Friday, 7 December 2018

Buses, Universities, Airplanes, the Military – Gender Segregation is becoming the norm in Israel

Zionism and Racial Segregation is Leading Inexorably to Gender Segregation


If you listen to the hasbaristas and Israel's pale propagandists or in the case of the Labour Party, its imperial apologists Emily Thornberry and Angela Rayner, then Israel is a wonderful, western-style democracy. An oasis of liberation and equality in a region full of tyrants.
As we know from their pinkwashing, Israel is the epicentre of gay liberation and Zionist are happy to proclaim their tolerance of gay rights (even though gay marriage will never be allowed in Israel).
Women’s equality is taken as being synonymous with the Jewish state. Israel was one of the first countries to have a woman Prime Minister, Golda Meir, of whom its first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion once said: “The only thing Golda knows how to do is to hate!”
In Israel the responsibility for personal matters – birth, marriages, divorce and death – were handed over at the beginning of the State to the Orthodox Rabbis. It was necessary to allow the Rabbis to define who is a Jew because if a Jew was defined on a secular basis, that is on the basis of self-identification as is the case with most religions, then Israel would not have been seen as Jewish by the majority of rabbis throughout the world. In short there would have been a division in the House of Israel. Israel would not have been seen as being legitimate in the eyes of those who are the definers of who is Jewish.
The definition of who was a Jew effectively mirrored that of the Nazis’ Nuremburg Laws. The 1950 Law of Return allowed anyone who was Jewish to ‘return’ to Israel whilst at the same time Palestinians who were born there had no rights whatsoever. In short the definition of a Jew for religious purposes was racial, based on the mother being Jewish.  Just as the Nazis racial definition of Jews rested ultimately on religious practice!
Although Orthodox Jewry was politically quiescent during the time of the Israeli Labour Party government, which lasted from 1949 until 1977, that certainly isn’t the case today.  Then the religious Orthodox sector was represented by the National Religious Party and its leader Yosef Burg,which was a centrist Zionist group.  In the wake of the Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza the NRP moved to the Right supporting the Greater Israel Movement (Gush Emunim).  After 2003 it morphed into the National Union and then Jewish Home, two right-wing racist Zionist parties.
It is the crucial role of the Orthodox religious sector in legitimising Zionist colonisation and the fact that as a Jewish state, it is left to the Orthodox Rabbinate to define who is the herrenvolk in Israel that has led to the present situation whereby the traditional hostility of the Jewish Orthodox to women’s equality is now spilling over into Israeli society as a whole.
On public transport there has been a campaign, especially in Jerusalem where the Orthodox predominate, for segregation by sex on the buses.  El Al has long moved women to different seats when Orthodox men objected to sitting by them.
A few years ago sexual segregation starting showing its face on the university campus.  When the Academic Boycott of Israel first manifested itself in the West we were told that the universities were the bastions of liberalism. But today increasing numbers of courses and even libraries and campuses are being subject to gender segregation. The Hebew University in Jerusalem runs men only courses because it is deemed desirable to attract Orthodox Haredi students.
It was perhaps inevitable that a society based on racial and ethnic segregation and oppression would, sooner or later, turn into a society where women too were subject to segregation and overtly chauvinist treatment by the State. 
In an interesting interview with Yofi Torosh by Alan Johnson [Feminism in Israel | ‘Pious men and dangerous women’: sex-segregation as a threat to women’s equality in Israel – an interview with Yofi Tirosh] in the BICOM magazine Fathom, Ms Torosh, a law lecturer at Tel Aviv University and a ‘human rights activist’ expresses her anger at the growing marginalisation of Israeli women. 
Yofi speaks of the time when she served in the Israeli army. 
The military that I served in 20 years ago was completely different; it was all about comradery and affection, not just hugging, but playing with each other’s hair, or patting each other’s back. 
Which is of course very touching.  With the recent increase in Orthodox recruits a woman’s body has become a symbolic threat to religious masculinity and male military prowess. Segregation of the sexes has become the order of the day.
What Yofi forgets is that the Israeli army of 20 years ago is no different to the Israeli army of today in terms of its military and political role in maintaining the occupation of the Palestinians and in supporting the Jewish settlements. When it came to the checkpoints, round ups, kidnapping of children, assassinations and land confiscation, the practices of the Israeli army have not changed. There is no reason to believe that the use of torture or the sexual abuse of Palestinian children of today is a new phenomenon. 
What Yofi is really demanding is equality of the sexes when it comes to the oppression of the Palestinians. Israeli Jewish women should, she is saying, have an equal role in the beatings and shootings. What she doesn't want is a situation where the women make the tea  and the men get on with the killing and beatings up. 
 The situation of the Palestinians doesn’t get a look-in. This is, in essence, one long complaint about the deterioration in the position of Israeli Jewish women in Israel. Nowhere, not once, does Yofi situate what is happening in the context of Zionism and the degradation of Israeli civil society and the growing marginalisation of the left, even left Zionism in Israel. Yofi fails to connect between the open racism in Israel, the 'Death to the Arabs' marches, the attacks on refugees and the decline in the position of Israeli women as a whole.
The deteriorating position of Israeli women is a consequence of the growing racism and chauvinism in Israeli society as a whole. Every abomination and atrocity against the Palestinians is justified in the name of the Jewish religion.  This is the same religion which, when I was an Orthodox worshipper, meant that women went upstairs in the synagogue and the men went downstairs.  Women played no part at all in the service and their presence was not required.  You cannot accept the role of the Jewish religion when it comes to the dispossession of Palestinians and then complain when that very same religion is used to justify your own marginalisation.
In a society where there is no equality between Palestinian and Israeli it is inevitable that the relationships between the different genders in Israel itself will suffer.  It is no accident that this year alone some 25 women have been killed in Israel as a result of male violence.  A violent society begets violence.
Below are a number of articles on the question of sexual segregation in the Middle East’s ‘only democracy’.
Tony Greenstein

