Sisterhood Blog

Sexism-Free Israeli Politics Too Much to Ask?

By Renee Ghert-Zand

  • Print
  • Share Share

Is it too much to ask for some sexism-free Israeli political analysis? We all know that politics can get rough and tumble, and that Israeli pundits are not known for verbal restraint. But still, does a columnist have to throw gratuitous sexist remarks into an article on the Labor Party slate just because, well, just because?

Lest anyone think that sexism in Israel resides only among the ultra-conservatives or ultra-religious, allow me to bring a very recent example from Haaretz, Israel’s left-leaning newspaper of record (so to speak). The paper published a piece by senior political writer Yossi Verter on November 30 (an abridged version was republished in the English edition on December 2) on the various figures who made it last week into the top 20 spots on the Shelly Yachimovich-led Labor Party list for the upcoming Knesset elections. The article was titled, “On the way to the opposition: Shelly and Labor’s new Yachimoviches.”

From the headline, it sounded like a straightforward political analysis piece. The sub-headline seemed to give the same impression: “Labor’s new and colorful list looks good, but the chances for internal harmony or joining the new government are next to nil.” Then came a second sub-headline: “And also: some advice for the new member Merav Michaeli.” I was a bit suspicious, but I figured I’d give Verter the benefit of the doubt.

It turns out I was wrong to do so. First Verter wrote about the diversity of the party list in terms of gender, age, ethnic, religious and professional background. Next he mentioned the tensions between party leader Yachimovich and veteran politician and labor leader Amir Peretz, who was number three on the list — but has since jumped ship to Tzipi Livni’s new Hatnua party.

Finally, he took a little space to comment on a few particular people on the Labor list. First he mentioned Benjamin “Fuad” Ben-Eliezer and Nachman Shai, both older men. His focus was their political calculations, but then Verter shifted gears, putting the spotlight on two new party members, Haaretz columnist Merav Michaeli and social protest leader Stav Shaffir — both of whom happen to be younger women. Here’s what he had to say (my translation):

Merav Michaeli and Stav Shaffir are the naughty [or bad] girls of the list. Shaffir is a redhead, and that says it all. Michaeli has highly embarrassing episodes on her record: eating with her hands, sitting on the prime minister’s desk, and baring her breasts on television. On thing she is going to have to cure herself of immediately is her silly and childish habit of speaking in the feminine gender. If she chooses to speak in the legislature and committees like that, she will quickly become the laughing stock of the 19th Knesset.*

I was so shocked by the first two sentences of the paragraph that I almost didn’t read ahead to the offensive things Verter wrote at the end about Michaeli. Naughty girls?! Shaffir’s being a redhead says it all?! If I had not known that the Labor primaries took place last week, I would have thought I had mistakenly clicked on a link to an article written decades ago — surely not one from 2012.

Verter’s blatant chauvinism did not go unnoticed by readers, but I would have thought that more than only 26 would have posted comments (and among those, half or more didn’t even address the sexism).

The best retort was something I saw, rather than read. It was an image posted on Facebook by Avgad Yavor, a meme artist. It was a painting of the flame-haired Queen Elizabeth I in all her regalia with the caption: “Redhead. That says it all.” The best part was her expression — a cold, hard stare that said, “don’t you dare mess with me.”


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: sisterhood, sexism, jewish women, israel, haaretz, yossi verter

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • "A few decades ago, it would have been easy to add Jews to that list of disempowered victims. I could throw in Leo Frank, the victim of mob justice; or otherwise privileged Jewish men denied entrance to elite universities. These days, however, we have to search a lot harder." Are you worried about what's going in on #Ferguson?
  • Will you accept the challenge?
  • In the six years since Dothan launched its relocation program, 8 families have made the jump — but will they stay? We went there to find out:
  • "Jewish Israelis and West Bank Palestinians are witnessing — and living — two very different wars." Naomi Zeveloff's first on-the-ground dispatch from Israel:
  • This deserves a whistle: Lauren Bacall's stylish wardrobe is getting its own museum exhibit at Fashion Institute of Technology.
  • How do you make people laugh when they're fighting on the front lines or ducking bombs?
  • "Hamas and others have dredged up passages form the Quran that demonize Jews horribly. Some imams rail about international Jewish conspiracies. But they’d have a much smaller audience for their ravings if Israel could find a way to lower the flames in the conflict." Do you agree with J.J. Goldberg?
  • How did Tariq Abu Khdeir go from fun-loving Palestinian-American teen to international icon in just a few short weeks? http://jd.fo/d4kkV
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.