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No anti-Zionists allowed on Hadassah panel exploring ‘tension’ between feminism and Zionism

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Even as the situation on the ground in Palestine remains dire, and will, according to analyst Nadia Hijab, become even worse before it gets better, Palestine rights activists can celebrate one significant accomplishment:  the discursive change that has slowly but surely eroded the credibility of the Zionist narrative over the past few years.

Within feminist communities, this became most obvious during the mass protests in the wake of Donald Trump’s election, especially when the January 20 Women’s March in Washington DC featured Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour as one of the speakers, and the March 8 International Women’s Strike platform named the decolonization of Palestine as central to their vision.  An alarmed Emily Shire, editor at Bustle, published an essay “Does Feminism Have Room for Feminists?” which opened up much discussion, (and which I responded to with a resounding “No, there is no room for Zionism in any movement for justice.”)

On Thursday, June 8, Hadassah picked up the conversation again as they hosted “Feminism and Zionism:  Exploring Recent Tensions,” a panel discussion between Shire, Sharon Weiss-Greenberg (Executive Director of JOFA, the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance), Marisa Kabas (a New York-based writer), and Libby Kenkinski (New Israel Fund), moderated by Bari Weiss, an editor at the New York Times.  In typical Zionist fashion, Hadassah did not feature an anti-Zionist (Jew or non-Jew), and certainly no Palestinian speaker.

Did the panel organizers try, but could not find anyone naïve enough to do this in the hope that they could sway the rest of the panelists, or did they not even bother, because what’s Zionism got to do with Palestine anyway? Prior to the event, I emailed the Facebook administrator asking if they had tried to include a dissenting voice, or had reached out to an anti-Zionist and/or Palestinian speaker.  I received no response, and my comment is still showing as “under review” by the administrator as I write this.  Another friend, Maureen Silverman, also wrote: “I wish you invited an anti-Zionist on the panel.  To me Zionist oppression, racism, domination, settler colonialism, nationalism, white Jewish supremacy do not coincide with feminism!!!!  It would be useful to hear from Palestinians on this.”  And while her comment was approved for posting by the administrator, she did not receive a response either.

I watched the event online.  Hadassah President Ellen Hershkin greeted the audience, and introduced the speakers and moderator, stating that “there is no such thing as a one-size fits all Zionism.”  And indeed, the speakers did not sound like reverberating echoes of each other, but rather like variations on a theme, that theme being that Israel is misunderstood, that it is a land that empowers women, and that it is being “singled out” for criticism.  With the possible exception of Lenkinski, (the only Israeli panelist, the four others being American) the speakers expressed a sense of defensiveness, as if they were being bullied, disempowered, for their views.  As Kabas put it, at the Women’s March, “the rhetoric wasn’t just pro-Palestine, it was anti-Israel.”  She explained that, as a woman, she had expected to feel empowered, but could not, because of the overall tone of the march.  Weiss-Greenberg jumped in, adding that she too, felt the march was “deeply disappointing.”  Shire reminded the audience that one of the organizers of the march was a “convicted terrorist,” a choice that reveals an “unnuanced” understanding of foreign policy on the part of the rest of the organizers.  Shire was obviously referring to Rasmea Odeh, the Palestinian grassroots organizer who as a young woman was subjected to physical, sexual, and psychological torture in Israeli jail.

“Why is being a Zionist a focal issue of the current feminist discussion,” Kabas asked.  “There are other issues.  Israel is being singled out.”

In the absence of a panelist who would answer Marisa’s question, let me point her to the statement of the International Women’s Strike, which lists multiple issues of concern to feminists, and certainly does not “single out” Israel, even though it calls it out as an oppressor which must be held accountable for its many crimes.

The panelists were not only critical of the Women’s March, but also of the Black Lives Matter statement, that also calls out Israel’s genocidal practices.  “Who wrote that statement?  Who did they talk to?”  asked Lenkinski.  She went on to explain that she could not sign on to it, even though she agreed with much of its contents, because of the negative references to Israel.

