote represented an understanding that justice is indivisible, and that global feminist solidarity is necessarily an anti-colonial, intersectional practice, rather than a diamond-bejeweled white fist raised towards a glass ceiling which prevents privileged women from achieving the presidency of the world’s largest hypermilitarized imperial power.

Similarly, the disruption of the pinkwashing workshop at the Creating Change Conference in Chicago in January 2016 was a clear sign that a growing number of gender activists in the US realize that queer struggles cannot be used as a smokescreen to conceal Israeli war crimes.  That disruption was coordinated by a diverse national coalition of queers of color who challenged the Zionist narrative of Israel as a haven of tolerance, diversity, modernity.  More importantly, the disruption articulated a recognition that pinkwashing, as it focuses exclusively on the oppression of queer Palestinians in what is presented as an irredeemably homophobic and violent, “barbaric” micro-society, has the sinister effect of dehumanizing all but openly gay Palestinians.

Zionist ideology seeks to create a Jewish supremacist nation that hinges on the brutal subjugation of an entire people. But as with the rejection of Clinton and Albright’s “feminism,” the outrage over Israel’s crimes is spreading, and a growing number of voices are stating, loud and clear, that the price of the “Jewish democracy” is not worth it.

With the understanding that Zionism is the greater oppressor of the Palestinian people comes the responsibility to avoid complicity in this system.  In the US, we cannot look to our next president, whoever s/he might be, to do so.  But we can and are organizing at the grassroots level to help expose, challenge, and ultimately abolish, Israeli apartheid.

About Nada Elia

Nada Elia is a Palestinian scholar-activist, writer, and grassroots organizer, currently completing a book on Palestinian Diaspora activism.

Other posts by .

Posted In:

28 Responses

  1. Don
    February 15, 2016, 2:26 pm

    Just my low iq opinion, but I think “”Intersectional Feminism” would be better named “Feminal Overlappingism”.

    I mean really, “intersectionalism”? They cannot find a word better than “intersectionalism” to describe their intent? I don’t think that will win any marketing awards.

  2. kalithea
    February 15, 2016, 2:27 pm

    There’s a special place in hell for women who discriminate on which group and nation of people are entitled to human rights and which are not.

  3. Stephen Shenfield
    February 15, 2016, 2:40 pm

    Hillary Clinton’s support for Israel is just one part of the imperialist foreign policy she has pursued throughout the world. Her support of the regime established by the military coup in Honduras is another example. Diana Johnstone has surveyed the subject in her book “Queen of Chaos.”

    • Emory Riddle
      February 16, 2016, 10:29 am

      Call me crazy, but I am pretty sure the Israel Lobby has a bit more influence/control over Hillary than does the Honduran military.

      • Sibiriak
        February 17, 2016, 12:13 am

        It’s not the military in Honduras that Hillary might owe allegiance to, but the capitalist- imperialist Establishment in America .

  4. MaxNarr
    February 16, 2016, 10:48 am

    And of course PLO-supremecists want to subvert the American elections and prioritize “Palestine” over American Democracy.

    • Mooser
      February 16, 2016, 11:11 am

      “And of…/… Democracy.”

      Aww, look, it’s our very own “Mideast Beast”. A parody-Zionist!

      I love your schtik “Max”, but I am compelled to say that the commenting rules (see the “comments policy” tab at the top of the page) forbid that kind of thing. But damn, man, you are the best at it! Over the top, all the time.

    • eljay
      February 16, 2016, 11:11 am

      || MaxNarr: And of course PLO-supremecists want to subvert the American elections and prioritize “Palestine” over American Democracy. ||

      What’s a “PLO-supreme”?

      • a blah chick
        February 16, 2016, 1:37 pm

        “What’s a “PLO-supreme”?

        That’s the one with extra secret sauce and sauerkraut.

      • echinococcus
        February 16, 2016, 1:47 pm

        The Narr, being proudly a Narr, hasn’t yet received the memo that the PLO is now a wholly owned Zionist entity organ.

        Hell, of course Palestine, the very real whole country and its people, will have precedence over “American Democracy” not even a myth any longer.

