A senior Palestinian Authority official this week declared that “Nikki Haley needs to shut up.” He’s referring to the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations. If a representative of any other regime had used such language against a female American diplomat, feminists everywhere would be up in arms—and rightly so. But for some reason, Palestinian misogyny gets a pass.
The P.A.’s Saeb Erekat made his ugly remark about Ambassador Haley in an interview with the Palestinian website Al-Watan Voice on Feb. 3. It came soon after another misogynistic remark, this time by P.A. chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who told the Palestinian Central Council on Jan. 14 that Haley “wears high heels not for elegance, but to use to hit anyone who attacks Israel.”
If anybody thinks that all these hostile remarks about women are somehow a response to the Trump administration, think again. The Palestinian leadership’s practice of making demanding remarks about female U.S. diplomats has been going on for years.
When Condoleezza Rice was secretary of state, an official P.A. newspaper, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, called her (on June 23, 2002) “the dark-complexioned lady,” “the Black Lady” and “this pitiful woman.” On Nov. 3 of that year, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida railed against Rice for “her loose way of sitting, when she puts one leg on top of the other.” The writer then alluded to Bill Clinton’s affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
Another official P.A. newspaper, Al-Ayyam, referred to Rice (on June 22, 2003) as a “black widow,” a “single black lady” and a “black raven,” and patronizingly compared her to African-American supermodel Naomi Campbell.
The P.A.’s problem with women is not limited to Republicans. In its Oct. 3, 1997 issue, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida’s editor in chief denounced Arab leaders whom, he said, “would have sung love songs” to then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright “were it not for her advanced age and the fact that she has passed her prime.”
Imagine the reaction if an American or an Israeli official declared that some female Palestinian representative “needs to shut up” or “has a loose way of sitting” or “has passed her prime.” Angry denunciations would flood the op-ed page of The New York Times. The U.N. Security Council would meet in urgent session. J Street and Jewish Voice for Peace would issue fiery press releases.
Yet for some reason, the “feminists” in the Jewish peace camp have said nothing about the Palestinian leadership’s latest verbal abuse of a female American diplomat.
At least they’re consistent, I suppose.
After all, J Street and Jewish Voice for Peace were silent when female candidates in the last P.A. municipal elections were prevented by the P.A. from putting their own names on the ballots. The P.A. authorities listed them only as “sister of” or “the wife of.”
And they were silent when the Palestinian women’s rights group TAM reported that 18 Palestinian Arab women were murdered in “honor killings” in 2016. (“Honor killings” are homicides in which men murder female relatives whom they suspect of violating Islamic fundamentalist morals, such as premarital relations, dressing “provocatively” or being seen in the company of an unauthorized male.)
And they were silent when Amnesty International reported that women and girls living under P.A. rule during the past year “continued to face discrimination in law and in practice, and were inadequately protected against sexual and other violence, including so-called ‘honor’ killings.”
True peace will come to the Middle East only when the Palestinian Authority adopts democracy, pluralism and tolerance, including an end to its mistreatment of women. Instead of harassing Israel to make more concessions, J Street and Jewish Voice for Peace should be campaigning to reform the Palestinian Authority. Is this asking too much? Palestinian misogyny should be no more acceptable than any other kind of misogyny.
Stephen M. Flatow, a vice president of the Religious Zionists of America, is an attorney in New Jersey and the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995.