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May 05, 2011

Boston’s Emily Rooney is Wrong About Israeli Women’s Rights


Public radio station WGBH’s May 4 Emily Rooney show aired a discussion entitled, “Shining A Light On Sexual Assault In The Peace Corps.�? About two thirds of the way through the segment, Rooney briefly touched on mistreatment of women in the Middle East, singling out by country name only Egypt and Israel for criticism:

After watching Lara Logan on [CBS’] “60 Minutes�? on Sunday night – it was just unbelievable – telling a tale about her rape and sexual assault in February of this year while covering the uprising in Egypt. Two hundred or three hundred men jumped on her, raped her violently, tried to tear her limbs off – tried to tear her hair out. She was in a country – and she recognized as much and said – where women are not valued in the same way as men. That is true of a large part – if not the entire Middle East, Israel included – I'm sorry to say – and I really wonder – I mean, knowing that – that is the case, what can a Peace Corps do?

Sorry to say, Ms. Rooney, you are vastly misinformed about the position of women In Israel. They have equal rights and opportunities generally similar to that of women in other advanced countries. It is totally unjustifiable to equate, as you did, the generally problematic status of Middle East women with the status of Israeli women. While there are still some problems, as there are here in the U.S. and other Western countries, they pale in comparison to the problems faced by women in most Middle East societies, as typified by the Palestinian territories.

Freedom House, a non-partisan group that monitors the status of political, human and civil rights around the world, states about Israel (excerpt):

Women have achieved substantial parity at almost all levels of Israeli society. However, Arab women [in Israeli Arab communities] and religious Jewish women face some discrimination and societal pressures that negatively affect their professional, political, and social lives. In October 2009, the Transport Ministry outlawed so-called “modesty buses,�? on which women were forced to sit at the back, separate from men. The buses had recently been appearing in greater numbers in very religious Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem.

(The report mentions a recent prostitution problem but Israeli society and government are addressing this problem and remedying it.)

This contrasts sharply with a Freedom House report on the lack of rights of women, for example, in the Palestinian territories. Here is an excerpt:

The judiciary system in Palestine is composed of a hierarchy of courts. Women are not recognized as full persons before the courts as witnesses or in matters related to marriage, divorce, and custody of children. The Women's Center for Legal Advice and Counseling (WCLAC) report for 2000 states that the Palestinian judiciary exhibits views of women as “inferior�? and that women generally are “looked down upon and treated with scorn.�? It also reports that “a divorced woman is treated as though she has been 'indicted' for failing to try to sustain the marriage.�?

Emily Rooney deserves to hear criticism of her uninformed and misleading assertion.

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Posted by MK at May 5, 2011 04:52 PM


This brings to mind the doctoral thesis of Tal Nizan who wrote about how Arab women in Judea and Samaria are not raped by IDF soldiers because the women are de-humanized in the soldiers' eyes. This, in her incredibly Orwellian view, makes the IDF out to be like war criminals.

Posted by: Dan at May 11, 2011 03:28 PM

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