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Phyllis Chesler
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Published on Feb 07, 2014 by

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Chesler Facebook Chronicles

Dear Readers,

I've been chronicling events of interest on Facebook. It has become quite a habit! For those of you who aren't Facebook users, I'm sending some of the posts from the last few weeks.

An Interesting Travel Update


My trip through Security at JFK this afternoon was slowed when one of the agents spotted me holding a copy of the Jewish Press. He found it suspicious, brought it to another agent, and they had a discussion. At that point, my bags were opened and searched. Meanwhile, a woman in niqab – a veil covering the entire face except the eyes -- walked through without incident. I saw no one ask her to lift the veil to check her actual identity against her documents.

The Danger of Negative Campaigns


Harvard Professor Ruth Wisse is calm, cool, collected—and brilliant. Please read her article in today's Wall Street Journal about how "negative campaigns" against the 1% can easily morph into yet another reign of left-wing and right-wing genocidal anti-Semitism.

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Demonizing Israel in a New Way


Why are 58 "progressive" New York City people so angry at Mayor de Blasio? Because he dared to meet with a pro-Israel group—and behind closed doors, with no press in attendance. Apparently, these New Yorkers are outraged that the Mayor whom they supported and helped elect in the hope that together, they would take down the "1%,"—dared to act as if AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) represents their views. The signatories did not surprise me but they did sadden me enormously. Some of them, including some high profile feminists, know absolutely nothing about the Middle East or about Israel. You may read about them here, in Lori Lowenthal Marcus's excellent article.

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R.I.P Dr. Barry Rubin


Barry was an American-Israeli, a Middle East scholar, author, blogger, and founder of a think tank. Barry would spend ten minutes setting up a complex situation, then say—but that's not the problem at all; then another ten minutes presumably explaining what the real problem was—but then he would say: Anyone who believes that does not know x,y, and z—and then, if you were very patient, and remained on your listening toes, you might get to hear him finally give his spin on the matter about 30-40 minutes into his speech.

I remember appearing with him in 2003 as part of the Jewish Book Fair circuit in Florida when my book "The New Anti-Semitism" was out and his biography of Arafat was out—he was dressed in a terribly British suit with his pocket handkerchief folded just so. He reminded me that once, he was my student. I had no memory of his sojourn at my branch of City University. And once, we had dinner after he delivered a lecture to potential funders and we dined rather late at a nearby Italian kosher restaurant and he ended up sleeping over in my downstairs writing studio—although I doubt he slept. When I left him, he was working on his computer and when my assistant came in the next morning—there he was, still at it.

Barry: I hope you are now at play in the fields of the Lord. But, I suspect you have your computer with you....



That's Scarlett Johansson to you—the woman who has taken a principled stand against the Boycotts, Sanctions, and Divestment movement which has singled out Israel. She has ended her eight year ambassadorial role at Oxfam for this reason. Further, Johansson has chosen to become the first global brand ambassador for Soda Stream, an Israeli company which employs Arabs as well as Jews. She's got to know that she is risking the wrath of Hollywood, the media, and the Academy precisely because she is doing the right and rational thing. May she inspire others to break with conformity and propaganda and to take a stand against Palestinian terrorism and genocidal intentionality--and stand for the state of Israel. Most of the media feels the need to mention that Soda Stream is located in territory claimed by the Palestinians—but then, Palestinian leaders claim all the territory, "from the river to the sea, and have absolutely no intention of allowing Jews to live in sovereign Palestinian territory. The rest of the Arab Muslim Middle East is judenrein, and it is on its way to purging or ethnically cleansing the remaining Christian Arabs. I wish the media would point this out along the way.

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America/Afghanistan: Stay/Leave?


For a long while now I have been saying that America cannot expend any more blood and treasure in a fight that we cannot win; that although the harm that will be done to children, women, dissidents, and people in need of medical care, is beyond imagining that it is not worth the loss of more American lives, especially since Pakistan, our nuclear ally, not Afghanistan, is now and always has been the hotbed of Talibanism and Islamism.

Yet, today, in the Wall Street Journal, Frederick W. Kagan makes a strong argument for why American self-interest is best served by remaining in that apparently tragically cursed country. One thing he says is that President Hamid Karzai is not the Afghan people nor is he representing the will of the influential elders whom he himself had called together.

Kagan writes that "the Al Qaeda franchises are growing around the world…they intend to re-establish themselves in the land where bin Laden founded their organization and from which he hurled planes like thunderbolts at the American foe. History matters to this people and it should matter to us." Read him. Tell me what you think.

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In 1932, Rachel Katznelson-Shazar published an extraordinary anthology titled: The Plough Woman: Memoirs of the Pioneer Women of Palestine. In 1994, Elizabeth Sarah, in a wonderful anthology edited by Sybil Sheridan, and titledHear Our Voice. Women in the British Rabbinate, published a long piece about the life of the first woman rabbi in Jewish history: Fraulein Rebbiner Regina Jonas.

Thanks to the 23rd annual New York Jewish Film Festival (January 8-23, 2014), and to the work of two filmmakers: Michal Aviad and Diana Groo, the women I have long been waiting to see are now on the screen.

The Women Pioneers (Halutzot) and Regina (about Fraulein Rabbiner Regina Jonas) depict valiant struggles which ended in both triumph and defeat. Read what I have written about them and the films here:

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Afghan Women Were Never Really Free


Mohammed Qayoumi, in The Daily Mail, and others, including my Afghan husband, say that Afghan women were once "free" until the Taliban came and enslaved them. The reality is more complex. I have in my possession the still-glossy government magazines and pamphlets with these and similar photos. Here's the problem: King Zahir Shah's government was trying to encourage women and their families to modernize. Girls and women in the large cities such as Kabul and Herat did just that—but their mothers, grandmothers, and aunts were more reluctant to do so. Women in rural areas and female servants in the big cities would immediately cover their faces with their long head-veils when a male stranger crossed their path. The women in my own Afghan family dressed in very fashionable western dress but they also wore long coats and head coverings (hijab). I have photos of women wearing burqas in the large cities in the very years that young students, nurses, airline stewardesses, etc. appeared naked-faced and in modern dress. The mullahs did not like this and raged against it. Brave individuals stood against them and against the tyranny of misogynist tradition.

While many girls and women appeared naked-faced in Afghan cities, they were still expected to marry their first or second cousins in arranged marriages and to live with their in-laws; to absorb the pain of polygamy, male infidelity, and other normalized cruelties, including violence at the hands of their husbands or mothers-in-law. Their behaviors were closely scrutinized by their male and female relatives lest they dishonor the family.

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[Photo: Mohammed Qayouni]



Here is what Erica Tabacoff, Digital Account Manager has to say:

Her Pick: An American Bride in Kabul by Phyllis Chesler

After falling in love with a foreign exchange student, Phyllis Chesler, a Jewish-American girl from Brooklyn, hastily married him and returned to his native Afghanistan in 1961. This riveting memoir recounts her time in Kabul, where she lived imprisoned as part of a harem in an immensely wealthy Afghan family. She finally escaped and returned to New York, where she became passionate about freedom and women's rights. Her book is a fascinating look into a world rarely seen by westerners.

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Another Good Day in Cyberspace


I have received a wondrous new review at The Jewish Press. I am grateful and humbled and hope that I will use this measure of influence for Good.

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