tothepointanalyses
tothepointanalyses

Archive for October, 2012

More On Savage Israel — An Analysis (27 October 2012) by Lawrence Davidson 

 

 

Part I – Savagery On-Going

 

In my last analysis I noted that a Zionist organization run by the Islamophobe  Pamela Geller is posting messages on buses and subways calling for support for Israel.  The messages claim that Israel represents the “civilized man” in a struggle against Jihadist “savagery.”  I questioned Israel’s qualifications for civilized status in the earlier piece, but am drawn back to the subject by the almost daily revelations of the Zionist state’s questionable behavior.  It is not that the Jihadist cannot be a savage at times, it is that the Israeli government seems quite incapable of being civilized.  For instance:

 

– On 16 October 2012 the Israeli organization  Zochrot hosted dozens of veterans of  Israel’s 1948 “War of Independence” for a look at what that struggle really entailed.  The veterans testified to what can only be called a conscious effort at ethnic cleansing–the systematic destruction of entire Palestinian villages and numerous massacres.  A documentary film by  Israeli-Russian journalist Lia Tarachansky, dealing with this same subject, the Palestinian “Nakba” or catastrophe, is nearing  completion.  It too has the testimony of Israeli soldiers of the 1948 war.  These latest revelations lend credence to the claims of Israel’s “new historians” such as Ilan Pappe who have written books based on evidence gleamed from government archives showing that, even before the outbreak of hostilities leading to the creation of the State of Israel, the Zionist authorities planned to ethnically cleanse as much of Palestine as possible of non-Jews.   The aim of Zochrot’s effort at truth-telling is to break through the  sanitized “mainstream nationalistic narrative” of 1948  and the accompanying denial of any legitimate Palestinian counter-narrative.” 

 

– OK.  The Israelis were savages in 1948 and only a small minority will admit it. What about after “the War of Independence”? As it turns out the ethnic cleansing never stopped.  Conveniently, the long-standing denial that it ever started has helped to hide the fact of its on-going nature.  Yet just this week we received the news that Defense Minister Ehud Barak has given the order to demolish eight Palestinian villages with some 1500 residents in the south Hebron hills. The excuse offered by Barack is that the land is needed for military training exercises.  According to the “new historians,” this is a standard Israeli government cover for ethnic cleansing.  Sure, for a couple of years the Israeli army will use the land that held the demolished villages.  Then, almost inevitably, the area becomes the site of a new Israeli Jewish settlement.  

 

– On 20 October 2012 Al-Jazeera reported on Israeli documents showing that between 2008 and 2010 the Israeli army allowed food supplies into the Gaza Strip based on a daily calorie count that held the basic diet of a million and half people to a point just short of malnutrition. According to the Israeli human rights organization Gisha Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, “the official goal of the policy was to wage economic warfare which would paralyze Gaza’s economy and, according to the Defense Ministry, create pressure on the Hamas government.”  Actually, this bit of savagery predates 2008.  Back in 2006Dov Weissglass, then an .,,,.advisor to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, stated that “the idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.”  Of course, precedents for this can be found in the treatment of European Jews in the 1930s and 1940s.  One assumes that Mr. Weissglass was aware of this. 

 

However, just as with the barbarism practiced in the “War of Independence,” in this case too there is a well practiced capacity for national denial.  According to Gideon Levy writing in Haaretz, “the country has plenty of ways…of burying skeletons deep in the closet so that Israelis shouldn’t be overly disturbed.”  The military authors of the document that turned Weissglass’s hideous “idea” into savage practice,  operated in “a country afflicted with blindness.”  Just so the present Israeli government does not worry about public unease over the fact that it is slowly but surely destroying the Gaza sewage system and rendering its water supply undrinkable. 

