The Hypocrisy of the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA)

A cornerstone of the US feminist revolution has been women’s rights to their bodies and above all free access to abortion, something that has been at the heart of feminism since the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade.

But consistency is not a feature of any organized movement, particularly where Israel enters the equation.

In a typical act of hypocrisy, the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) recently endorsed and supported the academic boycott of Israel stating,  “As feminist scholars, activists, teachers, and public intellectuals we recognize the interconnectedness of systemic forms of oppression…we cannot overlook the injustice and violence, including sexual and gender-based violence, perpetrated against Palestinians and other Arabs in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, within Israel and in the Golan Heights, as well as the colonial displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians during the 1948 Nakba.”

One of the driving forces behind the NWSA’s vote was Simona Sharoni, a professor of gender and women’s studies at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh. Not surprisingly she is a Jewish anti-Israel individual who, like Norman Finkelstein and others, play the son/daughter of Holocaust survivor card to validate their actions. Sharoni is one of the co-founders of ‘Feminists for Justice in Palestine’ responsible for pushing the NWSA’s pro-boycott campaign.

Beyond the egregious historical falsehoods regarding “colonial displacement” in the NWSA’s statement, the fact is that 40% of women in the West Bank get abortions in Israel, as Yardena Schwartz recently documented in Foreign Policy. Abortion is illegal in most of the Middle East including in the Palestinian areas and it is indeed the good fortune of these Palestinian women that they live so close to a country where abortions are legal, free and subsided by no less than the Jewish State.

This “mere” fact highlights the ignorance of the National Women’s Studies Association, who like many other academic associations ignores facts in exchange for polemics and ideology. What is superficially more “shocking” is that an individual like Sharoni, who lived and taught in Israel at Haifa University, where there is a large Arab student body, chooses to ignore and abuse reality in face of extremism and delegitimization. One would think that such feminists would applaud Israel as a beacon of Women’s rights and equality but alas, for those who support the Israel boycott movement there is no greater good than eternal Palestinian victimization.

Schwartz shares the testimony of a Palestinian woman; when discovered she was three weeks pregnant with her fifth child she immediately went to her Israeli doctor, who gave her a prescription for a drug to induce abortion. “I feel very lucky to live here,” said Bashira, referring to Israel. Like most Palestinians, Bashira wants there to be an independent Palestinian state. Yet for the sake of her rights as a woman [emphasis added], she said, I prefer to live in Israel under the Israeli government.”

For all their cries of inequality and injustice, we never hear of calls to ostracize or sanction Palestinian advocates who incite to homicide or celebrate the murder of Israelis, or those who glorify the “martyrdom” of Palestinian murderers. There is a consistent unwillingness to look seriously at Palestinian politics and discourse; these are among the fatal flaws of advocacy for boycotting Israel.

The so-called “Palestinian global crisis” exists solely in the minds of those who propagate Israel boycott rather than in reality facts. Supporting any aspect of the boycott movement only makes the situation worse. Feminists should take a closer look at women’s rights in the Middle East and then look at Israel before they jump to conclusions. The freedoms they demand are only found in Israel and are given to both Arab and Jewish citizens.

The draconian nature of Israel boycott advocates highlights their inability to come to terms with the State of Israel and lack of knowledge when it comes to judging the reality of the Middle East as a whole. When Syrian refugees are being offered jobs at the Israeli company SodaStream – one of the first companies to be targeted by the boycott movement – things are never as simple as they seem.

About the Author
Asaf Romirowsky PhD, is the Executive Director of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME). Romirowsky is also a senior non-resident fellow at the BESA Center and a fellow at the Middle East Forum and a Professor [Affiliate] at the University of Haifa.
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