Ahoti has a Voice. Let Her Speak from the Podium

The following letter was sent by Ahoti to Bar-Ilan University on 1.1.2003, regarding the absence of Mizrahi women in a panel held in the honor of Dr. Orit Kamir.

 

Today Bar Ilan University is hosting an important feminist panel Legal Feminism in Theory, Education, Practice: The Location of Courts in the Feminist Struggle for Social Change.

The event is to honor Dr. Orit Kamir excellent book, “Feminism and the Court”.

The sponsors are Bar Ilan’s Center for Gender Research, and the Center for the Advancement of Women’s Status. The panelists are Prof. Ruth Halperin-Kadari, Prof. Dafna Izraeli, Prof. Judith Lorber, Ms. Leah Shakdiel, Dr. Noya Rimlat, Prof. Gad Barzilai, and Dr. Kamir herself. We deeply appreciate Dr. Kamir’s scholarship and the pathbreaking research conducted by all the panelists. Their contributions to Israel’s legal feminist discourse are extremely valuable.

Colorblind to intra-Jewish racism toward Mizrahi women, however, Israeli legal discourse and practices are somewhat exclusionary. Today’s panel is yet another example, demonstrating once again the erasure and silencing of Mizrahi women. We are Israel’s demographic majority. The panel does not give us license to narrate our legal histories, economies and cultures. Our existence is thus comfortably removed not only from the Israeli White-on-White legal public sphere, but also from the lilywhite halls of academe. Ahoti is deeply committed to give voice to ALL Israeli women. We therefore feel obliged to point the following:

Most Israeli women are Mizrahi. Nevertheless, neither feminist discourse nor legal discourse takes into account the mere fact that we trudge around the poverty line. We therefore are unable to purchase justice for ourselves in the paid-for-service market of attorney representation.
Given both bureaucratic hurdles and budgetary concerns, pro-bono legal representation for us is mainly beyond the pale. Most Israeli women capable of having access to the commodity called justice are Ashkenazi.
Hence it is those Ashkenazi ladies who are able to contribute to the production legal precedences around women’s lives. These precedences focus mainly on the dissolution of upper middle class marriages and the employment discrimination suffered by the higher echelons of the women’s professional-managerial class. Even if we had won the lottery to be able to purchase the benefits of such precedences in the market of
civil rights, they would have little or no relevance to our racinated
lives. Furthermore, the almost complete absence of Mizrahi women’s discourse from the legal sphere is also manifested in the invisibility of Mizrahi women in the halls of justice. Most Israeli women judges are Ashkenazi. All women law professors are Ashkenazi. Even in this feminist panel there ain’t not even one Mizrahi speaker.


No one can imagine nowadays any form of U.S.-European academic legal discourse without the mention of the economic ethnic specificities and the histories of racism directed toward Women of Color. Poor and subservient to white ladies, society forces racinated women to enter the labor market early in their lives. Placed beneath the pedestal of white femininity, society exposes dark women to systemic sexual harassment and violence. Mizrahi women in Israel is do not differ from the above. Yet here, the female gatekeepers of academe and the feminine power-figures of the courts continue to comfortably ignore the juncture formed by gender, race, religion, nation and class, that devoids Mizrahi women of access to their civil rights.

Come help us stop the legal and academic normalization that always already produces us as your subalterns. We have excellent legal practitioners, scholars and activists. Together we can further the legal struggle of all Israeli women.



In solidarity,

AhotiMizrahi Women for women, Israel