Are Feminism and Zionism Incompatible? Read Up On the Debate
If you spend any time following hot-button feminist issues on Twitter, you've probably seen the recent debates over whether feminism is incompatible with Zionism. This conversation—or, perhaps, conflagration would be a better word—erupted earlier this month when an op-ed by Bustle editor Emily Shire appeared in the New York Times. Shire questioned whether there was space for Zionists like herself in the International Women's Day Strike, since strike leaders had listed the decolonization of Palestine as one of their platforms. In response, activist Linda Sarsour said that there's no place in the feminist movement for women who support Israel without question or critique; for her, feminism means supporting the rights of all women, including Palestinians.
Intrafeminist battles are dismaying—surely we have larger battles to wage, together, in Trump’s America—but it’s obvious that this thorny, sensitive issue is important to many feminists on both sides of the debate. We believe that the only way forward is through respectful conversation and good-faith attempts to understand the myriad of viewpoints on this topic. To that end, here's a round-up of some of the op-eds and articles we've seen about this discussion presenting different perspectives over the past few weeks:
- The original op-ed in the New York Times, March 7. Shire outlines her concerns that anti-Zionism is becoming intrinsically linked with some women's movements, and worries that soon, those that believe in Israel's right to exist will have no place in feminism.
- Linda Sarsour's interview in The Nation, March 13. In an interview given in response to Shire's piece, Sarsour explains her belief that women who support Israel without criticizing any of its policies do not have a place in the feminist movement, saying she believes that feminists should advocate for all women's rights.
- The Jewish Telegraphic Agency's op-ed on why Zionism and feminism aren't mutually exclusive, March 14. Editor Andrew Silow-Carroll writes on the practicalities of coalition-building and what he calls the false choice presented by Sarsour.
- A Times of Israel blog post on why the Nation headline was misleading, March 16. Rabbi David Seidenberg points out that Linda Sarsour didn't actually say that you can't be a feminist and a Zionist.
- New York Magazine's article on why feminism has to make choices, March 8. Writer Eric Levitz argues that issues that might seem unconnected to feminism for some women are intrinsic to feminism for others--and says it's impossible for the movement to satisfy everyone.
- Sisterhood on why feminism should include Zionism, March 8. Editor Phoebe Bovy on why she supports Shire and how she can reconcile her support for some tenets of the strike with her distaste for others.
- Forward article on why feminists should support Palestinian women, March 14. In a rebuttal to Bovy and Shire, professor and Jewish Voice for Peace member Rosalind Petchesky argues that many Jewish women—even some Zionists—do not support the actions of the Israeli government.
- JWA’s former board member on why the Women’s March tenets were exclusionary, March 14. Ann F. Lewis, JWA founding board member and former Hillary Clinton campaign manager, argues in the Washington Jewish Week that the Women’s March was wrong to zero in on Israel in its mission statement.
We hope that these articles have provided food for thought for you, no matter your stance on this issue. Feel free to reach out and let us know your thoughts.
How to cite this page
Cataneo, Emily. "Are Feminism and Zionism Incompatible? Read Up On the Debate." 24 March 2017. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on December 14, 2018) <https://jwa.org/blog/are-feminism-and-zionism-incompatible-read-up-on-debate>.