Every time a news story breaks about a woman imprisoned as a sex slave (for example the Cleveland Three) people are, appropriately, shocked and horrified.
What is even more shocking is the fact that such crimes are committed every single day in every country on earth. Children and adult women are routinely sold, tricked or kidnapped in epidemic numbers and trafficked into sex slavery for profit. Rarely do such pimps and profiteers bother to keep one girl (or boy) only for themselves.
Civilian pedophiles do that. We think of pedophiles as depraved older men or, increasingly, as men of the cloth, whose prey is an under-age stranger. Once caught, they are registered as sex offenders and law enforcement can, potentially, keep eyes on them.
Professor George Jochnowitz, a gentleman and a scholar, (he is a linguist), has just republished his review of my 2003 book The New Anti-Semitism. The Coming Crisis and What We Must Do About It.
I wrote this book in 2001-2002, and published it almost immediately thereafter. I am now sobered by my own prescience, by how on-target I was about what was "new" about anti-Semitism in the 21st century: namely, that it was coming to us from the Left and from the intelligentsia, as well as from the Islamic world and that anti-Zionism was, indeed, a core part of the "new" anti-Semitism. I also stressed the important role that media, the internet, and "fauxtography," (doctored, and staged images of Jewish and Israeli aggression) all played in the escalation of a genocidal hatred against Israel and the Jews.
I wrote about the betrayal of both the truth and the Jews by the Western academic establishment, including leftists, feminists, and gay liberationists--and by lynch mobs in the Islamic world. I wrote, darkly, early on, about the possibility of a Second and "slow" Holocaust being underway, one that started in Israel, in 2001-2002.
Films wield great power over people; cinematic images are forever burned into memory and imagination – even if the memories implanted are false, not based on true facts – but on a sophisticated and biased manipulation of reality.
I have just watched The Reluctant Fundamentalist twice. This is Mira Nair's new film about a soulful and handsome Pakistani man who once believed in the American Dream and who succeeded brilliantly as a super-capitalist, but who is forced to abandon corporate America, return home to become, perhaps, a "reluctant" fundamentalist. I write "perhaps" because Nair leaves us wondering about whether such a smart and sympathetic fellow would actually order hostage taking, torture, and murder for a "fundamentalist" cause.
Is it possible that certain people are really angels who quietly but directly intervene in the lives of thousands of people?
I am talking about my dear friend, Ruth Bergman Jody, whose Memorial at the Ethical Culture Society I just attended. I knew Ruth for 46 years. I knew she was a "good" person. But I did not know her at all.
Ruth arrived here as a teenaged Jewish refugee from Hitler's Germany in 1940—a fact she never dwelled upon in our first thirty five years together. I know she also lived in Mexico for a decade, returned to NYC, and obtained a Master degree in Counseling from Columbia University. Ruth was the long-time director of the Hunter College Guidance and Tutoring program.
At her Memorial service, people of all ages, many colors, both genders, all sexual persuasions, and from many continents, gathered to memorialize her: a veritable rainbow of tribute. They described how Ruth turned their lives around, mentored them, found them jobs, shelter, safety, and set them on their path. Ruth was interested in everybody and everything. She made each person feel "special."
As the speakers came forward, each memory they shared was as incredible as the last one.
I do not understand what motivates sensible, even heroic, people to claim what is clearly a defeat as a victory.
I am talking about the Women of the Wall struggle for equality for women at Jerusalem's Western Wall (Kotel) which has recently spawned global headlines. Now, everyone agrees, Natan Sharansky has presumably found a "compromise" that grants every Jew "equality" at the Wall. I have been fielding calls from feminist friends, both Jewish and non-Jewish, to congratulate me on this great accomplishment. But it is all smoke and mirrors, a charade.
I am writing this article to dispel this illusion right now.
Nearly 25 years ago, I was blessed with the privilege of being part of the first-ever woman's prayer service at the Western Wall (the Kotel). We prayed out loud, with a Torah; many women were religiously learned, some were rabbis, many wore their prayer shawls. This was the first time in history that women had "liberated" the Wall. We broke a psychological sound barrier. The date was December 1, 1988. The woman whose idea this was, Rivka Haut, turned to me and asked me to open the Torah for the women to read from—which fatefully wedded me to this struggle for women's religious, civil, and legal rights in the Holy Land. At the time, I was also the Editor at Large for On The Issues magazine and both Merle Hoffman and myself worked very hard and lovingly on the first major piece to come out about what had happened, who was there, and what it meant for us all. It appeared in these pages in 1989. Subsequent pieces appeared in the 1990s.
