Feminists silent on Gaza genocide
15 November 2023
Women express solidarity with Palestine.
The relentless bombing and slaughter of children and women in Gaza has brought millions on to the streets to oppose Israel's war crimes and for freedom and democracy for Palestine. Civil society and progressive organisations have mobilised in Ireland and across the world against the Israeli savagery they see daily on TV and social media.
To sit back and watch this genocide without condemning it is a betrayal of humanity. Shamefully many feminists and women's organizations have done just that. They are silent on what’s happening or support the Zionist Israeli state and its actions in Gaza.
On the streets a new movement is being born that is anti-imperialist and anti-war. It is broad based, bursting with anger and determination. Among them are millions of youths entering politics for the first time worldwide. The horrific images on our screens are like those from the Vietnam war which then politicized a generation worldwide. What’s happening internationally is happening in Ireland too. Tens of thousands have marched in Dublin, Belfast and across the country.
Failures of Feminist organizations on Palestine
The current groups representing women, many allied to the state, are thoroughly compromised, and deeply involved in seeking piecemeal reforms from the state. The main organization representing women - the National Women's Council of Ireland (NWCI) issued a meaningless statement on Oct 12th saying it “stands in solidarity with all women & people impacted by violence in Gaza and Israel”. It has remained silent since despite the bombing of thousands of women, children and men, the bombing of hospitals and massive ethnic cleansing. It has also remained silent on the widespread call for a ceasefire.
The response from NWCI was very different regarding the Ukraine War. They issued a statement saying “The EU must impose the strongest sanctions on Russia, and we call on EU leaders to ramp up humanitarian support for Ukraine” (25/02/2022 X platform). A search on NWCI social media for similar a call on the EU to impose sanctions against Israel for their genocidal policy in Gaza showed nada. The conclusion can only be that Palestinians' lives do not matter to the NWCI.
The NWCI social media contains lots of material on gender-based violence with the occasional reference to violence against women. It has Not publicly condemned the violence against the women of Gaza who are precision targeted day and night by the biggest arsenal of atomic bombs since Hiroshima.
The NWCI is not alone in ignoring Gaza. Gender critical feminists have been silent on the Gaza genocide, leading personalities in the movement have publicly supported Zionism. Some gender critical activists have sharply attacked tweets supporting Palestine with numerous tweets supporting obnoxious Zionist abuse and lies. The vast majority are silent on the genocide that is happening, while they campaign to restore women’s rights ignoring the human rights of Palestinians. Calling for a ceasefire can lead to the accusation of being antisemitic. These women are familiar with media lies and censorship as they have been active in opposing gender ideology. Most use pseudonyms making it easier to condemn others who are public. Historically those campaigning for democratic rights have always condemned censorship and silencing of debate. Now feminists actively or passively support the agenda of Israel and imperialism which involves ethnic cleansing, genocide and breaking international law.
There are notable exceptions. But for the others, there is a simple point. You can’t claim to oppose male predators having access to female wards in hospitals and at the same time have nothing to say about Israel flattening maternity wards with bombs.
FilLial Women’s Conference
Recently 1500 women from the UK and around the world attended a three-day women's conference in Glasgow. There were numerous sessions on various aspects of violence against women including violence resulting from war. The predominant political influence was radical and mainstream feminism.
The final day of the conference had a plenary session where a Ukrainian female panel speaker condemned the violence against women in Ukraine and in Israel with no mention of violence against Palestinian women, even though bombs were then raining down on Gazan civilians. This did not draw opposition from the audience, some women even clapped.
Colonisation gives rise to resistance including armed resistance. No one has to pass some test of political correctness posed by middle class white westerners in order to have their rights asserted. Resistance movements are just that, they resist specific oppression and the right to do so is for everyone. Rights are for all, not just the righteous. Palestinians are being massacred in their thousands. New weapons are causing horrific injuries as Palestine is used as a testing laboratory for new arms from the arms industry just like what happened in Northern Ireland during the ‘troubles.’
The anti-imperialist struggle in Ireland had a huge impact on women's conferences during the 70s and 80s. Anti-imperialist and socialist feminist currents were a dominant feature of the women's movement then with women involved in the national liberation and class struggle.
Currently gender critical women campaigning on defending women's rights under attack from gender ideology tend to see patriarchy as the principal theoretical framework. The role of capitalism and Imperialism which is spearheading the attacks on women's lives and erosion of their rights are being overlooked and do not feature much in the debate in any sense.
A Moment in History
The war in Gaza is a defining moment. This moment in history will be remembered. Silence by feminist groups about what’s happening in Gaza amounts to complicity with the crimes against humanity that are taking place. The shameful betrayal and refusal of feminists to support human rights for Palestinian people is against a background of polls showing the vast majority of people worldwide are for a ceasefire. There has never been a movement like this before where the world is behind the Palestinians.
Anyone campaigning for human and democratic rights should be on the side of Palestinians. Many Jewish voices have also spoken out around the world. Deborah Feldman, the acclaimed author of Unorthodox, and Exodus, who fled from her misogynistic Hassidic Jewish community in New York to Germany recently remarked that Germany is a good place to be Jewish unless you are a Jew who is critical of Israel.(1) Women are being silenced by men and other feminists on the issue of Palestine.
Author and feminist Alice Walker a lifelong campaigner for a Free Palestine says in a recent webinar how she was thinking of a little boy who had lost both of his parents on his birthday in a murdering rampage by Israel. “This was such a moment, and I was thinking about all of us and how we would feel if this happened to us. I was feeling today how happy I was to have been. with the Palestinian people as long as I have, and that I am speaking on this Webinar tonight. This moving story touches the heart.”(2)
Building a New Anti Imperialist Women’s Movement
The millions on the streets see what the western powers and Israel are doing in Gaza and the West Bank. They will be the backbone of any new movement. The feminists who have not spoken out should reflect on their silence. Silence is collusion. Nobody can say they did not know what was happening as the horror of the war is visible for all to see.
Building a women’s movement requires integrity and new women joining a movement will not be won to defending biological women’s rights when they see these women cannot stand in defence of women in Gaza and condemn outright the barbarity of Israel and its US backer. Silence is acquiescing and undermines the struggle for women's rights. We appeal to the women who are silent to speak out now against the Gaza genocide and to support a Free Palestine. Those who support Israel have no place in our movement. Women’s liberation is about winning rights for all women not denying rights for those women who imperialism is determined to annihilate. You cannot say you aim to defend the rights of 50% of humanity, except Palestinian women and children, which is what some leading lights in the GC movement are doing.
War and violence against women cannot be analyzed simply as caused by patriarchy. Neither radical feminism nor mainstream bourgeois feminism are sufficient political outlook/tool for dealing with the extreme political situation today. The struggle for women's liberation is part of the class struggle against capitalism and the fight against imperialism.
The worldwide movement of solidarity with Palestine, which sees millions on the streets including masses of women who are playing a leading role, will create opportunities for feminists to forge new alliances. We should grasp this opportunity and see the oppressed Palestinians as our allies and condemn outright the imperialist backed racist apartheid Israeli state soaked in the blood of Palestinians.
(1) The Guardian (13/11/2023) Germany is a good place to be Jewish. Unless, like me, you’re a Jew who criticises Israel. Deborah Feldman. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/nov/13/germany-jewish-criticise-israel-tv-debate
https://www.codepink.org (Excellent anti war feminist group)