The rest of the panelists agreed, saying they felt they could not join coalitions, “movements that call themselves progressive,” because of the pervasive criticism of Israel.  “It’s really hard to have a conversation when the other side is not educated” about why there is Jewish support for Israel, despite some disapproval of some Israeli policies, Kabas jumped in.   It feels like “a binary, a good vs bad, black and white issue,” Shire interjected, and Israel is viewed as the oppressor.

Again, a non-Zionist voice would have possibly interjected here, explaining that it is precisely because “the other side” is educated about the reality of Israel, that they are so critical of it.  If anything, the discursive change that puts some Zionists on the defensive today is a direct result of the long-overdue shattering of the censorship about Israel.

So what would you tell a college freshman about Israel, the moderator asked, giving panelists a final chance to defend their Zionism.

“Israel was founded by men and women, side by side,” Weiss-Greenberg answered.  “it’s a place where women can fight, and vote, side by side.”  (“Yes.  Some women.  And they vote for apartheid, and fight and kill other women.  Side by side,” said the little unwelcome anti-Zionist voice).

“Feminism is also about equality for Jews and non-Jews.  Israel is a place where Jews are safe and where we can celebrate, a place we call our own,” said Kabas.  (“OK, I’d love some equality,” said the unfeatured anti-Zionist voice).

Shire volunteered: “We have Golda Meir.  We have women who serve.  We have protection for women.”

Oh dear, I so wish someone could have brought up Palestinian women.  Maybe even protection for Palestinian women.  And “serving” in a brutally murderous military as not exactly a feminist accomplishment.  But for these American Zionists, Palestinians do not exist.  Indeed, Golda Meir said so.

Again, Libby, the Israeli, had a slightly more nuanced response: “True Zionism is only possible when we have peace with Palestine.  Building bridges, coming together, as Zionists, as Israelis who care about Israel.”

Oh wait, I guess it is all about Israel after all.  Because Zionism, an exclusionary ideology, has no room for others.

About Nada Elia

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

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50 Responses

  1. JosephA
    June 9, 2017, 11:14 am

    It shows a true depth of understanding when you could listen to such comments that one disagrees with, and not go insane. Your analysis is spot-on.

    My friend asked me last night, facetiously, over dinner, “So what’s up with Israel being singled out for criticism at the United Nations?”

    My response was, “well, that state has been breaking international law and practices active ethnic cleansing and racism, enshrined into their law, so it just seems fitting that Israel should be criticized”. Sometimes it’s OK to discuss the elephant in the room. You just have to make sure to look over your shoulder, left and right, before and after.

  2. Tom Pessah
    June 9, 2017, 4:54 pm

    it’s worth mentioning that Hadassah was deeply complicit in the kidnapping of Mizrachi (mostly Yemenite) children in the 1950s, and has yet to make the relevant documents public. Hebrew article:

  3. JWalters
    June 9, 2017, 10:00 pm

    Nada Elia has ten time more knowledge, logic, understanding, humanity, and integrity than these five other women combined. They’re a disgrace to the human race. Yecch!

  4. Citizen
    June 9, 2017, 11:51 pm

    Reminds me of the vulgar “circle jerk.”

  5. johneill
    June 10, 2017, 3:04 am

    small correction: the essay wasn’t titled “does feminism have room for feminists?” anyway, this is still fantastic coverage, as always.

  6. chocopie
    June 10, 2017, 8:32 pm

    It’s great that they are feeling pushed out of progressive movements. That’s progress.

  7. yonah fredman
    June 11, 2017, 1:26 am

    Regarding the past and present and future regarding hatred of yehudim, i feel it is difficult to assess and as yogi berra said, it’s difficult to predict particularly about the future.
    the extreme experience of 1939 to 1945 like a bright light that distorts the photograph, so that nothing else can be seen clearly.
    we do not consult the monotheistic biblical text of the hebrews when trying to assess the historic circumstances where hatred of yehudim had particular salience, but a background in the yehudi holidays, customs, languages and texts would be useful to understand the perspective of the people in question.
    obviously, zionism and the pain it has inflicted on palestinians is the primary factor that i have not yet mentioned.
    zionism is certainly the primary current issue for yehudim or jews or world jewry.
    zionism was not born in america, it was born in eastern europe under the czar,(primarily. And then secondarily:) in 19th century central europe where nationalism was on the brink of turning ultra toxic. the great migration from 1880 to 1920 is the founding platform of the seedbed of the garden of american yehudis who have been basically bystanders in the two primary stories of the last 100 years: the shoah and the state. but not bystanders now, in fact lobbyists of a sort. but then this raises the question of : meat in the game or tuchus on tish (ass on table), so it is still bystander, as target of self doubt or as target of enemies.