I disagree with my colleague Jonathan Kay's recent article "American super-hawks demand to know: 'Are you Jew enough?'"
First, let me thank him for referring to me as "a feminist-turned anti-Islamist" and not as "anti-Muslim" or as an "Islamophobe." However, in becoming an "anti-Islamist" I did not check my feminist credentials at the door; my work on honour-based violence, including honour killing among Muslims and Hindus (mainly in India) is pure feminist work. The victims are primarily women of colour, and yes, in the West, they are primarily Muslims. I am championing their cause just as I have championed the cause of non-Muslim Western women. I work with Muslim and ex-Muslim dissidents who share my Enlightenment values, a single universal standard of human rights, and who, like me, have taken a stand against the persecution of girls, women, homosexuals, free thinkers and pro-Israel advocates in the Muslim world.
And so, poor soul, she has died and been cremated in New Delhi, the victim of a public and murderous gang-rape. Six men attacked her for more than an hour, raping and beating her with a heavy metal bar which damaged her intestines beyond repair. They said they wanted to "teach her a lesson."
In their eyes, what taboo did she violate?
She boarded the bus they were driving—perhaps women should walk, and not avail themselves of public transportation? How could they have known that she was a physiotherapy student, that her family had chosen to educate their eldest daughter, that she had just seen a movie, "The Life of Pi," or that the young man she was with was a friend, not a father, brother, or husband?
Clearly, they could not know this. All they knew was that she was a woman, on the street, and therefore vulnerable, a fitting target for their arrogant, patriarchal rage.
Please forgive my extraordinary silence. Know that I have continued my life's work as a wordsmith. My new book is now almost final.
I forgot how much I enjoy writing books. I will never forget this again. One escapes time, one leaves one's own time in history in order to hunt for buried treasure which patience, discipline, and solitude, allow one to find.
Yes, writing and conducting studies that only I can do remains my civic duty and also my joy. You will be hearing my voice "out there" soon enough. But allow me to linger a bit longer in the playing fields of dreams and memories. It is hard to be a journalist-activist and write a book for the ages.
In 2012, I was blessed with a second granddaughter. Of course, both granddaughters are precious and teach me, yet again, about human nature. I am a restless spirit and yet with them and their parents, I find some measure of peaceful contentment.
I have been getting email and phone calls from dear friends in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The Tel Avivians and Jerusalemites are sober but slightly shocked to have woken up to a lesser, but still a Sderot-like reality. Senior citizen friends cowered in stairways and hunkered down in "safe" rooms. Younger citizens rushed to shelters or hit the ground. Everyone supports what the IDF is doing. No one was injured or worse.
Day #6 of Israel's decision to fight back, to stop the constant barrage of Hamas rockets, meant this: according to the IDF, in the first five days, over 500 rockets from Gaza rained down on Israeli civilians and the Iron Dome intercepted 287 such rockets. Additionally, they note that 45% of Israelis live within rocket range of Hamas's missiles and rockets. That number is equivalent to 140 million Americans.
Would America or any other non-Muslim majority country live with such constant terror, such overwhelming vulnerability to genocidal forces?
And yet, demonstrations in favor of just such terrorism to exterminate the Jewish state have been taking place around the world. They are ugly, pre-planned, formulaic, and very, very loud. People scream, they do not talk; screamers do not listen to reason, they march to kill.
This past summer, at the Judson Memorial Church, many feminists braved the sweltering heat and came to praise Kate Millett while she is still among us and able to enjoy the kind words and the cherished memories.
Here is what I said:
Ah, Katie, here we still are, still together, and still talking to each other.
Between us, we have so many loved ones who are no longer here and suddenly, they are too numerous to mention, but they remain in my heart and on my mind; I refuse to take them out of my phone book. If I call them, they just might answer.
Do you remember the last time we were at the Judson Memorial Church together? We came to hear two young representatives of RAWA (The Revolutionary Association for Afghan Women) but the line was too long, they were turning people away and as I turned to leave you stood your ground and forcefully said: "Do you know who she is, this is Phyllis Chesler and I am Kate Millett and we have to get in." I was mortified, but your audacity worked, the crowd parted for us—just like the Red Sea.
Jill Johnston: Word-Dancer
Jill and I go way back—yes, we knew each other before she became "known" for her Town Hall girl-on-girl kiss—a great piece of performance art if you ask me--but an action that horrified both Norman Mailer and most feminists.
