In an article published a few days ago (June 6) in the Israeli daily Maariv under the heading "The Western Wall", or "The Wailing Wall", [right-wing columnist and radio host] Erel Segal is lashing out against the global left, which is afflicted, as he puts it, "with inanity, over-righteousness, sanctimoniousness and hypocrisy." Segal charges that while left-wing activists are persistently denouncing the United States and Israel — the Great Satan and the Small Satan they are keeping silent in the face of the bloody atrocities Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is perpetrating against his own people. Segal attributes this biased approach to the twisted, prejudiced post-modernist discourse that has taken hold of the western left and is specifically evident in two of its representative offshoots — feminism and Orientalism. Segal disparagingly dismisses the feminists as "a bunch of females who object to shaving their armpits on ideological grounds." He goes on to cite the claim allegedly made by a number of radical feminist activists, according to which the American missiles deployed across Europe in the Cold War era were modeled on the male sex organ. I am confident that even the most confirmed of rightist ideologists would have to acknowledge in all honesty that the feminist movement has accomplished much more than pass judgment on the aesthetics of mass destruction weapons or institutionalize an inadequate hygiene routine.
It is almost embarrassing to remind Segal that, had it not been for the feminist struggle, there would have been no shelters for battered women and rape victims, sexual harassment would not have been recognized as an illegal act, and people like [former Israeli president] Moshe Katsav and [veteran Israeli actor] Hanan Goldblatt [both convicted on rape and other related charges and currently serving time in prison] would have carried on their wild sex life undisturbed. Furthermore, it is thanks to the relentless campaign waged by the feminists (a campaign which is still far from conclusion) that the notion — considered at the time preposterous — of equal wages for men and women doing the same job, regardless of gender, has been conceived [and put on the public agenda]. I suspect that Segal is well aware of the above and in this case, his arguments are in effect a cynical show of intellectual opportunism.
The same holds true for his criticism over the concept of Orientalism as construed and characterized by [Palestinian literary theorist and intellectual the late] Edward Saïd. [In his book Orientalism, Saïd redefined the term to mean a set of false assumptions underlying Western attitudes toward the Middle East.] Segal sees Saïd's Orientalism as propaganda that grants the Arab states "academic justification for the chronic pathology of self-pity of the self-proclaimed eternal victim" typifying them. However, contrary to what Segal says, various elements in the West, even in the left, openly and clearly condemn the regimes in Arab countries, their attitude towards women and the altogether bleak state of affairs in these countries with respect to human rights. The claim [made by Segal] as if all the wrongs done in the Arab countries are vindicated by the one-sided critical approach of the academic left is absurd. Assad probably finds enough excuses for the genocide he is committing; it is hard to believe that Saïd's philosophy is one of the pretexts he uses.
There are numerous legitimate arguments to be raised against the radical left in the Western world. Quite often, leftist criticism of Israel, when negating the legitimacy of its very existence, is really nothing but the all-too-familiar traditional anti-Semitism presented in modern attire. The unconditional siding of parts of the radical left with Islamist states and leaders is frequently a present-day manifestation of Bolshevik Stalinism. However, can we truly ascribe all that is happening here, in Israel, and the criticism directed at us to the misconceptions and misdeeds of the radical left?
When Segal lays on the global left the responsibility for all the ills that plague Israel he is claiming the same alibi that Saïd invokes — according to his interpretation — in favor of the Islamist countries and displaying the same chronic self-pitying posture of the self-proclaimed eternal victim that he ascribes to others. As far as Segal is concerned, we, Israelis, are guilty of nothing, we are always right, we bear no responsibility for anything that takes place here, in Israel — it's all the fault of those supposedly enlightened leftists in the West, theirs and that of their wives who refuse to shave their armpits.