 

– Then there are the petty acts of cruelty that can be considered telltale signs of savagery.  For instance, the fact that Israeli customs officials  held back the the exam sheets for the October 2012 College Board tests bound for the West Bank graduating high school seniors.  AMIDEAST, the organization that serves as the testing agency for the Palestinian territories, had made sure the Israeli authorities had the tests in their hands weeks in advance.  Nonetheless, in an apparent act of petty vindictiveness, the customs officials held on to them until AMIDEAST had to cancel the exam.  One observer has asked the question, “what has the SAT [tests] have to do with Israeli security?”  Well it might be that, in the mind of a savage customs official, the more college bound Palestinians from the Occupied Territories, the more articulate witnesses to Israeli oppression. On the Gaza side of the equation the U.S. was forced to cancel a small scholarship program for Gaza college students because the Israelis refused to let the students leave their open air prison, even if only to go to a West Bank school.  

 

For anyone who might want to follow the grim procession of Israeli oppressive and barbaric acts on a day to day basis, I recommend the web site Today In Palestine.

 

Part II – Challenge and Denial

 

In the face of this persistent savage behavior on the part of Israel, that country’s public support has finally begun to slip in the United States.  Most recently, fifteen prominent church leaders, representing major Christian denominations, wrote an open letter to Congress calling for “an immediate investigation into possible violations by Israel of the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act and the U.S. Arms Export Control Act which respectively prohibit assistance to any country which engages in a consistent pattern of human rights violations….We urge Congress to hold hearings to examine Israel’s compliance, and we request regular reporting on compliance and the withholding of military aid for non-compliance.”  

 

So far the Congress has turned a deaf-ear to this request, but the Zionist reaction was loud and clear.  Leading the way in this effort was the head of the misnamed Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Abraham Foxman.  Charging the Christian leaders with a “blatant lack of sensitivity” (one might ask just how sensitive one is suppose to be to a oppressor?) Foxman decided to punish the offending clergy by refusing to engage in on-going “interfaith dialogue.”  The Zionist reaction to being called out for their own savage behavior is a classic example of denial. 

 

Part III – Conclusion

 

 Having “big brains” is a two edge sword for human beings.  It means we can think all manner of creative thoughts and even exercise some self-control over our own inappropriate impulses if we care to try.  However, it also means that we can be manipulated into thinking that we need not try–that we are the victims even as we are oppressing others and that any criticism of our actions is just another example of our victimization. Israeli culture, and indeed the culture of Zionism generally, is one on-going project of self-manipulation to achieve just such a state of mind.  And, to a great extent, it has succeeded.  A recent poll taken in Israel shows that “a majority of the [Israeli Jewish] public wants the state to discriminate against Palestinians….revealing a deeply rooted racism in Israeli society.”  

 

The Zionists are not the only experts in denial.  The United States, Israel’s chief ally, has always been good at this gambit as well.  After the 9/11 attacks any consideration of the possibility that United States foreign policy in the Middle East might have helped motivate the terrorism was anathema, and it still is over a decade later.  Instead of taking a hard look at our own behavior we are simply expanding our capacity to kill outright anyone who would challenge our policies in a violent fashion.  Our answer is targeted killings by drone or otherwise.  A bit of savagery we learned from the Israelis.    

 

Machiavelli, who can always be relied upon to see the darker side of things, once said, “Whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past; for human events resemble those of preceding times.  This arises from the fact that they are produced by men who ever have been, and ever shall be, animated by the same passions, and thus they necessarily have the same results.”  

 

But yet, is it really inevitable?  

Billboard Wars —  An Analysis (17 October 2012) by Lawrence Davidson

 

Pamela Geller and her billboard message

 

PART I – The Savage vs. the Civilized

 

Back on 1 August 2012 I posted a piece entitled History on a Billboard.  It reported on the placement, in the northern suburbs of New York City, of informational billboards with  maps of Palestine showing the steady growth of Israeli confiscated territory and the corresponding shrinkage of territory available to the indigenous Palestinians.  It also told the observer that “4.7 million Palestinians are classified by the UN as Refugees.”  Although Zionists labelled the billboard as “anti-Semitic,”  it was nothing of the kind.  It was wholly informational, and completely accurate.  