Israel’s Creeping Gender Segregation

The Council for Higher Education's allowing of gender separation throughout university campuses is no necessary evil, even if it helps integrate the country's ultra-Orthodox community
Nov 25, 2018 2:09 AM
In the past five years the Council for Higher Education’s approach to separating men and women at ultra-Orthodox academic programs has changed through and through. From a limited solution with limited scope it has become a natural right that has expanded in stages until there are campuses “clean” of all sign of women.
Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett gestures as he delivers a statement to members of the media, at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem, on Monday, November 19, 2018.\ AMIR COHEN/ REUTERS
The attempt to normalize gender segregation has been led by Education Minister Naftali Bennett and the chairwoman of the Council for Higher Education’s Planning and Budgeting Committee, Prof. Yaffa Zilbershats. The influence of this process goes beyond academia; it will influence other areas, from the army to the labor market.
In recent years the Council for Higher Education has argued that gender segregation is a necessary evil: It may go against the fundamentals of higher education such as openness and pluralism, but the desire to bring the ultra-Orthodox into higher education is more important – and therefore the harm to women is justified. The council promised that the harm would be minimal: Gender segregation would be limited to classrooms. Not anymore.
In a recent response to a High Court petition by academics against the institutionalization and expansion of gender segregation, the council said that separating men and women is permitted across an entire campus and between campuses of the same institution, and can take the form of separate days or hours for each gender as long as it’s not carried out “by coercion.” The council doesn’t elaborate on the ways to check whether the separation is “voluntary” and simply promises “to significantly address” institutions that force segregation.
It turns out that the council’s handling of institutions that violate its instructions is ingratiating and meaningless. Also, the distinction between segregation “by coercion” and “voluntary” separation is a dangerous profession of innocence: You don’t need a guard to keep women off campus or outside the library during certain hours. A sign announcing hours for each gender and requesting or demanding “consideration” will achieve a similar result. Only a few men, and even fewer women, will dare to act differently.
This month, a study by Hebrew University law lecturer Netta Barak-Corren questioned the council’s argument that separate programs are needed to get the ultra-Orthodox into colleges and universities. But not only are the Council for Higher Education’s chiefs refusing to examine the basis for the segregation policy, they’re expanding it. In the background you can already hear demands from the hardalim – the religious-Zionist ultra-Orthodox community – for “adjustments” to suit them. And that will come too.
The attempt to separate genders in academia is already harming women’s equality at the workplace because they are blocked from teaching ultra-Orthodox men. In the future this distortion could become a precedent for other areas, from the army to the job market.
Bennett’s segregation campaign must be opposed publicly. There is no justification for such significant harm to the basic rights of women – be they ultra-Orthodox or secular, students or faculty members.

