A bogeyman has Israel’s radical right terrified: equality. The reactionary lunacy hit new highs last week when people from the Kohelet Policy Forum, the Israeli Immigration Policy Center and other xenophobes came to the Knesset to protest against the threat posed by “gender equality” and to block the ratification of the Istanbul Convention, to which more than 40 countries are signatories. Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, whose cruelty to the weak has long been her trademark, hastened to demand additional debate.
The 2011 document, whose formal name is the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, was the first international convention to recognize the existence of gender-based violence: that is, that the rate of violence perpetrated by men against women is insane. The incidence of gender violence is genuinely horrifying (I thank Tamar Ben-David for collecting and publishing the data): From 2016-20, 122 women were murdered in Israel, 40 percent of them by their current or former partner. In 2020, the police investigated 20,326 complaints of spousal violence; 87 percent of the victims were women.
The Istanbul Convention seeks to protect female victims of male violence, in part by opening treatment centers for male offenders and establishing an education program “with a view to eradicating prejudices, customs, traditions and all other practices which are based on the idea of the inferiority of women.” This drives the benighted among us mad, especially the article requiring signatories to give asylum to battered women. The Rothmans, the Smotriches and their ilk immediately screamed that this was a plot to flood Israel with … what, exactly? How many women in Rotterdam or Jakarta who were assaulted by their husbands are going to say to themselves, “Hmm, a Middle Eastern state with primitive marriage laws, that treats foreigners like a plague, that’s the place for me”?
And that’s even before mentioning that the convention permits signatories to make reservations regarding this article, which Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar has already done. His ministry and the Foreign Ministry have done good work in this area. Joining the convention will not affect Israel’s immigration policy. But in a state full of racists that is doing all it can to expel war refugees from Ukraine, this rubbish is enough.
Under the banner of Jewish supremacy, concern for traditional family values and demographic hysteria, Israel is becoming one of the most insular states in the world: a state that persecutes refugees in order to safeguard its Jewish character from supposed threat, and its policy of harming them goes back many years.
Three times, the Knesset passed a law that would permit the incarceration of refugees in the Holot detention facility without any legal proceeding; it was so atrocious that the High Court of Justice had to overturn it. The Jewish right has embraced the idea that taking in refugees fleeing from genocide and female victims of violence without residency status will destroy Israel.
And a note to Shaked: You are a willing tool of people who want to set back women’s rights by a century. That is your right. After all, you and they share so much misanthropy. But be honest with yourself, and set a personal example for once: If you support the abrogation of women’s rights, then resign from all of your positions (which rely on the idea that women have political rights), and go back home, to the kitchen. After all, according to the ideology you were so quick to embrace, that is where you belong.