 

As it turns out that informational effort is now part of a growing number of ads, signs and messages which collectively make up what I call the “billboard wars.”  From San Francisco to Washington D.C. and New York City, both Zionists and pro-Palestinian groups have launched competing billboard efforts. This is going on mostly in publicly owned spaces because Zionist pressure often results in private billboard companies refusing to display pro-Palestinian messages.  Now, depending on how you want to read the message of the latest Zionist effort, the billboard wars battleground has widened beyond the issue of Palestine to encompass a worldwide clash between the “civilized” and the “savage.”  It is to be noted that this was the sort of language used by imperial colonizers, including the U.S. in its conquest of the American Indians, to compare themselves to the indigenous populations they oppressed. 

 

Here is what has happened.  There is a Zionist group calling itself “American Freedom Defense Initiative” (AFDI) led by the infamous American Islamophobe Pamela Geller.  This organization has produced a sign that reads, 

 

“In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the 

the  civilized man.  Support Israel.  Defeat Jihad.”   

 

Geller and AFDI aimed at placing this message on buses, subways, and in other public venues but initially had difficulty because most transportation agencies saw it as discriminatory and provocative.  However, AFDI went to court and a federal judge found that their sign was an act of “free speech” protected by the First Amendment.  Therefore, in late September, those people of New York City who ride the buses and subways found Pamela Gelller’s message in their faces. Most, of course, will pay it little mind.  Yet, we should not ignore it.  It is part of a propaganda effort with potentially damaging consequences.  

 

Part II – Analyzing the Message

 

First –  The AFDI and Geller juxtapose Israel on the one side and Jihadists on the other.  My experience with over a thousand college students since 9/11 is that, for Americans, the term Jihadists means Al-Qaeda operatives.  Most Americans do not associate this term with Palestinians.  And, believe it or not, while those associated with Al Qaeda have badmouthed Israel, they have yet to make war on that country.  So, what are these Zionists talking about?  Well,  they are probably trying to broaden out the definition of a Jihadist to include not only Palestinians, but the entire Muslim world. That would be consistent with their Islamaphobe worldview.  In addition, they are saying that Israel represents “the civilized man” who has declared war on the same enemy that has made war on the United States.  By asking Americans to “support Israel” they are reinforcing the notion that the U.S. and Israel are allies.   

 

Second – Is the AFDI correct in telling us that Israel is the “civilized man?”  Only in their own ahistorical fantasy.  If you care to live in a world driven by the facts then Israel is rendered “the savage.”  There is a lot of evidence for this.

 

 1. On 10 October 2012 the Harvard researcher Sara Roy gave a devastating critique of what Israel, backed up by the United States, has done in the Gaza Strip.   Gaza, with its population approaching two million Palestinians, is now the most densely populated place on earth.   It is also the world’s most crowded open air prison.  The Israeli blockade, illegal under international law, has slowly but surely destroyed the water supply, the sewage systems, the economic structure as a whole.  The Israelis will tell you that Hamas, which governs Gaza, wants to destroy Israel.  But that is only wishful thinking on the part of Hamas for they haven’t the ability to destroy anything.  Israel, on the other hand, wishes to destroy the Palestinian people and they do have that capacity.  In Gaza, as well as the West Bank, they are slowly doing so.  This is genocide in slow motion.    

 2. Sara Roy is an extremely knowledgable American Jewish academic, but there are plenty of other sources, some of them Israeli, that will back up and expand on her critique.  Here are a few of them:

 

— B’tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights

— Rabbis For Human Rights

— Palestine Center for Human Rights

— Jewish Voices for Peace

 

Looking at the websites of these organizations reveals a litany of  on-going  barbaric policies and actions perpetrated upon mostly unarmed Palestinians who have nothing at all to do with Jihadists.  Indeed, to act as Israel does in this regard is to qualify a good number of its citizens (though not all) as savages. So to be true to the facts AFDI’s sign should really read as follows, 

 

“In any war between savage one (Israel) and savage two

(Al Qaeda), AFDI urges Americans to support savage number

one.  This is so even though Israel is not fighting Jihadists but

rather genocidally destroying Palestinians.”

 

That would be historically accurate, although it would put the situation in a distinctly different light than does Ms Geller’s propaganda.  

 

The end of the billboard wars is not yet in sight.  AFDI’s message is aimed at an American audience and thus can also be read as an attempt to promote Islamophobia just before a presidential election.  

