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Frau Genocide and the feminists who betray Gaza

May 19, 2024 at 1:22 pm

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on March 22, 2024 [Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency]

Whenever a woman crashes through a glass ceiling in any walk of life I usually punch the air in celebration of another barrier to women’s progress crashing to the ground. Often blaming male-dominated regimes for the chaos in the Middle East, I’ve always believed that the election of women to high political office strengthens the connections between peace and democracy.

There is no doubt that the ambitions of millions of young women around the world are fired up when they see women in lead roles, whether it’s conquering Mount Everest, or listening to the voice of the first woman in space, or any other ground-breaking role. However, to watch women — especially my sisters in the white feminist movement — abandon their moral principles to embrace a right-wing seat of power simply breaks my heart. European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen is the leading feminist in my line of fire on this issue.

She reminds me another woman, the late UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who never gave any female political colleague a leg up to climb the greasy political pole. Thatcher and Von der Leyen are from the same stable and do more to damage the empowerment and promotion of women in any walk of life than promote it; indeed, they set the cause back decades. Their portrayal of feminism is ugly, dangerous and even seditious.

They, like so many other liberal feminists, call themselves upholders of women’s rights, but their silence is deafening when it comes to the plight of Palestinian women, in Gaza as well as the Israeli-occupied West Bank and, indeed, within the occupation state itself. And we mustn’t forget the Palestinian women and girls living in exile in overcrowded refugee camps because Israel refuses to allow them to exercise their legitimate right to return to their land.

In the past seven months, Palestinian women have witnessed generations of their families wiped out by Israeli bombs, while others have died of shock in dreadful pain on the operating table while undergoing surgery without anaesthetic.

I’ve watched in awe and horror as these indomitable women have gone without food so that their children could eat.

They have given birth silently in the rubble where their homes once stood; held the hands of dying relatives waiting in vain to be rescued after being crushed by the walls of their homes destroyed by bunker-busting bombs sold to Israel by the West; and held the broken bodies of their children one last time in quiet grief and dignity.

READ: Palestinian death toll nears 35,400 as Israel continues to pound Gaza

These heroic women have prayed endlessly for a ceasefire, but their situation has been ignored by Israel and its allies, even as the Israeli genocide in Gaza is live-streamed to us all. The cries of wounded and traumatised toddlers searching the hospital corridors for their mothers have broker the hearts of everyone with a conscience and children of their own except, that is, the members of parliament too scared to rock the Zionist boat by daring to criticise the apartheid state.

And yet, despite all of this, these remarkable women somehow manage to emerge to face every new day with a smile, their pain hidden from their children, ready to help their neighbours and even strangers in need. They are indeed remarkable. I am honoured to have met and known many, and am humbled by them all.

Their brand of sisterhood makes Western feminism pale into insignificance. There is nothing to be celebrated about women’s suffrage if the political parties you vote for are destroying the rights of Palestinian women.

White, Western feminists like myself rarely concerned ourselves with issues like race and ethnicity in the 1960s. It was only when “Sheroes” like Audre Lord and her brand of postcolonial feminist emerged with her groundbreaking 1984 essay “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House” that postcolonial feminism began to surface.

When Lord and Chandra Talpade Mohanty — who wrote Under Western Eyes also in 1984, depicting the plight of third-world women — were writing, most of us feminists had never considered or even addressed the needs of cross-cultural feminism to help women from the Global South.

I am riddled with guilt by the shortcomings of my feminist past, but I will do my utmost to make it up to all courageous women who the sisterhood has continually let down. This is one of the reasons why I’ve decided to stand as an independent candidate in the Newcastle Central and West constituency in the 2024 General Election. I want to oust the sitting MP, Chi Onwurah, who justified her inability to call for a ceasefire during the Westminster debate on the subject last year by abstaining on what she called a “complex” and “difficult” situation. There is nothing complex or difficult about genocide, Chi.

Even as she addressed the electorate in Newcastle, though, this self-proclaimed feminist had no words of comfort for Palestinian women. They were not even mentioned in her rambling statement on Israel’s military offensive against the Palestinians in Gaza.

If tens of thousands of ordinary Jews are taking to the streets around the world to condemn Israel’s crimes against humanity, why aren’t feminists more vocal about the rights of the women of Palestine which are being violated daily? I feel compelled to criticise and challenge those in the sisterhood who would rather move to the right of politics than acknowledge the suffering of our Palestinian sisters.

READ: ‘Liars’: Israeli lawyer heckled at ICJ hearing

Of course, Chi Onwurah MP is just one person, but we all have to start somewhere in our mission to dismantle the colonial apparatus which still enables rogue states like Israel. I want to change the status quo, or at least start the ball of change moving.

I’m hoping, for example, that there is a strong woman somewhere in Europe who will oust Germany’s Ursula von der Leyen, who’s tipped to secure a second term in office unless she has a serious challenger. Von der Leyen carries special excess baggage in her role at the moment as she fuels ugly talk on migration with her unseemly overtures to hard-right parties which are multiplying across Europe in a climate of fear.

Ireland’s wonderful Clare Daly, MEP, is fearless in holding those in power to account. In an amazing speech, she labelled von der Leyen as “Frau Genocide”. This was not just rhetoric; Daly is a passionate politician, and her anger against injustice comes from the heart. It is fearless Daly who is a wonderful role model for young women who aspire to be politicians, not von der Leyen, who went straight to Israel last year to basically pledge support — and allegiance? — to the disgust of decent human beings the world over. Thanks to people like von der Leyen and her partisan views, mainstream parties are scared to confront extremists. This has led to a surge in support for far-right parties ahead of Europe’s June elections.

Last month, the European Commission president said that she is ready to ally her centre-right EPP group with right-wing parties, including those from Spain, Poland and Italy. Sources in her inner circle say that they would only build bridges with pro-Ukraine and pro-EU partners such as Fratelli d’Italia and Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala’s ODS party.

Von der Leyen also stands accused of damaging the EU’s reputation on the world stage with her unwavering stance of solidarity with Israel during its genocidal war in Gaza. The accusation was made by left-leaning Walter Baier on Thursday.

“Her behaviour is typical of the double standards,” said Baier. “It’s inadequate… and it’s also not honest.” He pointed out that to accuse every critic of Israel’s far-right government of being an anti-Semite is not only wrong, but also unjust and unfair. “It’s against history and it’s against reason. So generally speaking, she dealt [with it] very badly.” Such double standards, he added, discredit the European Union in the Global South.

Weaponising anti-Semitism is a lazy option used by those who, like Chi Onwurah MP, simple dismiss genocide as too “complex” and “difficult” to allow them to call out the Israeli state for what it is: a racist, genocidal state.

Anti-Jewish racism is a crime; anti-Zionism is a duty.

Next month’s European elections will be watched closely around the world, nowhere, perhaps, more keenly than in Gaza where European meddling and hypocrisy have been exposed yet again. As Israel’s biggest trading partner, Europe is in a unique position to put pressure on the colonial state to end its aggression and, yes, even end its occupation. As long as politicians like Ursula “Frau Genocide” von der Leyen are in charge, though, this is never going to happen. Where is that courageous woman ready and able to challenge her?

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The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.