Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Can we have some Lysistrata in the Middle East?

Me memory tells me that I once came across an allegation that Israel deported the most prominent Palestianian proponent of non-violence out of fear that protest a la Gandhi might actually work. Unfortunately, I don't have a name and I'm not entirely sure where I heard it. I suspect it may have been a National Press Club thing on C-SPAN featuring Winsto Churchill, the journalist and grandson of the famous prime minister, which I do remember also included Churchill quoting Moshe Dayan (I believe) as saying that Israel was going for a "pastrami" solution to the Palestinian problem, taking slice of land after slice of land like thin pastrami until nothing was left for the Palestinians.

The article in question claims that women's marches in Palestine get little news coverage. More of the "if it bleeds, it leads" school of journalism, I suppose. I wouldn't chalk it up to any pro-Israel bias.

The article raises a few interesting avenues for research. For example, what percentage of the Knesset is female? While Golda Meir may remain in the memory, there is the allegation of a "macho" national identity--"the predominant construction of masculinity is that of a sabra (native-born) strong Jewish man, born out of the ashes of the Holocaust, and raised with the intertwined narratives of Arab anti-Semitism and anti-Arab Zionism." Is this bourne out in decreasing political participation of women in Israel? Is there a gender gap in Israeli voting?

Well, I went for the easy part and looked up how many women are in the Knesset, admittedly outdated info. There are currently 17 out of 120. They break down as 6 from Labor-Meimad, 3 from Likud, 4 from Meretz, 1 each from Hadash, Shinui, Yisrael Be'aliyah, and the Center Party. Labor-Meimad is a moderate coalition, Likud staunchly conservative, Meretz and Shinui are liberal, the Center Party obviously centrist, and Hadash communist, while Yisrael Be'aliyah represents the Russian minority. There appear to be 7 Arab Knesset members, all of whom are male. If we were go to by percentages, the Meretz delegation is the most feminine, with 40% of it women.

If the Palestinians want to win a global PR battle, I would advise them to win over the West by finding a telegenic woman to be one of their leading spokespersons. But that probably would entail giving her actual power....

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