Jill was a bohemian, a Butch-Girl, an artiste, a gadfly, an outcast, a word-dancer, and this long, public kiss was her out-of-the-box artistic response to an otherwise "serious" evening. Jill did that a lot. Steal the show, mess things up.
Jill and I loved each other. We shared a common language of psycho-analytic concepts, Greek mythology, great literature, and the arts. I thought her writing was neo-Joycean, Steinian, Whitmanesque, self-indulgent, but mainly bold and brilliant.
We favored a "British" drawing-room style of conversation: witty, whimsical, theatrical. We exchanged devastating criticisms of those we knew or whose work we knew. We competed about who had suffered more indignities at the hands of publishers. The usual writer's conversation.
When I was writing Woman and Madness in 1971 and living alone in Lomontville, New York, not far from Jill in New Paltz, she would often turn up to spend the night.
Some time ago, I was asked to contribute to a volume about the late British psychiatrist, R.D. Laing. At the height of his fame, he visited New York City and asked to meet with me. I considered it an honor. Our 1972 conversation is now contained in a new book R.D. Laing: 50 Years Since The Divided Self.
The book was edited by two psychotherapists: Dr. Theodore Itten, past President of the Swiss Psychotherapeutic Association and Executive Editor of the International Journal of Psychotherapy and Dr. Courtenay Young, formerly the resident psychotherapist at the Findhorn Foundation, an author, and an editor of the International Journal of Psychotherapy. This book has just been published by PCCS Books, which specializes in "independent thinkers, counseling, psychotherapy, and radical, critical, psychology."
Here is the beginning of my contribution.
On a recent Sunday afternoon I and 149 others attended the Memorial Service for feminist firebrand, Shulamith Firestone, the painter and the author of The Dialectics of Sex. A reduced version of my comments appeared at N+1 Magazine.
Firestone—and many of us who gathered there—were the "downtown girls," the radical feminist activists and visionaries who began our work in 1967. Whether or not the world or the media knows or remembers our names, these are the women with whom it all really began (at least in New York City).
I am talking about the founders of New York Radical Feminists, Redstockings, WITCH (Women's International Terrorist Conspiracy From Hell), and New York Radical Women—which led to ever more consciousness-raising groups, pamphlets, booklets, sit-ins, demonstrations, marches, petitions, lawsuits, alternative schools, etc.
I brought with me my tattered and treasured copy of Notes From The Second Year: Women's Liberation, Major Writings of the Radical Feminists. Firestone edited both the 1968 and 1970 versions. This is what should be taught in Women's Studies and American History courses today but I doubt that it is.
Last year, I was asked to write the Foreword to a collection of letters between condemned serial killer Aileen Wuornos and her childhood friend, Dawn Botkins. This was a 1990-1991 high profile case, for which I assembled a team of expert witnesses and about which I wrote several law review articles. Charlize Theron won an Oscar for her portrayal of Wuornos in the film Monster. The book, titled Dear Dawn. Aileen Wuornos In Her Own Words, is edited by Lisa Kester and Daphne Gottlieb and is published by Soft Skull Press/Counterpoint Press. I wrote the Foreword, Gottlieb wrote the Introduction. The book appeared in 2012.
This letter is for you. Even though you've been dead for many years, here I am, still talking to you
Face it: You've entered the world's imagination and pried it wide open. You're a real folk hero-outlaw, like Jesse James or James Dean. Are you "laughing your ass off" or do you feel "ripped off" every time some made-for-TV movie, true crime book, film, documentary, opera, play, or academic article about you appears?
I have been looking at the photos and the brief video of Ambassador Stevens and I have spoken to two different Arabists, who assure me that the mob dragging Steven's body are chanting a song of victory over one's enemies and are praising God for it.
In my day, when we spoke about "two cultures," we were talking about the unfortunate divide between the hard sciences and the humanities.
Today the phrase "two cultures" means something entirely different.
Here is one among thousands of similar examples. The lead editorial in the New York Times on 9/20/12 was titled: "The United States and the Muslim World" and sub-titled "Despite the attacks, Americans must remain engaged with struggling Arab democracies."
The editorial goes on to praise President Obama and to condemn "Mitt Romney and the Republicans who have leveled preposterous charges that Mr. Obama has been weak and apologetic." The editorial believes that Libyans tried to save Ambassador Stevens.
I recommend this book be put on the reading list of every American school.
--Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Author of Infidel and Nomad
This is a bold book, intimate and rich in detail… Chesler is a voice crying out for women. She will never stop
The 2011 Edition of Mothers on Trial
The 2009 Edition of