    • Annie Robbins
      June 11, 2017, 2:07 am

      hatred of yehudim[x2]…yehudi holidays, customs, languages and texts… zionism is certainly the primary current issue for yehudim or jews or world jewry…. the seedbed of the garden of american yehudis

      is there a reason you’re using this (biblical) term? is it a phase? is it exotic? doesn’t it just mean jewish? please explain.

      this raises the question of : meat in the game or tuchus on tish (ass on table),

      have you taken a creative writing course?

      • yonah fredman
        June 11, 2017, 1:50 pm

        the word jew has a toxic history and using the hebrew word for jews rather than the word others have come up with to call us, is something that i indulge in from time to time.

        malcolm would use the term “so called negro” in order to italicize the word. by using the word yehudim, i am saying, “so called jew”.

      • yonah fredman
        June 11, 2017, 2:03 pm

        i would venture to guess that at least half of american jews do not know where the word “jew” comes from. and the jewish way to refer to a jew.

      • Mooser
        June 11, 2017, 2:30 pm

        “malcolm would use the term…”

        The works and thinking of Malcom X have inspired and motivated “yonah” to fight for Jewish liberation in America, ‘by any means necessary!’

      • Annie Robbins
        June 11, 2017, 8:51 pm

        by using the word yehudim, i am saying, “so called jew”.

        ah, thanks for the explanation yonah. for the record, i don’t think the words jew or jewish are toxic (in the least) and though the words have a rough past they represent so much more than that including lots of beautiful ideas, things and (most importantly) people. so don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater would be my sentiment. and, i really don’t think these historical hebrew terms are going to be catching on (wrt common usage), at least not in the western world.

        but i learned something — i had no idea the terms “jew” and “jewish” were ones “others have come up with to call us [you]”. whoda thunk? while you’re at it, dumping terms others have come up with, how about dumping the term “anti semitism” — since its current usage doesn’t include most of the semites in the world anyway — and it really has a toxic history. just a thought.

      • yonah fredman
        June 12, 2017, 1:16 am

        annie- you are being obnoxious, you know you are being obnoxious. you are pretending that you are not being obnoxious.

      • yonah fredman
        June 12, 2017, 1:35 am

        if you knew a person named susan and she said, i hate when people call me sue, you’d go to her and say, c’mon, sue, it’s a great name. you should love it.

      • Keith
        June 12, 2017, 10:19 am

        YONAH FREDMAN- “…i hate when people call me sue….”

        “Jew” is a nickname? Who knew?

      • Mooser
        June 12, 2017, 12:30 pm

        ,““Jew” is a nickname? Who knew? .”

        Don’t you remember the Johnny Cash song about it?

      • Mooser
        June 12, 2017, 12:46 pm

        “it’s a great name. you should love it.”

        That’s right, Yonah”.

        You should try singing a chorus of “I enjoy being a Sue”

      • Annie Robbins
        June 12, 2017, 1:07 pm

        you know you are being obnoxious. you are pretending that you are not being obnoxious.

        try chilling yonah. i meant what i said. i didn’t know “others” came up with the word “jew” and “jewish”, and i think neither words are “toxic”. i think a LOT of very beautiful people are jewish and i meant every word i said. you can hear whatever you want to hear but what you can’t do is tell me what i know!

        i hate when people call me sue, you’d go to her and say, c’mon, sue, it’s a great name. you should love it.

        a. you didn’t say you hated it when people referenced you as a jew or jewish.
        b. i didn’t tell you the terms “jew” and “jewish” were “great” or that you should love them.

        i spoke for myself, from my own experience. and if someone told me they hated the name sue and thought it was toxic, i’d probably say — wow, i never thought of that name as toxic, i think it’s a nice name and i know some very beautiful people named sue (which i do as a matter of fact, including susie(s) and susan(s)!).

        try not looking for the worst is everyone, it might brighten your day!