 

To counter the racist aspect of this message, the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has placed sixteen foot signs in the metro stations of Washington D.C. that are designed to “promote mutual understanding and challenge hate.”  Their signs quote from the Quran: “show forgiveness, speak for justice and avoid the ignorant.”

 

Part III — Conclusion

 

 The unfortunate thing is that, in these sort of confrontations, Geller and her ilk have the odds on their side.  This is because all the peace seekers are ultimately at the mercy of the violent and hateful extremists on both sides.  However, in the U.S. the media will only tell you about the Jihadists.  Therefore, all it takes is one Al-Qaeda attack on an American target to send the CAIR message into oblivion.  On the other hand the Israeli government and its settler allies can act out the Zionist version of ethnic cleansing daily and the American public will rarely, if ever, hear about it. 

 

The truth is there are fewer civilized men and women than we like to believe.  The ones in power, regardless of the nationstate, only rarely behave in civilized ways.  The bulk of the citizens either give support to or are indifferent toward their leader’s actions.  The small remainder, who are indeed candidates for the category of civilized people, are left to struggle against a strong and consistent counter-current.  This is nowhere more true than in the state of Israel.  

 

Such then, for all of us, is the heart of darkness. 

 

The Liar’s Master Class – An Analysis (10 October 2012) Lawrence Davidson

 

 

Part I – Earning a Place in the Eighth Rung of Hell

 

Mitt Romney might be the most brazen political liar since James Polk.   Polk, who was the 11th U.S. president (1845-1849),  lied through his teeth–to Congress, to his cabinet, to the newspapers– in order to get the country into a war with Mexico.  Of course, other presidents have lied to this end, for instance presidents Johnson (Vietnam) and Bush Jr. (Iraq), but Polk had the same audacious, “lying is part of what I do,” disposition as does our current Republican candidate.  

 

If one has any doubt about Mitt Romney’s mendacious temperment, the first presidential debate should have put it to rest.  According to one analyst, Romney let loose with “27 myths in 38 minutes,”  finishing with a big grin after most of these prevarications.  He produced trumped up assertions, false statistics, and wild exaggerations about taxes, energy independence, job creation, the deficit, medicare, “Obamacare,” and military spending. 

 

If Dante Alighieri came back to life today and produced an updated list of lost souls for the “Inferno” section of his Divine Comedy, Romney would certainly earn a spot in the 8th rung of hell.  That is where Dante placed, among others, the “falsifiers, those who attempted to alter things through lies or alchemy.” Their punishment was “based on horrible…diseases such as rashes, dropsy, leprosy and consumption.”  I suggest that, come the second debate, we all keep a sharp eye on Mr. Romney’s nose and fingertips for signs of leprosy.  By the way, there seems to be a suspicion that Romney  also cheated during the first debate. The debate rules say that the candidates can not use “prepared notes.”  However, a video of the debate shows that he had put what looks like a white piece of paper down on his podium, or maybe it was just his handkerchief.   

 

Part II – Some Specifics

 

The second debate, scheduled for the 16 October 2012,  will be partially about foreign policy.  On Monday 8 October 2012 Romney gave a speech on foreign affairs.  It should be kept in mind that between the 8th and the 16th he might completely change his positions.  The man has such a flip-flop record that this is quite possible.   However, assuming he doesn’t do that, let’s take a look at just how truthful are his foreign policy statements. 

 

a. As Robert Parry points out in Consortium News, Romney lied when he said Obama “has not signed one new free trade agreement in the past four years.”  Obama has in fact signed three (South Korea, Panama and Colombia).  He also lied when he said that Obama was “silent” during the suppression of demonstrations in Iran after the reelection of president Amadinejad.  Obama spoke out on multiple occasions.  By the way, one might not approve of NAFTA style trade agreements.  I certainly don’t.  But that does not make Romney’s lies about Obama’s actions acceptable.  

 

b. Parry goes on to detail how Romney’s accusation that Obama’s foreign policy is “weak” is  groundless.  After all, he is talking about the man who wages war in Afghanistan, helped bring down the dictatorship in Libya, and took down Osama bin Laden.  Parry explains that Romney credits a lot of this to the U.S. military as if Obama had nothing to do with it.  Once more, Obama’s foreign policy has much about it that can be criticized.  Why do it through sheer falsehoods? Perhaps because Romney actually has no problem with Obama’s actions, but does not want the public to associate them with the president.      

