Clara P. Wolansky

Exclusion and Unease: Jewish Women Navigating Spaces of Safety Post-October 7

The aftermath of the terrorist attack on October 7th in Israel has cast a dark shadow over spaces that were once sanctuaries of refuge and solidarity. Among those profoundly affected are Jewish women, who historically sought solace in feminist organizations. However, in the wake of the October 7th attack, these women find themselves grappling with a profound sense of exclusion and unease as they navigate spaces that were once considered havens. This article explores the multifaceted challenges faced by Jewish women in their quest for safety and representation after an attack that changed everything and everyone.

Feminist organizations, traditionally at the forefront of advocating for inclusivity, breaking down barriers, and championing the rights of marginalized groups, now face an unsettling reality. The attack on October 7th has unveiled fractures within these spaces, leaving Jewish women feeling alienated and overlooked in their struggle for safety and representation. What used to be a united front now reveals deep-seated divisions that threaten the very core of these inclusive movements.

Silence Turning to Justification:

The distressing turn from silence to justification within feminist groups, particularly within the left, has added a layer of betrayal to the challenges faced by Jewish women. Some organizations inadvertently justify or downplay the abuses suffered, leaving Jewish women to question the commitment of these groups to the fundamental principles of equality and justice. This shock is not limited to Jewish women within Israel but resonates equally among those in the diaspora, echoing a sentiment of abandonment and neglect.

Ironically, those targeted in the October 7 attack included men and women living in kibbutzim near the border with Gaza, communities deeply rooted in socialist ideals. One tragic example is the late Vivian Silver, who focused her work on women’s rights and gender disparity. She was actively involved in pacifist organizations and co-founded Women Wage Peace, an organization thar works towards creating ties between Palestinian and Israeli women. Silver was killed on October 7 at the Be’eri Kibbutz, and this shows the heartbreaking reality that even those committed to peace and justice are not exempt from the violence that has engulfed the region.

Worthless Lives and Forgotten Battlegrounds:

The testimonies from that tragic day demonstrated that sexual violence was not an exception but systematic and massive. The targeted nature of the attacks prompts a disturbing question: Are Jewish women’s lives considered less valuable? The fundamental principle that women’s bodies should not be used as battlegrounds seems forgotten in the wake of these attacks. The delayed condemnation by international organizations raises concerns about selective empathy. Why must victims provide exhaustive evidence to prove they have been raped? And does the #MeToo movement not apply when the victims are Jewish? Can one condemn or show empathy towards Zionist women who have suffered abuse even when one does not share their political ideals?

Protest outside of the UN.

This raises a broader question: Is Israel now the only place for Jews, particularly Jewish women, to feel safe? Will Jewish women in the diaspora be believed now if they were to suffer sexual abuse, or would they also be held responsible? Is the old excuse “her skirt was too short and she was drunk” being replaced by the new “she’s Jewish and a Zionist”? Will these women have enough support to speak out, or will they fear being sidelined by a movement that, since October 7, has done nothing but blame Jewish women for the abuse they have suffered? The erosion of safety in traditionally progressive spaces and the perceived abandonment by international organizations created a growing disappointment among Jewish women worldwide.

The Responsibility of Feminist Organizations:

Feminist organizations bear the responsibility to review their principles and act on them. The commitment to justice must not be selectively applied, and the concept of intersectionality should not merely remain a discourse but become an effective framework for their work. It is time to address the double standards that persist when it comes to Jewish women.

In conclusion, the aftermath of the October 7 attack has not only cast a shadow over spaces once deemed safe for Jewish women but has also exposed a structural antisemitism within progressive movements. As the call for justice echoes louder, it is crucial for feminist organizations to reassess their priorities, actively address the abuses faced by Jewish women, and ensure that their commitment to inclusivity becomes a tangible reality rather than a hollow promise. Only through collective introspection and action can we hope to rebuild spaces that uphold the principles of justice, equality, and inclusion for all.

About the Author
Clara P. Wolansky is from Cordoba, Argentina. She is a senior in college where she studies International Relations and Political Science.
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