      • echinococcus
        June 12, 2017, 1:27 pm

        Who owes to justify oneself to the clinically insane? The more you try to explain, the more he’ll ramble on with his paranoia.

      • Annie Robbins
        June 12, 2017, 1:30 pm

        plus, if you find the terms so offensive and you want to discourage people from using them try starting with all the people who, unlike you, don’t find the terms “toxic” and use them to self identify. you could start here:

        Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation
        Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services
        Jewish Book Council
        Jewish Farm School
        Jewish Impact Films
        Jewish Publication Society
        Jewish Veg
        Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America
        Jewish Women Artists’ Circle
        Jewish Women’s Archive
        Jewish Music Festival
        San Francisco Jewish Film Festival
        Jewish Film Institute
        East Bay International Jewish Film Festival

        but if your point is that just because you don’t like the terms you think we shouldn’t like them or use them, i really don’t know what to say to you. they are common terms and identities, and with the exception of usage by bigoted people, neither terms are derogatory (or toxic) in and of themselves.

      • echinococcus
        June 12, 2017, 1:41 pm


        Not only Americans, the overwhelming majority of humans have no idea of the etymology of most words they use. “Yehudi” is Hebrew and its exact and close translation is “Jew”, and the language of this site is English.

        No problem with you insanely ranting on in your little corner, nobody has to read the nonsense, but you should be thankful and avoid making yourself more obnoxious than you already are and bite people when there is absolutely no reason for it. (In my humble opinion of course, for the hyperventilatory reader that will again interject that I am impersonating an officer of the law or of the site.)

      • amigo
        June 12, 2017, 1:49 pm

        Yonah, you are being repetitious, you know you are being repetitious. You are pretending you are not being repetitious.

      • eljay
        June 12, 2017, 1:50 pm

        || Annie Robbins: … if you find the terms so offensive … ||

        The word “Jew” offends Wondering Yehudi only “from time to time”. The rest of the time, he’s perfectly happy to be a “so-called Jew”.

      • gamal
        June 12, 2017, 2:11 pm

        “neither terms are derogatory (or toxic)”

        Giving a big shout out to all my friends at Jews’ College,

        they have gone beyond ish and just are, totally ur-ish (its ok groan away i self-congratulate these days, takes all the uncertainty out of it)

      • Mooser
        June 12, 2017, 2:35 pm

        “the word jew has a toxic history..the word others have come up with to call us.” “yonah fredman”

        ‘This analysis is nothing new. It is typical of “Yonah’s” writing, which suggests, as it always does, the “Yonah” has internalized anti-Jewish hatred, and like those secularist Jews in Europe who looked down upon their brethren or converted to Christianity to escape their Judaism, “Yonah” adopts the classic tropes of the self-hater. The key point here is that he quotes Gilad Atzmon’s views.
        Self-hatred is a disease. It is a sad disease borne of many generations of persecution, but it is a disease. And “Yonah” is afflicted with it, as many Jews have been in the past.’ – See more at:

        So nous, so Sue…

      • Mooser
        June 12, 2017, 3:06 pm

        “i would venture to guess that at least half of american jews do not know where the word “jew” comes from”

        Don’t be silly “Yonah”. Everybody knows “Jew” or “Jewish” (usually capitalized, BTW.) is a derivation of an acronym derived from “East European Slavo-Turk”.

      • yonah fredman
        June 12, 2017, 4:08 pm

        rather than retread, let me proceed. (to entangle the entire area).
        so they offered it for 50, but i jewed them down to 35.
        fagin, the jew.
        don’t be such a jew.
        so i was subbing in a class of 6th graders and this kid asks, “what culture are you?” and i answered, “jew”, and the word felt like a spit.
        queer people call themselves queer as a type of defiance.
        call me whatever you want, just pay me on time.
        when you shorten someone’s name it’s an iffy thing. when you mispronounce someone’s name, it’s an iffy thing.
        jew comes from judean. yehuda was the fourth son of leah and she thanked god and the root word of thank you, is toda, and the only letter in there that is a foundation of the root word is the d.
        the germans called us jude and threw us in the ovens.
        the russians called us zhid.
        so the “d” is no guarantee to good treatment.
        but the “d” is of the root of the word and depriving whatever translation of yehudi you come up with and deleting the “d” is like turning the word into something without any of the original content.
        you’ve never heard a jew hater riff on jewish, on the ish part of jewish?
        in europe in the language of my grandfathers we were yidden. in hebrew “ani yehudi”. i really don’t like the word jew, but i use it out of habit and convenience.