 

c. Then there is Romney’s sudden embracing of a Palestinian state when just a few weeks ago he described such a goal as “almost unthinkable to accomplish.”   At that time the reason he gave for his position was that Palestinians are not interested in peace.  That was an outrageous lie.  It is hard to believe that he has now  changed his mind.  More likely he is attempting to preclude any charge that he has abandoned the search for peace, even as he asserts that Obama has not displayed leadership toward that same end. 

 

d. When it comes to the Arab Spring, Obama allegedly missed “an historic opportunity to win new friends and share our values in the Middle East.”  Who would these friends be?  Those fighting against “evil tyrants and angry mobs who seek to harm us.”  This is so much gobbledygook.  Most of the evil tyrants are our longstanding old friends and the angry mobs are the only hope for any governmental improvement.  

 

Parry points out that the real difference between Romney and Obama is that Romney is much more the militarist.  He has embraced neocon advisers, given carte blanche to Israel and verbally attacked Russia as “without question, our No. 1 geopolitical foe.”  All of this suggests that between Obama (who is certainly no saint and has plenty of blood on his own hands) and Romney, it is the latter who is more likely to get the nation into yet another war.  As Juan Cole has observed, “… wars and lots of other conflicts are not a foreign policy vision, they are a nightmare.”

 

Part III – Does Lying Work?

 

So, does this serial falsification work?  Can it actually help get a mythomanic elected president?  It seems that the answer is yes.  According to a Pew Research Center poll taken after the first Obama-Romney debate,  “It’s official.  Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney…erased President Barack Obama’s lead.”  According to a graph of the poll results Romney’s picked up five percentage points to come even with Obama.  64% of voters “thought that Romney was more informative than President Obama.” 

 

The liar is more informative!?  How is that possible?  Well, you start with a lot of ignorance. The ignorance is not a function of lack of intelligence, but a function of lack of accurate contextual knowledge.  As a consequence the level of understanding of the average American about government policy on national issues such as  healthcare, energy independence, job creation, the deficit, military spending and even taxes is considerably lower than their average IQ.  It is even worse when we get to foreign policy and its formulation.

 

Into the resulting knowledge vacuum comes the misleading statements and assertions of politicians, so-called experts, and media spokesman of all descriptions.  Fox TV has made millions of dollars selling advertising that accompanies biased opinion passed off as fact.  In the end what the majority of Americans think they know about both domestic and foreign policy is based on media hear-say.  Romney’s assertive and stylized lying fits well into this scenario.  And his style also passes for strength and self-confidence.  

 

Part IV – Is it Pathological?

 

Romney’s lying is so pervasive, so ever-present, that one starts to wonder if it is pathological. 

There is a mental illness characterized by habitual lying.  It goes by the name of Pseudologia Fantastica.  Here are some of the characteristics of this ailment:

 

a. The lies told “are not entirely improbable” and “upon confrontation, the teller can admit them to be untrue, even if unwillingly.”  In other words, the liar is aware that he or she is lying. 

 

b. The lies told cast the teller in a favorable light.  

 

c. The tendency to lie is a long-lasting one and not the product of the moment.  It reflects an innate trait of the personality.  

 

Well, Romney fits this pattern when it comes to the first two traits.  It is hard to tell about the third.  We will have to await the in-depth biographies that are certain to hit the market in short order.  However, there is no doubt that the man has an easy facility for lying.  One doubts if it keeps him up at night.    

 

Part V – Conclusion

 

When the powerful lie it is a problem for all of us.  That is because we do not act on the basis of what is true.  Rather we act on the basis of what we think is true.  When it comes to foreign policy, what the powerful and the media tell us is what most of us accept as true. This distinction between what is true and what we think is true is critically important.  If what we believe is true approximates the reality outside of us, then our plans and actions usually work out.  If, however, what we think is true is off the mark, we can end up walking right off a cliff.

