Secretary Clinton's latest comments about Israel at the Saban Forum, (same Mr. Saban of the Power Rangers commercial success) voiced concern regarding Israel's democratic process, highlighting two main issues: the discourse about women in Israeli public life as a whole and legislation curtailing foreign contributions to so-called "Human Rights Organizations." Secretary Clinton chose (according to media reports; no transcripts are publicly available) to liken the women's rights situation in Israel to the situation in the south of the United States during the time of discrimination in the days of Rosa Parks in 1955. She also compared Israel's internal democratic processes to Iran -- complementing Iran in the process. These are sweeping and strong statements -- unheard of by a U.S.secretary of state -- that require comment.
The timing of Secretary Clinton's comments is baffling. Egypt just elected the Muslim Brotherhood as a main parliamentary party with a strong showing for the followers of the Saudi extremist version of Islam: the Wahhabis, or Salafis, practitioners of the extreme form of Islam required in Saudi Arabia.. Neither the Muslim Brotherhood not the Wahhabis can be accused of being strong women's' rights supporters "Salafis object to women in leadership roles, citing Muhammad as saying that 'no people succeed if led by women,' tribune-chronicle.com Dec 3rd, 2011) In Tunisia, things are not much better: the "Committee for Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of vice" has been launched (Anna Mahjar-Barducci, Dec 7th, 2011, Hudson, NY). Examples from Saudi Arabia are many: women are not allowed to drive; those who do, will be lashed -- a relatively "easy punishment." Recently, a Saudi Woman was beheaded for witchcraft and "Sorcery" (CNN, Dec 13th, 2011). In Afghanistan and many other states Islamic states, raped women can be stoned to death for "adultery" -- guilty unless they can prove themselves innocent, not an easy task, as the proof required is the testimony of four male witnesses to the coupling. Women in the Arab and Muslim world in general do not have the same ing-heritance rights, marriage rights or divorce rights. And during the so called "Arab spring" in the Tahrir Square, female reporters from the US and France were sexually assaulted by gangs to the point where the foreign media now refuse to send women reporters to Egypt.
This mistreatment of women is not restricted to the Arab world: Europe has serious issues of its own. As Sharia enclaves spread through the heart of Europe, there is also the attempt to enforce Muslim Sharia law over women in its midst. In the enclaves of Sharia law zones in Copenhagen, Denmark "where Call to Islam [a Danish Islamist group] says it will dispatch 24-hour Islamic 'morals police' to enforce Sharia law", (Soeren Kern, Hudson NY Oct 24th, 2011), or In London where were "Islamist[s] were reported to be openly targeting women and homosexuals in an attempt to impose Sharia law" (A. Millar, Hudson NY, May, 9th, 2011). This is the formal problem we are witnessing what the Western liberal media either "sanitizes" or refuses to discuss. Only lately Arutz 7, (Israelnationalnews.com), quoted a report by Yehuda Bello, that Norway has just had a Muslim rape wave. Mrs. Yasmin Alibahi Brown ("a women of the left", according to http://theothermccain.com November 30th 2010) speaks of a British national rape problem which needs to be openly discussed, and other incidents. So does former Home and Foreign Secretary in the British Labor party, Jack Straw (theweek.co.uk, Jan. 11th, 2011).
So what brought about the recent wrath of Secretary Clinton on Israel regarding women?
Reports about the segregation of men and woman at a line of buses in the ultra-orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim. Not only is that ultra-religious community well-known for its objection to Israeli democracy and its laws, but this segregation for a few hundred feet inside that neighborhood was rejected by the Israeli Supreme Court, and its decision will be enforced by the police. Apparently Secretary Clinton missed this news. The other women's rights issue that brought about Secretary Clinton's strong remarks concerned women's singing in front of ultra-religious soldiers. This small class of ultra-religious soldiers chose not the listen to the women singing; however much one might disagree with their decision, there seems no reason to impose listening to woman singing on ultra-religious soldiers, or anyone else for that matter. However, the women's singing was not barred: some soldiers who asked to be dismissed left the performance.
Recently an American Jewish Rabbi was enlisted into the American Army and permitted to have a beard, for religious reasons, although his comrades in arms are not allowed that privilege. This, in the U.S. as well as in Israel, is also a part of democracy and the right to practice one's faith without imposing a state religion.
Secretary Clinton, however, did not limit her comments to these fringe incidents: she chose a sweeping statement of concern over women's rights in Israeli public life as a whole. A quick look at Israeli public life and women's role in it can bring sad thoughts about her motives, her level of knowledge, or the motives of those who briefed her. Further, making such sweeping statements Secretary Clinton belittled the great achievements of past and present day women in Israel's public, economic and private life. A short list:
- Heading the Israeli Supreme Court is a woman (Mrs. Beinisch).
- The head of the biggest two opposition parties in the Knesset are women:
- M.K. Yechimovich (who was elected only recently to head the Labor party)
- M.K. Livni, who is a former minister of foreign affairs and a Prime minister candidate (from Kadima).
- A woman, Orna Barbivai, was recently appointed Major General in the Israel Defense Force.
- Majorities of employees in the attorney general's office are women. Two former Solicitor Generals of the state were women, and later promoted to the Supreme Court.
- Women are combat pilots and military commanders -- even ultra-religious men.