Israel Is Normalizing Gender Segregation

Abbey Alpern is a founding member of Tikkun Olam Women’s Foundation located in the Washington, D.C. area.

The Forward, July 31, 2018

It had been 50 years since I last traveled to Israel. Much has changed in the start-up nation, including real toilets, delicious and plentiful food, new archaeological excavations and high-tech innovation. There have also been changes for Israeli women — though not all for the better.
I recently joined a group of 60 Jewish women leaders from the Jewish Women’s Funding Network (JWFN) and the National Council of Jewish Women on a study tour examining the status of women in Israel. We met with inspired leaders and organizations that are undertaking important work to improve the lives of women in the country, Jewish and Arab. Unlike the legendary trope that because Israeli women serve in the army equality is a given, we learned about a different reality.
Many Israeli women activists spoke of the “creeping normalization” of gender segregation, even in communities that aren’t ultra-Orthodox — and the Israeli government and public institutions are willing accomplices.
Ultra-orthodox Israeli men are being encouraged to participate in the labor force as a way to alleviate poverty, but gender segregation often comes as a result of these efforts. According to Eleanor Davidov, the director of the Israel Women’s Network’s women’s exclusion project, “Sex segregation isn’t even accepted by all parts of the Haredi community, yet it is becoming accepted in government offices, city halls, the army and even the private sector, and their efforts to be considerate of the ultra-Orthodox minority have come at women’s expense.”
There is an increase in gender segregation on university campuses as well. In November 2017, an amendment to the Council for Higher Education Law was proposed to normalize gender segregation in academic institutions to encourage access for ultra-Orthodox men. This amendment, which is still pending, would provide funding explicitly for this purpose. Several Israeli organizations fighting gender segregation jointly wrote a letter urging the Members of the Ministerial Committee for Legislative Affairs to oppose this amendment. They explain that permitting some students “not to hear women is by definition an institution that discriminates against women.” They also describe future damage that may be done to women, such as gender-segregated academic conferences, which would create roadblocks for women researchers who already have a difficult path. There is a strong possibility that if normalized gender segregation takes hold in academia, it could lead to gender segregation in the workplace, resulting in a discriminatory job market where opportunities for women become much more limited.
Exclusion of women and gender segregation in the Israel Defense Force is also increasing. Military service for most Jewish Israelis is mandatory, and men and women have historically served together. However, in order to encourage Haredi enlistment, special “women-free” tracks have been established for them, restricting positions for female instructors.
While the integration of ultra-Orthodox men into Israeli society is desirable, it cannot come at the expense of women, who make up half of the population.
Dr. Yofi Tirosh, from Tel Aviv University Faculty of Law, describes the situation in an interview that appears in the February 2018 edition of Fathom magazine. The article includes a photograph showing the sign “Men Only — Entry for Women Is Strictly Forbidden,” reminiscent of the signs that used to be prominent in the American South proclaiming “Whites Only” or “Coloreds Prohibited.”
American Jews played a major role in the struggle for desegregation in the United States. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel walked beside Martin Luther King on March 21, 1965 during the Selma march. Two Jewish college students were murdered in Mississippi in June 1964 for their civil rights activism. Given this history, how can we tolerate this civil rights assault on women in Israel? In the same way we have fought against racial segregation in our own country, American Jews must fight against gender segregation in Israel. We cannot be silent.
Israeli women activists told us that Jews in the Diaspora can have an impact, just as Jewish Americans affected Israel’s “Law of Return.” They pointed out how the efforts of the Orthodox rabbis to limit the definition of a Jew to an Orthodox Jew were throttled by the Diaspora. Gender segregation in Israeli society merits an equal pushback.