 

In the last fifty years Americans have been walking off cliffs quite regularly, with the result that millions have been killed and maimed.  They have done so in large part because they have a hard time knowing when they are being lied to, especially about foreign policy.  If the Pew poll cited above is any predictor, nothing is going to change any time soon.  Elect Mitt Romney and that walk toward the cliff might turn into a run.  Reelect Obama, and the cliff will probably remain our self-destructive destination,  but perhaps the pace will be more measured. 

On the Status of Women- An Analysis (5 October 2012) by Lawrence Davidson 

 

 

Part I –  Taking Progress For Granted

 

People often take things for granted.  Take the concept of progress.  My students all assume that progress is continuous.  In fact, they think that it is inevitable.  Mostly they conceive of progress in terms of technology:  smart phones and computers of every sort. However, there is also a sense that there is a steady and inevitable movement toward the realization of social ideals.  Whether they are conservatives, liberals or libertarians, they all assume that the kind of world they want to live in is the kind of world that will evolve.  

 

That is also true for the feminists in my classes.  They know that they have to fight for gender equality and they are  willing to do so.  Yet they also assume the betterment of women’s conditions will be continuous and that victory for their cause is inevitable.  In terms of their own local communities, they are sure that conditions for women today are better than they were in their grandmothers‘ day, and that conditions will be better still for their own granddaughters.  They can’t imagine things going backward.

 

They may be in for a shock.  It is reasonable to conclude that conditions for  women, not only in places far away, but right here at home are deteriorating.  That they will continue to do so is not inevitable, but it is certainly possible.  Let’s take a look at the trends.  We will start with the ones manifesting themselves abroad and end with the ones here in the U.S.

 

Part II –  Women’s Progress in the Middle East?

 

Most of my feminist students see the Middle East as a central battleground for women’s rights.  Of course, they define those rights in terms of Western secular culture and ideals and have a hard time suspending that point of view long enough to consider women’s rights from the standpoint of Muslim cultural ideals.  Nonetheless, trends in the Middle East do not bode well for women’s status even in terms of Islamic precepts.  

 

1. For instance, last week authorities in Saudi Arabia refused entry to over 1000 Nigerian Muslim women who had arrived for the annual pilgrimage known as the Hajj.  The Saudi Ministry of Pilgrimage claimed the women were not accompanied by “male guardians” as required by Saudi law.  Actually, the women were accompanied by “male escorts” but the Saudis had segregated the Nigerians, male from female, and then claimed the women were unescorted. When their mistake was pointed out to the Saudi officials they refused to listen.  I seriously doubt that Prophet Mohammad would have reacted this way. 

 

Perhaps an American feminist would just dismiss this as Saudi backwardness.  After all we are talking about a country that refuses to allow its women to drive cars, which is a ban that cannot easily be drawn from the Quran or Hadith.  Perhaps feminists feel that, over time, outside pressure will bring the Saudis around to conform to Western standards of gender relations.  Yet it is quite possible that influence could flow the other way. 

 

For instance, in early October it was reported that IKEA, the Swedish furniture company with worldwide sales, purged the company’s Saudi catalogue of pictures of females.  They just airbrushed them out.  The Swedes generally pride themselves on their equitable gender relations, but obviously some of their business executives are quite willing to accommodate Saudi standards when money is to be made.  And, we all know that money, rather than feminist ideals, makes the world go round. 

 

 2. Then there is Iran.  An American feminist would again dismiss Iran as a backward place when it comes to women’s rights.  But, despite the chadors (under which one can often find designer clothes), this is a Western propaganda image that does not tell an accurate story.  Upon the creation of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979,  most women’s rights were expanded.  They had open access to the job market and earned the same wages as men for the job they held.  They also had open access to the country’s universities including those courses of study usually considered male preserves.  Today, women make up more than 60% of those enrolled in institutions of higher learning, and women engineers, scientists, doctors, architects and the like are common.  That is progress by any standard, east or west.

 

Yet, progress is not necessarily continuous.  In September 2012  it was reported that thirty six Iranian universities have prohibited women from registering for courses in a range of subjects from chemistry and mathematics to education and business.  Apparently, this was a measure demanded by powerful conservative factions who feel that women have become too “active in society” and should “return to the home.”  It remains to be seen if this change is long-term.