      • Mooser
        June 12, 2017, 5:42 pm

        “so i was subbing in a class of 6th graders and this kid asks, “what culture are you?” and i answered, “jew”, and the word felt like a spit.”

        “Hophmi” was right. A sad, sad disease.

      • gamal
        June 12, 2017, 6:13 pm

        “A sad, sad disease.”

        maitri must always precede karuna practice.

        maitri make friends with yourself, inner torment is the ego’s secret weapon, its serious, monumentally important, of crucial significance its all shit you could just drop it, this self disgust, who cares? why should you, fuck ego its such a little shit, like have a randy angry little dog constantly nipping at you or yapping in your ear dry humping everything that moves, watch it its a scream.

        you know something Yonah i have been spat upon many times, not recently, attacked, but no one ever spit on my mind or punched me in the psyche, it is pristine, in this world here we do not get stroked like cats, but why beat yourself, its silly, how can you spit in your own face, oh well there is one surefire way

      • Mooser
        June 12, 2017, 6:39 pm

        Hey, gotta give “fredman” his props. He pulls his weight.

        Instead of claiming that there is anti-semitism here, he brings plenty of his own. Enough for everyone.

      • RoHa
        June 12, 2017, 6:56 pm

        Yonah, in modern America you don’t have to put up with that sort of thing. If people offend you by calling you a “Jew”, take them to court. Sue.

      • Keith
        June 12, 2017, 6:57 pm

        MOOSER- “Don’t you remember the Johnny Cash song about it?”

        Was that the one about the Wondering Yehudi named Susan?

      • Boris
        June 12, 2017, 10:53 pm

        H E B R E W
        E B R E O — Italian
        E V R E Y — Russian
        J E W — English
        … and so on….

        I think the root is obvious – we are the descendants of Hebrews.

        Yahud was just a subset.

      • eljay
        June 13, 2017, 8:30 am

        || Boris: … we are the descendants of Hebrews. … ||

        No you’re not. Many (most?) of you:
        – are non-Hebrews who have undergone a religious conversion to Judaism; or
        – are descendants of non-Hebrews who underwent a religious conversion to Judaism.

        Descendants of Hebrews or not, your religion-based identity does not comprise a right to a (religion-supremacist) state in Palestine or elsewhere.

      • Mooser
        June 13, 2017, 11:52 am

        .” If people offend you by calling you a “Jew”, take them to court”

        So Jew, so sue!

      • Mooser
        June 13, 2017, 12:22 pm

        It’s not the word, it’s how you say it which makes all the difference.

      • YoniFalic
        June 13, 2017, 2:57 pm

        Racist Zio propagandists often prefer the Hebrew term yehudi because Modern Israeli Hebrew is an distinction-impoverished language in comparison with English, which can make distinctions that are impossible in MIH.

        English speakers can distinguish Judahite, Yehudite, Judean, Jewish, and Judaic.

        Thus a racist essentialist primordialist Slavo-Turk genocide booster can by using the term yehudi create a false ethnic connection between a modern fake Jewish Slavo-Turk and Greco-Roman Judeans, who are both yehudim in his distinction impoverished propagandistic language.

        In this way the racist genocide booster tries to establish a prior claim to Palestine and make the native Palestinians interlopers even though the natives actually descend from Greco-Roman Judeans unlike racist Slavo-Turks like my family or Yonah Fredman, who descend from relatively recent Slavic and Turkic converts to Rabbinic Judaism, a religion that only crystallizes in the 10th century CE.

      • Mooser
        June 13, 2017, 4:54 pm

        “English speakers can distinguish Judahite, Yehudite, Judean, Jewish, and Judaic.”