  5. JLewisDickerson
    February 16, 2016, 6:39 pm

    RE: “The vote (by NWSA in favor of BDS) represented an understanding that justice is indivisible, and that global feminist solidarity is necessarily an anti-colonial, intersectional practice, rather than a diamond-bejeweled white fist raised towards a glass ceiling which prevents privileged women from achieving the presidency of the world’s largest hypermilitarized imperial power.” ~ Nada Elia

    SPEAKING OF DIAMOND-BEJEWELED WHITE FISTS: Dare I mention Chelsa Clinton’s three millon dollar ($3,000,000) wedding, or should I try to show/have a little more ❤?
    Enquiring minds mimes want to know!™

    Chelsea Clinton’s wedding will cost $3M – $5M | NY Daily News –

  6. tree
    February 16, 2016, 6:53 pm

    So, did anyone make an “intersectionality” objection when Obama, as a privileged black person, sought to “achieve the presidency of the world’s largest hypermilitarized imperial power”, or does “intersectionality” only operate in one direction( a one way street, perhaps)? I’d really like an answer to this, because it seems quite hypocritical if this only applies to women. I missed it if the same reasoning was applied with regards to Obama.

    • gamal
      February 17, 2016, 6:47 am

      what is an “intersectionality” objection?

      ” it seems quite hypocritical if this only applies to women”

      it was postulated and developed by black women, to explain an aspect of their experience (Crenshaw ’89)

      “Elsewhere, Collins acknowledges the crucial component of social class among Black women in shaping political perceptions. In “The Contours of an Afrocentric Feminist Epistemology,” she argues that “[w]hile a Black woman’s standpoint and its accompanying epistemology stem from Black women’s consciousness of race and gender oppression, they are not simply the result of combining Afrocentric and female values—standpoints are rooted in real material conditions structured by social class.”14 [Emphasis added.]”

      so in terms of Obama his blackness surely intersects with his privilege somewhere around the “Birthers” and he is an anti-Israel Muslim doesn’t it, no one ever questioned GW’s Americaness, or made too much of his clans Nazi associations.

      “only operate in one direction” what are the privileges associated with blackness? and female status?

      in a nut shell

      “In Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness and the Politics of Empowerment, published in 1990, Black feminist Patricia Hill Collins extends and updates the social contradictions raised by Sojourner Truth, while crediting collective struggles waged historically with establishing a “collective wisdom” among Black women:

      If women are allegedly passive and fragile, then why are Black women treated as “mules” and assigned heavy cleaning chores? If good mothers are supposed to stay at home with their children, then why are US Black women on public assistance forced to find jobs and leave their children in day care? If women’s highest calling is to become mothers, then why are Black teen mothers pressured to use Norplant and Depo Provera? In the absence of a viable Black feminism that investigates how intersecting oppressions of race, gender, and class foster these contradictions, the angle of vision created by being deemed devalued workers and failed mothers could easily be turned inward, leading to internalized oppression. But the legacy of struggle among US Black women suggests that a collectively shared Black women’s oppositional knowledge has long existed. This collective wisdom in turn has spurred US Black women to generate a more specialized knowledge, namely, Black feminist thought as critical social theory.12”

      if you want a laugh go to Hophmi archive and read his deployment of intersectionality

      “it seems quite hypocritical if this only applies to women” i dont think i suffer much social impediments through being a man, in fact where my male identity intersects with my being ” the dark lad” ( as one of my neighbours described me to some one looking for me yesterday) if anything it somewhat alleviates it as i am a big knarly looking thing most people choose to treat with courtesy, not so for some of three young black guys who live in the local market town and its environs but they only get the odd comment implying they are refugees etc, i am the only person who talks to them, they dont have many complaints just a bit lonely as no one will have much to do with them.

      i am surprised at the irritation this idea causes, there is a large literature associated with it wherein I’d guess you would find answers to most of your questions if you choose to engage with it.

      • tree
        February 18, 2016, 10:28 pm

        Thanks for the reply gamal but its apparent that I didn’t make my point very clearly. I understand what is being called “intersectionality”.

        The point I was trying to make, albeit poorly, was that I have not heard a similar objection to the effort for Obama to become US President such as that made against Clinton as the “diamond-bejeweled white fist raised towards a glass ceiling which prevents privileged women from achieving the presidency of the world’s largest hypermilitarized imperial power.”

        Both Obama, a black man and Clinton, a white woman, are both privileged, not because of their race or gender, but because of their positions of power and wealth that they obtained prior to their run for the Presidency. This is the context in which I called Obama a privileged black man.

        I don’t consider the average black man or white woman as being privileged, but rather as unencumbered, respectively, by gender (black men) or race (white women) discrimination. I refuse to consider being unencumbered by discrimination a “privilege” when it is most certainly a human right and not simply a “privilege”. Power and wealth are privileges, basic human rights are not.