 

3. Both Saudi Arabia and Iran are countries with Islamic governments, but within the Middle East the challenge to gender equality is not just a product of a conservative Muslim outlook.   Thus we can move on to Israel.

 

 According to a recently released report of the Israel Women’s Network, women have made little or no progress over the last decade.  “Discrimination against women in this country is spread across all sectors of society and culture.”  Twenty percent of Israeli women live in poverty (it is even worse for children and the elderly).  This is so even though Israeli women tend to be better educated than men.  

 

In the last few years the Israeli problem of gender discrimination has been illustrated by the “back of the bus” scandal occurring in Israeli cities.  Orthodox Jewish communities in Israel often impose gender segregation and, as those communities expand out from their traditional urban enclaves, they insist that secular Israelis conform to their standards rather than the other way around.  Thus, busses running routes that go through both Orthodox and secular communities often try to get women to restrict themselves to the back of the vehicle.  

 

Here is how Mickey Gitzen, the Director of Be Free Israel, an NGO promoting religious pluralism, explains the situation, “It’s a slippery slope.  What starts with women boarding the bus in the back because of modesty….can turn Israeli society into a segregated society in which women don’t have a place in public life.”  How very Saudi of the Israeli Orthodox!   

 

Part III – Women’s Progress in the U.S.?

 

That is there and not here in the U.S.  Really?  Consider the following: 

 

– Conservative Christians make up more than 20% of the voting public in the United States.  Their influence  runs deep in the Republican party, as can be seen by the statements of many of the recent contenders for the Republican presidential nomination.  And, among the lines pushed by this  conservative Christian element is an exceedingly patriarchal view of the role of women.

 

– The American Christian Fundamentalist Pat Robertson runs a TV program called the 700 Club.  It has a daily average audience of one million viewers. Here is what Robertson is telling his audience about the role of women: “I know this is painful for the ladies to hear, but if you get married you have accepted the headship of a man, your husband…the husband is the head of the wife and that is the way it is, period.”

 

– In an Alternet interview with author Kathryn Joyce, who has researched and written on the subject of conservative Christian views of women, she makes the following points:  

 

 1. There is a growing movement among conservative Christians that preach that women  should be married homemakers, and that each must have “as many children as God will give you.”  They see the God-given structure of human society as patriarchy.  

 

2. This point of view has been endorsed by Christian leaders whose long range goal is to so powerfully influence the U.S. government that they will be able to frame patriarchal precepts into law. 

 

 3. For these Christian conservatives the major enemy,  the “root of the problem,” is feminism and all those who assert a woman’s right to control her own fertility. 

 

Some these sentiments can be found in the present Republican Party national platform.  According to Jill Filipovic writing in the Guardian UK, “the entire Republican social platform is structured around the idea of the traditional family where men are in the public sphere as breadwinners and heads of households, and women stay in private, taking care of children and serving as helpmates to their husbands.”   

 

If this Christian conservative sentiment has captured the outlook of one of the nation’s two major political parties, you know it must not stop there.  A New York Times report recently asserted that there is  widespread social anxiety among American men caused by the confusion of gender roles that has allegedly come with growing gender equality in the U.S.  This has brought about a backlash.  “The masculine mystique is institutionalized in work structures” and both men and women who try to challenged this are “often penalized.”      

 

Part IV –  Conclusion

 

You might have noticed how the attitudes toward women of Muslim, Christian and Jewish fundamentalists are quite similar.  Each has fixated on the feminist drive for greater gender equality as a threat to their patriarchal concept of social life.  But, as the New York Times piece suggests, the problem is by no means restricted to those who describe themselves as religious conservatives.  It is a society wide, worldwide happening.    

 

In the end, it is much harder to realize social progress rather than technical progress.  For the latter, all you have to do is the research necessary to master elements of nature.  These elements might take a lot of work to get at, but they do not consciously fight back.  To achieve the former, however, you must go up against vested interests that do fight back.  That is why progress in society is hardly ever continuous and never inevitable.