Breaking Ranks – An Interview With Phyllis Chesler

By: Fern Sidman, Jewish Press

Phyllis Chesler, a nice Jewish girl from Boro Park who in the 1960’s and 70’s gained fame both as a prominent voice of the feminist movement and an internationally renowned left-wing ideologue, broke ranks with the Left several years ago.

The unwillingness of leftists to make unequivocal distinctions between Western democracy and jihadist imperialism; the refusal of feminists to condemn the hideous treatment of women in Third World and Muslim nations; and the appalling hatred of Israel that had come to infect vast precincts of the academic and activist Left – all these played a role in Dr. Chesler’s ideological shift.

Your book The New Anti-Semitism:The Current Crisis and What We Must Do About It (Jossey Bass, 2003) signaled, perhaps more than anything you’d written to that point, your break with the Left. Did you encounter any resistance to its publication?

My editor at Jossey Bass challenged me: Are you sure you ought to say this – that anti-Zionism is the new anti-Semitism and that Islamic anti-Semitism is lethal in nature? Are you really sure you’re right? And I said yes. I understood that in the past one could criticize Israel and not necessarily be anti-Semitic, but the way Israel had become completely demonized, and the attempts to isolate and punish only Israel in a world filled with so much evil, prompted me to write the book, which I began in 2002.

How do you react to the feminists and intellectuals who have criticized and shunned you?

Once you stand up for Jews and for Israel, and once you tell the truth about Islam – and that includes the mistreatment of women and independent thought under Islam – you are branded a racist, a neo-conservative reactionary, a right-wing nut. You have liberal Jews, feminists, who care more about the right to an abortion than the right not to have a second Holocaust.

I do think that what feminists are doing in areas like rape, battering, incest, employment discrimination, prostitution, pornography and the trafficking mainly of women and children is holy work. There are wonderful feminists who are doing important things for women. I just recently met the director of the shelter for battered women in Jerusalem. She had heartbreaking stories to tell, and she’s doing God’s work, in my opinion. She is not frum, but there are other feminists who are, and who are similarly looking for gender justice for women within Judaism here and in Israel.

But there is such a phobia among feminists about the Republican Party, about the Christian right wing, about the Jewish right wing. And the phobia mainly comes from a secular worldview as well as their having been Palestinianized – sort of mentally hijacked.

One feminist reviewer of The New Anti-Semitism was a Jewish woman who wrote that I grossly exaggerated the danger coming to us from Islam, which in her opinion is not really the problem. The real problem – get ready to laugh – is the danger posed by people like Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and the Lubavitcher Rebbe. This is a well-educated woman. She’s a secular Jew who sees the anti-abortion agenda as so heinous, so atrocious, so horrifying. These people are not going to care about Israel. To them there is no God.

You write and speak extensively on the multicultural relativism espoused by the media and academia. Would you expound on that?

It’s easy to say, yes, the Muslims are against everyone who is not a Muslim. And it’s true. That’s part of what jihad is about, that’s part of the history of Islam. But it doesn’t account for the incessant, infernal feuds among the Muslim religious sects and tribes that are bloody, deadly. Here’s the thing. The West, and that means Jews and Israelis, would like to lead sweet and peaceful lives. We’re up against an enemy now that is dying to kill us, that lives to kill, and that at best merely wishes to impose on the rest of us its laws and strictures.

When I turn to people like Amy Goodman of WBAI or others on the airwaves, or to tenured professors at Western universities, and tell them what I just said, they say I’m a lunatic – completely biased, completely racist. Their point of view is that America is to blame and that the way we make up for our many errors and crimes is to become multicultural relativists, meaning that all cultures, you see, are equal or should be treated equally and we should have equal rights to cannibals.

August 18, 2007 | Comments Off on Breaking Ranks – An Interview With Phyllis Chesler

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