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Historical Learnin’ Part 3: Stealing Jewish Women

Alyssa Goldstein
January 24, 2012

by Alyssa Goldstein

In my last two posts in this series, I’ve invited everyone to join me on my senior thesis adventure of discussing the role of individual bodies within Zionism, which sets up a way of understanding the current Israeli anti-miscegenation movement. In case you were thinking to yourself, after reading my last blog post, something along the lines of“that connection between women and the nation seems awfully theoretical, does anyone actually think or talk that way?” — I’d like to introduce you to Maayan Jaffe of Arutz Sheva (Channel 7) News. She wrote a series of articles entitled “When Israeli Women Marry Arab Men,” detailing the horrific abuse that Jewish women will inevitably endure if they allow themselves to be seduced by the scary Palestinian men. Here’s what she says:

“I learned a lot during my investigation into Jewish-Arab intermarriage, but mostly I have come to realize this: the Arabs are trying to steal our land. Through their rhetoric, they are trying to do away with the inherent Jewish connection to Eretz Yisrael, and through their violence, eradicate the Jewish people. In the same way, the Arabs aim to steal our women, to slowly disconnect them from the whole world, until it is as if they don’t exist. Like the struggle for Eretz Yisrael, the battle against Jewish-Arab intermarriage is a war we cannot afford to lose. It’s a fight for the future of the Jewish people.”


This quote is so perfect that for a long time I just stared at it and thought about framing it and putting it on the wall of my room. Eventually I got around to actually analyzing it. First, there’s the more obvious point that Jaffe and Kahane both say the exact same thing: that the Arabs are “trying to steal our women.” Then there’s the fact that Jaffe equates Jewish women with the land of Israel, Eretz Yisrael. Both land and women are passive (they are equally vulnerable to Arabs trying to “steal” them), yet both are vitally significant for Jewish nationhood. Though Jaffe is a woman herself, she assumes the voice of the national collective and refers to Jewish women possessively as “our” women. In order to speak with this voice, she must distance herself from her Jewish womanhood, referring to Jewish women as “they” rather than “us.” If I may get all theoretical again, Nira Yuval-Davis points out in her book Gender and Nation that women “are often excluded from the collective ‘we’ of the body politic, and retain an object rather than a subject position.” In other words, when people refer to “our nation” and “our women,” they are basically saying that women aren’t a part of the nation, but are instead its possessions. By equating women with a voiceless object (the land of Israel), Jaffe negates her own ability to speak as a Jewish woman.

Next time, I’ll look more closely at anti-miscegenation stories and the racist assumptions they make about Palestinians. But they’re not the racist assumptions you were probably expecting! Read and find out!