No, Studying Jewish Continuity Doesn’t Encourage Sexual Harassment

April 15 2021

When the “Me-Too” movement eventually caught up with Jewish studies and Jewish communal institutions, some academics and journalists put forth a novel argument: that discussions of Jewish continuity—which necessarily involve the topics of intermarriage and marriage and fertility rates—endorse “surveillance over women’s bodies,” viewing them as “objects to be controlled and policed” based on the belief that “women’s primary role in Jewish continuity” is to produce babies. These attitudes, the argument goes, are somehow connected to sexual harassment. As one writer claimed, “it becomes very hard to disentangle the sexism of the alleged abuse from the patriarchal agenda” endorsed by a particular abuser.

Mijal Bitton rejects this line of reasoning:

Critics of American Jewish continuity who see it aligned with “patriarchy” argue or imply that a mostly male communal authority attempts to coerce women to procreate. Yet lost in this critique is the fact that communal pro-natalism aligns with and reflects the desire of most American Jewish women to have children. [Moreover], a concern for Jewish fertility rates is relevant for the thriving of the Jewish people. For the critique of Jewish continuity to be taken seriously, it would have to put forth a robust alternative vision for a Jewish future independent of biological continuity.

Finally, many critics make a broader and particularly erroneous set of assumptions: that there is some sort of coherent linkage between the bad actions of specific men and their advocacy for Jewish continuity; that the continuity agenda reflects an obsession with “other people having sex, with other people having babies,” . . . and that this obsession is “sexist and homophobic.”

Yet . . . the “Me Too” movement has shown that there are actors who abuse their power in nearly every arena, even in fields deemed “liberal” or “feminist.” . . . [T]he unfortunate pervasiveness of sexist behaviors does mean that such actors are either a reflection of all fields or no field in particular. There simply is no intrinsic link between male actors in the field who behave badly and the validity of the arguments put forth in defense of the field of Jewish continuity. On the contrary, many female scholars have both advocated Jewish continuity and adopted a pro-natalist discourse.

Bitton then turns to more personal reflections, as a mother, scholar, and Jew, concluding: “I have 21st-century values ensconced in a body like the ones women have inhabited for millennia. We can talk about gender equity all we want, but our bodies are out of sync with our beliefs.”

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Read more at Sources Journal

More about: Fertility, Jewish continuity, Jewish studies, Sexual ethics

How European Fecklessness Encourages the Islamic Republic’s Assassination Campaign

In September, Cypriot police narrowly foiled a plot by an Iranian agent to murder five Jewish businessman. This was but one of roughly a dozen similar operations that Tehran has conducted in Europe since 2015—on both Israeli or Jewish and American targets—which have left three dead. Matthew Karnitschnig traces the use of assassination as a strategic tool to the very beginning of the Islamic Republic, and explains its appeal:

In the West, assassination remains a last resort (think Osama bin Laden); in authoritarian states, it’s the first (who can forget the 2017 assassination by nerve agent of Kim Jong-nam, the playboy half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, upon his arrival in Kuala Lumpur?). For rogue states, even if the murder plots are thwarted, the regimes still win by instilling fear in their enemies’ hearts and minds. That helps explain the recent frequency. Over the course of a few months last year, Iran undertook a flurry of attacks from Latin America to Africa.

Whether such operations succeed or not, the countries behind them can be sure of one thing: they won’t be made to pay for trying. Over the years, the Russian and Iranian regimes have eliminated countless dissidents, traitors, and assorted other enemies (real and perceived) on the streets of Paris, Berlin, and even Washington, often in broad daylight. Others have been quietly abducted and sent home, where they faced sham trials and were then hanged for treason.

While there’s no shortage of criticism in the West in the wake of these crimes, there are rarely real consequences. That’s especially true in Europe, where leaders have looked the other way in the face of a variety of abuses in the hopes of reviving a deal to rein in Tehran’s nuclear-weapons program and renewing business ties.

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Read more at Politico

More about: Europe, Iran, Israeli Security, Terrorism