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NARAL at AIPAC: And reproductive justice for some?

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Even as pro-justice activists were celebrating the fact that many Democratic politicians– including the main 2020 presidential hopefuls–have skipped this year’s AIPAC conference in DC, a national campaign was hastily being launched to urge Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL (National Abortion Rights Action League) and Amy Everitt (California head of NARAL) not to speak there.

News of their speaking at the conference only came out very late, so the campaign had to take place mostly on social media, as anti-Zionist allies focused on the need for ongoing education and plans for future interventions, but the same #SkipAIPAC hashtag that had been used with Democratic politicians was also the rallying call around this campaign.  Everitt was scheduled to speak Sunday evening on the “Zionism and Feminism” panel. Hogue’s appearance is not too surprising, as she also serves on the Advisory Council of J Street, better known to anti-Zionist activists as “AIPAC lite.”

I was first made aware of NARAL’s collusion with Zionism through a Facebook post from social feminist Tithi Bhattacharya, who called upon allies to join the campaign, explaining: “Reproductive Justice cannot exclude Justice for Palestine. Our feminism is always anticolonial.”  Bhattacharya, co-author of Feminism for the 99%: A Manifesto, added in another comment  that “To be feminist is to be anti-zionist. There can be no questions about that.”

Some of the tweets and statements made include Arielle Cohen’s:

Cohen also added: “Pro-choice work must encompass reproductive justice for all — Palestinians are repeatedly denied the autonomy to make the most basic decisions for their reproductive health. Calling on @NARAL and @ilyseh to #SkipAIPAC to stand against the occupation now!”

And NYC for Abortion Rights’  “Questions for Amy Everitt, State Director of NARAL Pro-Choice California and scheduled speaker at AIPAC 2019: Do Palestinian women deserve reproductive justice? How is bodily sovereignty possible under continued military occupation?

Do the right thing – #SkipAIPAC.”

Zionist infiltration of feminist spaces, and the spurious claim that it is possible to reconcile feminism with Zionism, are not new phenomena, and have been challenged for years. In one of my own articles, dating back to 2014, I had written that “Ending Zionism is a feminist and a reproductive justice issue,” as I gave some examples of the gendered oppression of Israel’s settler-colonialism:  viewing Palestinians as a demographic threat, rejoicing over the declining birth rates and increasing miscarriages among Palestinians, forcefully sterilizing Ethiopian Jews, calling for the rape of Palestinian women, and proud fascist Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked’s call for the murder of all Palestinians, including Palestinian women, who “give birth to little snakes.”   Linda Sarsour put it most succinctly in 2017 when she stated:  “You either stand up for the rights of all women, including Palestinians, or none. There’s just no way around it.”

As the AIPAC conference was underway in Washington DC, Israel launched yet more attacks on the Gaza Strip, where two million Palestinians have been subjected to a genocidal collective punishment for close to 12 years.  Even if NARAL’s feminism is restricted to “women and children,” rather than the collective wellbeing of a disenfranchised people, do Hogue and Everitt not recognize the humanity of Palestinian women? Do they, like Shaked, see only mother and baby snakes?  In which case, their so-called feminism is little more than abject racism.

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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