        Not to mention Merowitz, Berowitz, Handelman, Schandelman, Sperber and Gerber and Steiner and Stone. And Boskowitz, Lubowitz, Aaronson, Baronson, Kleinman and Feinman and Freidman and Cohen. Also Smallowitz, Wallowitz, Tidelbaum, Mandelbaum Levin, Levinsky, Levine and Levi,
        Brumburger, Schlumburger, Minkus and Pinkus,
        And Stein with an “E-I” and Styne with a “Y”!

      • yonah fredman
        June 13, 2017, 6:03 pm

        yonifalic- it is true that when i say, “ani yehudi”, my shoulders get straighter and broader. but when i say “ich bin a yid”, i slouch and i feel meeker. but i prefer both to the word, jew.

      • Mooser
        June 13, 2017, 6:47 pm

        “it is true that when i say, “ani yehudi”, my shoulders get straighter and broader. but when i say “ich bin a yid”, i slouch and i feel meeker”

        Well, in that case, “Yonah” you’ve come to the right place to work on your problems! Mondo comment threads specialize in curing nasty Jewish self-image problems. Music therapy helps.

        Yehudim, I’ve just met some folks
        Named Yehudim!
        And now I’m so famischt
        Over my i-den-ti-ty!
        Yehudim, say it loud, and there’s seltzer spraying.
        Say it soft, and it’s almost like braying.
        Yehudim, I’ll never stop saying Yehudim
        The most beautiful mishegos,
        I have ever heard…

      • YoniFalic
        June 13, 2017, 7:12 pm

        I suppose a German Nazi during the 30s probably felt more noble and more powerful when he made the essentialist primordialist assertion:

        ich bin Arier

        instead of stating the simple fact:

        ich bin Deutscher.

        Racist genocide boosting fake “Jews” (really Slavo-Turks) use “Jew” exactly as German Nazis used “Aryan”.

      • Boris
        June 13, 2017, 10:20 pm


        I am not at all surprised by your answer and I don’t care what YOU think.

        I just wonder what mosers on this site think about being denied their history and identity. After all, they are the enablers of such people.

      • eljay
        June 14, 2017, 7:11 am

        || Boris: @eljay I am not at all surprised by your answer … ||

        That’s nice.

        || … and I don’t care what YOU think. I just wonder what mosers on this site think about being denied their history and identity. … ||

        I don’t care that YOU don’t care. The point is to debunk the deliberately inaccurate information Zionists like you routinely disseminate – in this case:
        – the assertion that all people who choose to hold the religion-based identity of Jewish are descended from ancient Hebrews; and
        – the corresponding lie that the religion-based identity of “Jewish” comprises a right to a state.

    • RoHa
      June 11, 2017, 4:02 am

      Is there a point you are trying to make?

      • yonah fredman
        June 11, 2017, 1:51 pm

        upon careful attention, i see that i posted my words under the words of nada rather than of phil. this was really meant to comment on the phil article, in which the idea of explaining why people support israel was emphasized by the speakers and certainly in my case my support for israel is based upon the specific history of 1881 to 1945 (and the specific aspect of hatred of so called jews), and a specific place: europe.

      • Mooser
        June 11, 2017, 2:25 pm

        “upon careful attention, i see that i posted my words under the words of nada rather than of phil”

        What difference does that make?

    • Mooser
      June 11, 2017, 2:45 pm

      “meat in the game or tuchus on tish (ass on table),”

      “Yonah” is saying ‘it’s our asterisk’. I think he’s trying to punctuate above his weight.

    • Mooser
      June 11, 2017, 6:22 pm

      “and as yogi berra said,”

      It is just amazing how relevant the words of a Catholic ballplayer are to the situation of the Jews. Only in America!

    • Marnie
      June 13, 2017, 9:36 am

      Many years ago I was asking a question in an intro to judaism class and I used the term Hebrew(s). The instructor, who called himself rabbi, didn’t bother answering my question but did talk to me as if I were an idiot stating “We don’t use that word (he wouldn’t even say it); it’s archaic. We’re called jews”. Well f&%@ if I knew! I came to the conclusion that he couldn’t use the term Hebrew because he has no connection to them at all and the term ‘jew’ was the term to use, just like the half million or so settlers living on palestinian land.

      • Mooser
        June 13, 2017, 6:53 pm

        “The instructor, who called himself rabbi, didn’t bother answering my question…”

        The question gave him the heebie-jeebies!

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