        Obama’s attainment of the Presidency ( of the same world’s largest hypermilitarized imperial power”, BTW) was for the most part applauded as a symbolic victory against racism and for equality. On the other hand, Clinton’s struggle is portrayed here as somehow counter to “real feminism” and a blow for racism and elitism, even though both were campaigns by privileged people to lead a highly privileged country. It is the double standard that I am attempting to point out.

        Just to make clear, I firmly believe that it is much more important and meaningful for Palestinians to achieve their human rights than it is for a symbolic victory by either a black man or a white woman in obtaining the US Presidency.

        My point is that this, as far as I know, is only being brought up when its the goose, so to speak, that is running for the Presidency, when there was silence or acquiescence or outright cheerleading when the gander was doing the same thing.

        I also don’t see the two (Palestinian rights and a symbolic victory in the US against race or gender discrimination) as mutually exclusive; although they certainly have not been (under Obama)and will not be( if Clinton attains the Presidency) mutually inclusive either.

        This is why this looks to me like women, and I mean ALL women, not just white women, are expected to fight for everyone else’s rights before their own. I don’t think that’s the way the world should operate. And white women who root for a symbolic victory at the expense of other people’s rights should get no more approbation than anyone else who does the same. If you are vocal in speaking out against this when women do it, you must be likewise vocal when others do it, or risk being guilty of the same sin you are blaming on others.

        I hope that helps to clarify what I was trying to say earlier.

      • gamal
        February 19, 2016, 12:19 pm

        Hi Tree

        firstly sorry i didnt mean to go off into one, its not what you said its what i decided to latch on to, i would like to presume on your good offices to concede whatever it was that i was trying to say,

        i am woeful on electoral politics, if i have time later i may try to salvage something from my previous stupidity, i remain unconvinced that intersectionality has much application outside the specialized environment it arose in, but let me stop there before i compound my previous foolishness.

      • tree
        February 19, 2016, 6:18 pm

        Hi gamal,

        Please, no need to apologize. I was not clear to begin with and you responded to what you thought I intended. As they say in American basketball, “No harm, no foul.”

        I always find your comments interesting at the least and often enlightening , with a unique viewpoint. To quote another meme that’s probably outdated ( the only kind I seem to know), its all good.

      • gamal
        February 21, 2016, 7:11 pm

        Hi tree

        you too gracious,

        i hope you dont mind if i tell you a story make of it what you will.

        some time ago in Medina during the reign of Umar, guys were coming home from war laden with rich booty. This was noted by the women of Medina, they began demanding huge sums for their hands in marriage. The ever practical Arab man realized that while the bride price was extortionate the young women could be romanced, at lesser initial outlay. Medina became a party town, all the young people enmeshed in illicit affairs.

        So the Muslims came whining to Umar, the young guys wont pay the price and the young women wont stop taking lovers, ya Umar what is your solution.

        the following Friday amir al mumineen ( a title he created because it gave the honour to ruled not the ruler) took to the minbar,

        He explained that from now on he would place a cap on the price a woman could ask for her hand, everyone nodded when

        “Ya Umar” from the back, all eyes turn, a woman in her middle years addresses the ummah

        “Does it not say in the Quran “when you divorce a woman, if you have given her a treasure as a gift or dowry, do not ask for it back” (An Nisaa 20)

        all eyes turned to the front


        “Ya Umar if God himself allows that a man may give a woman a treasure for her hand who are you to put a cap on it?”

        all eyes turned to the front,

        ” That woman is correct in what she says, in this community there are so many people more knowledgeable and intelligent than I.” Umar, you dont get any more Sunni than that.

        of course Umar was rooster pecked (twice) rather than hen pecked and if you get that count yourself an Arab, if not you probably still Arab in some way.

      • RoHa
        February 22, 2016, 11:51 am

        Good story, Gamal. Bad translation of the Qur’an, though. (Not your translation, I assume.) “Dowry” means wealth endowed on the bride, usually by her family, which she contributes to the marriage. The correct term here is “bridewealth”, a contribution from the groom’s side.

      • RoHa
        February 22, 2016, 7:07 pm

        And there’s an ambiguous sentence. My intention was to say that the bride contributes the dowry to the marriage, but the sentence can be read as saying that the bride contributes her family to the marriage.

        Of course, some brides do.

    • gamal
      February 22, 2016, 6:35 pm

      “Bad translation of the Qur’an, though. (Not your translation, I assume.)”

      The error is all mine. I was being lazy and sloppy and hoping you get the meaning despite my efforts, to compound my error the Quran quote was off the top of my head, didnt check not really 100% sure thats the one I meant, translate I just mugged it, An Nisaa good bet for this one, 20 is about not taking your “cantar” of gold back I rolled the dice and lost, who ever checks these things here? I am a Sunni not a computer, error is assumed and in this instance its all mine.

