So-called “Israeli Apartheid Week” happened last week at University of Toronto. There are other universities and places worldwide now where it’s also occurring. I don’t want to give the thing more publicity here, so you can look it up on your own if you wish. There’s plenty online about the week of anti-Israel panels and “cultural work”, what it is, and why it is. I’ve certainly taken a good long look and listen. I’ve listened to more than a few panels online and even watched Judith Butler’s keynote at University of Toronto on youtube. You can’t say I don’t pay attention to the side I despise, although I must admit, sometimes — I wonder why I make myself sit through these things. Well, I’ve always been attracted to those I perceive to be adversaries, I’m eternally curious about the opposition, particularly since not too long ago, all things left were mostly not the opposition. Or, so I thought…
I have always been a bit queasy about Israel bashers though, even in my past. I have noticed an escalation of anti-Israel sentiment in the past few years and this has further pushed me away from some of my former comfort zones politically.
One of the people I started reading a few years ago who I have found immensely inspiring on this issue is Phyllis Chesler. I’ve read some of her work online and books, but never heard her speak. I figure since I’d listened to Butler, I should give Chesler her time, and of course, I was moved by her speech and informed. She’s been through a lot in her political feminist journey and if I have even half her courage, I’ll have a lot. She’s lost most of her feminist friends along the way, even being snubbed at funerals of friends in common who have passed away. She is privy to whispered calls from closeted Israel supporters who are also leftist feminists, who can’t dare to risk or give up the things that she has. And, what has Chesler lost? Not only almost all her friends but also grants and publishers and speaking engagements — and some sense of safety when she is actually invited and able to speak at public events. She now has body guards at speaking events due to real physical threats. Her friends now? Besides a few good and very, very few lingering friends from her more orthodox leftist past, she mentions here that she has Christian friends now, and Orthodox Jews. Yes, Christian… And ironically, she works mainly now with dissident Islamic feminists and not western feminists. All her values are absolutely as they always have been: freedom, human rights and women’s rights — but these she believes are no longer served predominantly by the left. And, unfortunately, I must agree.
Her speech here, more eloquent than anything I might say here, and well worth listening to inside this link to her site. An antidote to the Israel Apartheid week cant:
The New Anti-Semitism
When Middle East Politics Invade Campus
Note: The site has an audio recording and a video recording, and I found the audio recording more reliable and less glitchy. Although, YMMV.