What happens when the public hides women, whether on an El Al plane or in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square

NIS 13,000 fine in July 2012. (Yossi Zamir/ Flash90)

Two items made the news this week. The first is a Chabad event in Tel Aviv, the second, a delayed El Al flight.
While they may seem unrelated the reason they are in the news — gender segregated seating — makes them related indeed.
Chabad planned an event to be held in Kikar Rabin, a large public square in the heart of Tel Aviv. The outdoor event will have a divider and gender segregated seating. While the Tel Aviv Municipality initially granted a permit for the event, groups opposing the segregation in the public sphere led to the mayor’s revocation of the permit. The revocation was then overturned by the court, with the event slated to move forward as planned.
Sunday’s El Al flight was delayed for over an hour because a male passenger refused to sit beside a woman. Finally, the plane only took off after two women agreed to move to accommodate the men’s demands. The phenomenon of men asking women to move has been going on for a few years, and was declared illegal last year by the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court.
“Requesting a seat change on an airplane before or after takeoff, based on a passenger’s gender, constitutes a breach of the Prohibition of Discrimination in Products, [Services and Entry into Public Places Law],” ruled Judge Dana Cohen-Lekach stating that El Al cannot force women to change seats at the request of men.
How did seating arrangements become the stuff of court cases? Since when do we need a judge to declare it illegal to ask a person to move on the basis of gender? And why is an event with separate seating controversial if the organizers want it that way?
In Israel, the gender segregation that exists in Orthodox synagogues has been imported to other spaces. More and more, spaces that are not religious have become segregated. This includes certain bus lines where women are told to sit in the back (which has also been determined to be illegal), college campuses, where women cannot teach men or be in the areas where they learn, medical conferences where women — even doctors and researchers whose work is being discussed — are put behind a curtain, and, in some places, are even barred from some areas of public streets (another illegal one).
Some health clinic offices have gender-segregated waiting rooms. In Beit Shemesh, women were required to sit in the back of the room at the opening of a health clinic. In Beit Shemesh, a city of tens of thousands – secular, traditional, Modern Orthodox and Haredi, publications do not include images of women or girls, and women have been told that they cannot advertise with pictures of women on city billboards (yet another illegal requirement).
There are people who see no connection between the increasing segregation and erasure of women and girls. I see an inherently damaging phenomenon that is getting worse.
In places where women have been told where they can sit, stand, walk, and so on, the women have also been verbally and physically assaulted by men — who acknowledged the view that they should not have been where they were. It would seem that with men’s exposure to women-free spaces, they now expect it, and have begun to demand it
Some go along with this, in the interest of cultural sensitivity, others in the interest of money. Banks, health clinics, and other businesses have created women-free publications, websites, and advertisements. The bigger problem is that the practice seeps deeper.
But enforcing gender segregation is not acceptable outside of a religious institution where those who sign up have agreed to it. Enforcing gender segregation is not a matter of cultural sensitivity. It helps extremists breed the expectation that women should be in the back, to the side, and not part of the main discussion. It helps spread the idea that total separation between the sexes is a pious ideal and that those who oppose it are less religious.
It leads to discrimination as every time the sides are not equal, women are given the back, the smaller, the less comfortable. They are less visible and not heard. Time and again.
If those who come to an event want to sit separately, they can do so. No one will — or should — force them to sit mixed. But the idea that an event in public can relegate women to behind a curtain or the back of the room is simply unacceptable.
Those who call it cultural sensitivity, who expect women to move aside and play nice, who go along with it for business reasons, from Mishpacha magazine, to the banks and bakeries to El Al, and those who refuse to consider the magnitude of this problem and its impact on society are aiding and abetting extremists and silencing and censoring women.
In parts of 21st-century Jewish state, ultra-Orthodox rabbis trying to contain encroachment of secular values on their cloistered society through fierce backlash against mixing of sexes in public
Associated Press|Published:  11.15.11 , 15:15
Posters depicting women have become rare in the streets of Israel's capital. In some areas women have been shunted onto separate sidewalks, and buses and health clinics have been gender-segregated. The military has considered reassigning some female combat soldiers because religious men don't want to serve with them.
This is the new reality in parts of 21st-century Israel, where ultra-Orthodox rabbis are trying to contain the encroachment of secular values on their cloistered society through a fierce backlash against the mixing of the sexes in public.
Religious Action Center urges Western Wall rabbi to remove screens separating between men and women before security checks, claims ushers hired to impose segregation on buses leaving holy site
On the surface, Israel's gender equality bona fides seem strong, with the late Golda Meir as a former prime minister, Tzipi Livni as the current opposition leader, and its women soldiers famed around the world.
Reality is not so shiny. The World Economic Forum recently released an unfavorable image of women's earning power in Israel, and in 2009, the last year for which data are available, Israeli women earned two-thirds what men did.
Fighting religious extremism and gender segregation in the public domain

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