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University of Haifa
Haifa U Hannah Safran & Dahlia Sachs of a "resistance movement that opposes Israeli machinery of oppression"

Emails: safran10@hotmail.com, dsachs@research.haifa.ac.il

Editorial Note:
Radical activists on the road: Dr. Hannah Safran (Emek Yisrael College and U of Haifa) and Dr. Dalia Sachs (U of Haifa) are speaking in New York and New Jersey on behalf of Jewish Voice for Peace, a group that supports BDS.
 Over the years, these veteran feminist activists have become radicalized and their view of Israel has changed accordingly.  As they see it know, Israel has been an illegitimate creation since 1948 and it is their duty to "resist the machinery of oppression."

To prove their point, Safran and Sachs blatantly twist and misrepresent reality, not to mention that they present things out of context.  What they term "spying on professors" is part of the Students Rights Act 2007,  which gives students the right to complain about the politicized rhetoric of radical faculty. IAM has carried a number of reports on this topic.  Even Prof. Ziva Shamir, the former head of the School of Jewish Studies at Tel Aviv University, accused some activist faculty of turning their classroom into an extension of their political activity.  Such faculty use university facilities and even research students to carry out their political work.
Safran and Sachs go on to produce a grab-bag of complaints, which fall short on objective information but long on Israel bashing.  Their political statement is either breathtakingly naive or truly mendacious.   They proclaim that the feminist movement has matured and overcame their divisions and ask why should the Palestinians and Israelis not do the same.  In their eyes, it is Israel that stands in the way of such a rapprochement, never the other side. Interestingly enough, not even the Arab Spring that brought victory to Muslim Brotherhood, a close ally of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, had punctured this vision.  In other words, it is only Israeli militarism and oppression that prevented the Jews and Palestinians from achieving a Kumbaya moment in the Middle East.
As for the alleged oppression that Safran and Sachs bring up, there is a serious issue of credibility.  By their own admission, they have been engaged in "resistance" since 1983 from the safe perch of the academy and never suffered any consequences.  On the contrary, their monthly paycheck and flexible work schedule has given them plenty of time to work on their political agenda.  Not a bad arrangement for these two "resistance fighters."


Touring US, Israeli feminists urge their society to overcome its boundaries

Hannah Safran
Hannah Safran. Photo by Vera Reider
Dahlia Sachs
Dahlia Sachs. Photo by Bud Korotzer

Increased militarization and discriminatory laws have devastated civil rights in Israel and Occupied Palestine, according to Dr. Dalia Sachs and Dr. Hannah Safran, longtime peace activists and members of Isha L’Isha (The Haifa Feminist Center). They spoke recently about the work of the Center—a community-based collective established in 1983—in New York and New Jersey at the beginning of the month (June 1 at the New Paltz Village Hall and June 4 at the home of Sherry Gorelick).

“The First Intifada in 1988 gave impetus and energy to many Israeli Jews to engage in a resistance movement,” said Safran. “Years ago I would have said ‘peace movement, but I don’t use the word ‘peace’ anymore. Even the Israeli Right Wing wants ‘peace.’ I am part if a resistance movement that opposes Israeli machinery of oppression, which for me dates from 1948, not from 1967.”

Safran teaches at Emek Yizrael College and wrote Don't Wanna Be Nice Girls: The Struggle for Suffrage and the New Feminism in Israel (2006). She spoke about the history of feminism in Israel and the struggle to overcome traditional gender roles, not only in civil society, but in the movement itself. “Now that we have come of age” said Safran, “we stand with men, work with men. Similarly, we feel Israelis and Palestinians should overcome their boundaries—live together, work together.” 

Sachs, who teaches Occupational Therapy at Haifa University, co-founded Haifa Women in Black in 1988 (with Safran) and the Coalition of Women for Peace in 2000 and has been active in the Israeli feminist movement for over 20 years. She described the beginnings of the Women in Black silent vigils, first in Jerusalem, then in Haifa. Sachs agreed with Safran that the first public reactions were sexist catcalls: “Go home and feed your children.” “Now,” said Sachs, “we get responses to our political messages. It may be anger or cheers, but the worst reaction is to be ignored.”

Sachs reported on increasing censorship and a crackdown on free speech on Israeli campuses. Students are used to spy on professors and report to the Minister of Education on “anti-Zionist” curricula. This year on May 15 Haifa University banned Nakba Day demonstrations because of a 2011 law (the “Nakba Law”) that allows the state to refuse funding to any organization that denies the existence of Israel as the state of the Jewish people. “In the Center,” said Sachs, “we are careful not to lose financial support.”

Safran and Sachs deplored the situation of thousands of Israeli Jewish women (agunah, literally “anchored” or “chained”) whose husbands have disappeared or who refuse to grant them divorces. “They can’t remarry and if they have children, their children are bastards,” said Safran. “Their lives are governed by religious not secular laws.” Both women have campaigned, through the Haifa Feminist Center, against the “Citizen Law“ that aims to reduce the number of Palestinian citizens and ensure a Jewish majority. Under this law, Palestinians from the Occupied Territories married to Palestinian citizens of Israel cannot live with their families inside Israel. It affects over 25,000 families. 

“Sadly, unless there’s a change in US policy, there’ll be no end to this struggle for equal rights,” said Safran, and the situation is worsening. But, she added, “we just keep going—to mend this world and also for our own well being. How could we live otherwise?”

About Lisa Mullenneaux

Lisa Mullenneaux writes from Manhattan and Woodstock. She's a member of Jewish Voice for Peace and the Middle East Crisis Response.

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