David Fishelson, the father of a five-year-old son, says he is a "regular dad, humiliated and disparaged - like hundreds of thousands of others who pay high child support and still don't see their son."
About two weeks ago, Fishelson, who is studying for his bachelor's degree, wrote an article on the Internet site of the Headquarters for the Struggle for Divorced Fathers organization. The article was titled, "The Nazi Female Criminals," and attacked divorced women, feminists and judges.
"Just like the Nazis, who abused Jews for ideological reasons, and not because the Jews had done anything," wrote Fishelson, "the crazy feminists abuse men for ideological reasons."
Fishelson's rage was directed against the coalition of women's organizations that have recently joined forces to oppose intentions that are becoming evident - among other places, in discussions of the committee of experts appointed by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni - to amend or eliminate the law that automatically grants divorced women custody of children up to age six.
The tension between the women's organizations and organizations representing divorced men has escalated significantly in recent weeks, against the background of a conference the women are planning next week to arouse public support for their cause.
In an attempt to prevent the conference from taking place, the men have asked the foundation financing the conference and the United Kibbutz Movement, whose premises were booked for the conference, to cancel their sponsorship of the event.
"We take a very serious view of the fact that the Kibbutz Movement is sponsoring a sexist and discriminatory conference," wrote Raz Misgav of Children Don't Divorce Daddy in a letter to Yoel Marshak, head of the United Kibbutz Movement's special assignments division.
Both the Kibbutz Movement and the foundation rejected the requests.
"We think it is right for us to be partners in a public social debate on such an important issue," says Smadar Sinai, responsible for advancing the status of women in the Kibbutz Movement, "and we will allow [the conference] to take place without threats or pressures.
Dr. Esther Herzog, who initiated the conference as part of the women's parliament, which she heads, says that something must be done in light of the behavior of the men's organizations. In addition to Fishelson's article, other harsh articles have been published on the men's organizations' Web sites, including, "The Extortionary and Terroristic Methods of the Radical Feminists Inc," "The Lies of Radical Feminism as a Pathological Science" and "Know Your Enemy - Dr. Esther Herzog."
Attorney Yonah Markovitz said yesterday that she will ask the attorney general to order a criminal investigation of the writers and operators of these Web sites, and to close sites that "provide a platform for organized and dangerous incitement against half the population."
Channah Beit Halahmi, another opponent of any amendment to the law, says that the sites publish distortions of the truth, for example, "An analysis of the suicide report produced annually by the Health Ministry shows that more than 200 divorced fathers commit suicide each year and experts believe the real number is triple this figure." Beit Halahmi says that the report in question found that there was a higher incidence of suicide among divorced men and women and among widows and widowers.
As for the core of the dispute, the women's coalition believes that cancellation of the custody law would result in the "courtification" of divorce proceedings, and that women would find themselves overpowered, considering the fact that they usually earn less than men and cannot afford a level of legal representation that would put them on an equal footing with men in child-custody disputes.
The women reject the contention of the men's groups that their opposition to an amendment stems from a desire to prevent a relationship between fathers and their children, essentially opposing real equality.
"There is not connection whatever between custody and a relationship with the father," says attorney Dana Mirtenbaum, who works for a social organization that represents poor women.
Mirtenbaum says that women without financial means or who are victims of domestic violence will suffer the most if their automatic right to the custody of their children is canceled. This is because they will not be able to compete with their husbands in court.
"Educated and established women will know how to reach an agreement with their former spouse or to obtain good legal representation," says Mirtenbaum.
Raz Misgav does not believe that this is the women's real worry.
"The only reason they are holding onto custody of young children is for financial gain, not the welfare of the child or feminist principles," says Misgav. "They want to perpetuate the status of the woman as victim, because it perpetuates their livelihood and the situation in which the father is the cash machine that works from morning until night and does not raise his child."
Misgav says that the premise that cancellation of the law would worsen the legal disputes between couples is exaggerated and that the result would actually be the opposite, because if both parents are awarded custody, children would no longer be used as a weapon between parents. Misgav and his friends also say that women do not really want equality, because if they did, they would agree to joint and equal custody. Beit Halahmi views such statements as demagoguery.
"Where was the fathers' struggle for equality during the marriage?" she asks. "What organization did they found to promoting equal employment opportunities and wage parity? It is hard to believe that anyone who did not advocate equality during his marriage will do so during his divorce. Putting the struggle for equality with the divorce issue smacks of revenge, even misogyny, avarice, power and ego," wrote Beit Halahmi in an article titled, "The Stolen Fathers," which was disseminated on the Internet.
Misgav does not plan to remain idle. He and other activists plan to hold a protest vigil at next weeks conference - just as they have done outside the homes of judges and social workers who make decisions the men don't like. In a letter to Livni, whom Misgav met in August, he and his friends demand a halt to what they call "systemic and systematic discrimination against divorced men."
They demand a harsh policy of severe penalties against women who file written complaints against their husbands during divorce disputes and against violent women. The men contend that 90 percent of the complaints are fictitious and that women and men bear equal responsibility for domestic violence.