Also, the strong presence of a woman in Israel's public life is not limited to the public sector.
- Heading two of Israel's biggest banks, Hapoalim and Leumi, are women:
- Mrs. Shari Arison as an owner in Hapoalim (her staff also consists mostly of women).
- Mrs. Galia Maor as the C.E.O. of Leumi; apparently her the successor is also a woman.
- Serving as the CEO of the first International Bank of Israel is Mrs. Smadar Barber Tsadik
- Until recently Mrs. Zehvit Cohen headed the biggest investment house and one of the biggest corporations in Israel.
- The next time an Israeli journalist interviews Secretary Clinton, it could well be a woman: there is a strong women's presence in the media in all jobs; and the list goes on.
Moreover, Israel had a woman prime minister in 1969, more than 25 years before the US had a first woman secretary of state (Madeleine Albright in 1996). The comparison to Iran seems even more unveiled when remembering the murderous nature of the Iranian regime towards its own population and its brutal treatment of the opposition, especially women.
In short, Israel has nothing to be ashamed of either in women's rights or women's presence in every aspect of public and private life.
Secretary Clinton's attack on Israeli democracy and its standards by was not limited to women issues. There has been a recent attempt by the Israeli parliament to balance carefully the right of organizations in a democracy to operate freely, and the right of the Israeli public to know who funds these organizations. Some of the so-called "Human Rights Organizations" in question are also funded by foreign governments, such as Ireland and Britain, which have been actively participating in the internal and external Israeli policies and politics – some interventions bordering dangerously on attempts to subvert Israel's democracy. A recent example is the discredited Goldstone Report (now disavowed by Justice Goldstone himself: its findings that Israel committed war crimes in Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza strip, were based mostly on unsubstantiated material provided by some of these foreign-funded non-governmentsal organizations,.
No sane, self-respecting democracy could allow such actions. American law, for example, requires any foreign individual, organization or government donating funds to be registered as a foreign agent.
Think of it: America, capable of dealing with the slightest foreign intervention, still finds it necessary to regulate and account publicly for funding by foreign governments, or "agents of influence." But Israel -- the size of Vancouver Island, surrounded by 21 countries pledged to exterminate it, with far less deterrence power than the U.S. and much more to lose from such interference -- is reprimanded for trying to regulate it, too by the U.S. Secretary of State.
If the American administration is the measuring stick we are to follow, the Israeli government is well within American standards in attempting to regulate, or at least to demand transparency and accountability in foreign governments' interference in its domestic policies. But the American administration goes even farther: Where America interferes in other nationalities, such as Iraq, the American administration refuses to allow the local Iraqi juridical system to be applied to its soldiers -- and rightly so. The US also refuses to participate in the International Criminal Court -- again for the wholesome reason that its soldiers and commanders should not be subjected to unaccountable international law -- often biased and with no further recourse -- in place of Constitutional law.
These regrettable words of Secretary Clinton were not restricted to just one Clinton. The former president, William Jefferson Clinton, personally involved in negotiations with the Palestinian Liberation Organization, saw firsthand saw how former Palestinian Chairman, Yasser Arafat, with his second-in-command, Mahmoud Abbas, refused offers from then-Israeli Prime Minister Barak (currently Minister of Defense) with never even suggesting a counter-offer. Yet, a few months ago, former President Clinton attacked both Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Israel internal politics for the lack of peace in the region. In an uncharacteristic display of ethnic labeling, President Clinton blamed the Russian immigrants to Israel for creating a lack of peace by shifting the demographics towards the right-leaning parties -- as if political preferences in a democracy were inapopropriate. He presumably woukd never have spoken that way about immigrants to the United States -- even if they voted Republican.
Shortly after taking office, President Obama was quoted as saying that he wished to put some space between the US and Israel. It seems such comments by him, and both Secretary Clinton and former President Clinton, are a part of this effort to denigrate Israel while never even asking the Palestinians to stop the hourly whipping up of murderous thoughts that saturates thiertheor government-run media, their textbooks, summer camps and even their crossword puzzles (www.palwatch.org). We can add to the mix Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.
In contrast to her regrettable comments about Israel, Secretary Clinton only recently called on Egyptian Islamists to respect "democratic norms," as if her request could expect to inspire any real results.
Currently in the Middle East, democracy, respect for human rights, women's rights, minorities rights, rule of law and a parliament by and for the people -- including a strong showing of women – seems limited to a group of one: Israel -- precisely why refugees from Sudan, Somalia and other paragons of human rights are willing to take enormous risks to reach Israel, which remains the one oasis of openness, individual liberty and lack of bias in their wider neighborhood.
If anyone is not convinced about the status of woman in the Arab world, he should ask Saudi women-- assuming he could meet even with them without their being "protected" by a male relative
It seems that we will not hear about any of that, or any other repressive acts against women in the Arab world -- or about the developing enclaves of Sharia law in the heart of Europe -- from Mrs. Clinton, who is actively "engaging" with the Taliban, which totally represess and discriminates against women.
Attacking Israeli is easy - there are never any adverse consequences for the attacker. But tackling the real issues facing women in the world is harder and needs someone with true courage. Secretary Clinton's remarks against Israel are saved for the comfortable, adoring, embracing Saban forum. She is again preaching to the converted, but the wrong kind.