Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke for about 14 minutes on Monday to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. It was an unusual speech, and during much of it Netanyahu spoke freely and spontaneously about his views about half of humanity. His bureau claimed that his comparison between women and animals is “another absurd media distortion.” But a reading of the entire speech reveals that it’s an outlook on life.
Throughout the speech Netanyahu presents a patronizing perspective reminscent of 18th-century “enlightenment and education,” which didn’t regard a woman as a full-fledged human being. With the help of a philosophy that was considered progressive 250 years ago, Netanyahu tries to give women hope that the train of progress will lead them to a future of full equality - just like the light rail in Tel Aviv.
Netanyahu’s blindness was revealed: Anyone who feels so “enlightened” is incapable of seeing that his world view lies at the foundation of the violence he is condemning. Murder, violence, rape, pornography, sexual harassment - are all based on the viewpoint of which he too is guilty, the belief that human means masculine. The first two minutes (15 percent of the speech) were devoted to songs of praise to the activity of one woman - his wife (the media doesn’t report on her activity!). Strange. Wouldn’t it have been preferable to devote opening remarks to the late Wafaa Abahara, who was stabbed to death allegedly by her partner, after she had repeatedly complained about his violent behavior? Or the fact that the State Prosecutor’s Office shelves 92 percent of rape cases without filing any indictments?
Four times in a row Netanyahu emphasized that women “are not the property” of men. In the eyes of a neoliberal like him, that’s the most important right of all: the freedom to be consumers. What fortitude is required of the consuming-occupying man to restrain himself in the face of his desire to own the woman. But he is up to the task, because he believes that the world has undergone a “change” - and everyone has basic rights. Nu, woman, have you called yet to thank the minister for the privilege of living during his reign? Under the cover of equality, the outstanding officer was also thrilled to hear a battered woman who described her life as a “prolonged captivity workshop.”
“I don’t know how she was familiar with this concept,” he said. Really, what does a battered woman know about glorious military concepts? She should just have donated her womb to the national effort and been willing to sacrifice her child on the altar of the state, right?
Afterwards Netanyahu asserts that “This thing connects all of us. It connects us, left and right, secular and ultra-Orthodox, Jews and non-Jews.” Quick, call President Rivlin, Netanyahu is once again bringing unity to the nation! He is tossing aside years of hoarding political capital by causing splits and rifts - and is hereby declaring that violence against women is what connects us. Jews, leftists and … non-Jews. The united tribe of wife-beaters. And here comes the famous comparison of the status of women, children and animals.
Netanyahu is right - homo sapiens is a species of mammals. It’s refreshing to hear that Netanyahu has abandoned the anthropocentric approach, that only human beings have a moral status - and has adopted the animalistic approach, which sees all living creatures as having equal status.
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The problem does not lie in the comparison, but in who is missing from it - men. In effect they are the only homo sapiens whose status is not equal to animals. That means that only they are human beings in the full sense of the word, with desires and wisdom. They are so superior that they have even magnanimously agreed to acknowledge the slivers of cognition to be found in animals, children and women - which entitles these inferior creatures to benefits such as compassion and rights. Just let’s not make the mistake of forgetting that they can reclaim their gifts if the animals bite (or demonstrate) too hard.