      You have let so much slide recently I forgot myself.

      “Bridewealth” a contribution from the grooms side, payable to the Wife and retained by her as her exclusive property, according to Islam there is no upper limit on the value or is that cost of a wife, who says commercial language lacks poetry. The Shi’i do not like Umar and so may have other arrangements, they are very rude about him.

      • RoHa
        February 23, 2016, 4:22 am

        “You have let so much slide recently I forgot myself. ”

        I’m rather busy right now. I’ve had to arrange a funeral and I’m executor for the estate in Britain, so I have an excuse for inattention. It will take quite a while to get it all sorted out, so now is the time for you to indulge yourselves in misplaced commas and all your other favourite solecisms. There is a good chance of getting away with it.

      • just
        February 23, 2016, 8:17 am

        Sincere condolences, RoHa.

        Keep on truckin’, my dear.

      • RoHa
        February 23, 2016, 11:50 am

        Thanks, just.

  7. JLewisDickerson
    February 16, 2016, 6:59 pm

    RE: “Groups such as PQBDS (Palestinian Queers for BDS) and Al-Qaws have consistently denounced attempts to divide Palestinian society by focusing only on the oppression of queers that results from Palestinian homophobia. They point out that there is no magic pink door in the Apartheid wall . . .” ~ Nada Eli

    SEE: “Israel’s Treatment of Gay Palestinian Asylum Seekers” ~ by Caroline Esser, The Washington Note, 6/06/11

    [EXCERPTS] . . . The newest way to sell Israel to Americans: LGBT rights. Search gay rights on the Anti-Defamation League’s website and what do you find? A ready-to-print and available for order poster that reads, “Which of the Middle East nations protects the legal rights, safety & freedom of the LGBT communities? Only Israel.” . . .
    . . . In their 2008 study, “Nowhere to Run: Gay Palestinian Asylum-Seekers in Israel,” Michael Kagan and Anat Ben-Dor describe in detail Israel’s unsympathetic and unbending policy towards gay Palestinians. . .
    . . .In pursuit of protection and the ability to openly express their sexuality, there have been at least ten cases in which gay Palestinians have sought refuge in Israel. However, despite their desperation, Israel refuses to even review gay Palestinian applications for asylum (those who have successfully received asylum have had to submit their cases directly to the UNHCR headquarters in Geneva). Moreover, gay Palestinians who have illegally entered Israel have been arrested and promptly deported–returned to the very environments in which their lives were at risk and in which they will now face further danger as they are questioned not only for their sexuality but for their choice to spend time in Israel. . .


    • jon s
      February 24, 2016, 1:35 am


      Being executor for an estate – I know how difficult that can be.

      Please accept my sincere personal condolences.

  8. Rosetta
    February 16, 2016, 9:01 pm

    There is much progress being made on the BDS front, regardless what American presidential candidates might say or do and in fact regardless of what American Presidents say and do.

  9. MHughes976
    February 17, 2016, 8:42 am

    If it is argued pro Israel that ‘We wanted to set up a state marked by democracy and personal liberty in sexual matters: therefore we killed,,drove out and took possession, as was right’ I would disagree, even if I didn’t question the first half. Turning people into refugees or into disfranchised sub-citizens is depriving them of so much security and of the basic means to press for rights not yet enjoyed and so is one of the worst forms of wrong and oppression that can be. Steady Ill-reatment of people on grounds of gender or sexuality or in other unreasonable ways can indeed be deeply wrong and crushing for the victims but it does not destroy civil society and thus leaves even to the victims some means of security and some means of redress and betterment. So I think we should have no patience with any form of the idea, which is really rather grotesque, that there is currently some form of oppression suffered by Palestinians worse than that inflicted by Israel.

  10. JLewisDickerson
    February 18, 2016, 3:32 pm

    RE: “The refusal of Global North feminists to acknowledge the reality of life under occupation for the Palestinian people is a refusal to hold Israel accountable for its war crimes against an entire people. As such, it reflects a narrow focus on who can be a victim: women, children, and, in the 21st century formulation of colonialist savior feminism, queer people . . .” ~ Nada Eli


    . . . Some say that art helps man to know the world like any other intellectual activity. I don’t believe in this possibility of knowing; I am almost an agnostic. Knowledge distracts us from our main purpose in life. The more we know the less we know; getting deeper, our horizon becomes narrower. . .

    SOURCE –


    * WH has also referred to Netanyahu as obtuse, blustering, pompous & “Aspergery” –

Leave a Reply