Books: Prophet with Honour the Wilderness ; Scapegoat: The Jews, Israel and Women's Liberation by Andrea Dworkin Virago, Pounds 22.50, 434pp; Denounced on All Sides as a Shrill Hysteric, This One-Woman Awkward Squad Has Timely Truths to Tell
Arditti, Michael, The Independent (London, England)
MY OPINION," wrote Sigmund Freud, "is that we must as Jews, if we want to co-operate with other people, develop a little masochism and be prepared to endure a little injustice." In Andrea Dworkin's opinion, Freud's words were superfluous since Jews had, after the Masada uprising, become known for "their passivity and spirituality which, over the course of generations, had stamped itself on the Jewish people until it had become second nature". Jews did not simply suffer injustice but were ennobled by it. "To fight back would mean changing sides in the moral sweepstakes."
The imperative after the Holocaust was to ensure such suffering could never happen again. And the establishment of a homeland was not enough. Jewish men had been castrated by the Nazis - some literally, all metaphorically. Crudely, they were determined to prove they had balls. To do so required victims. Andrea Dworkin writes that "Israel shows how male dominance grows in a new state - it needs the subordination of one's own women and the subordination of a racial... other: it needs internal and external scapegoats."
The most compelling sections of this always thought- provoking, often fury-provoking, polemic show this process at work. Dworkin reclaims historical Zionism from responsibility for the oppression and injustice of the contemporary Israeli state. Whereas pre- Israel Zionists believed in women's political equality, Israeli women today are second-class citizens. She highlights the estimated 10,000 agunot: "battered women, betrayed women, raped-in-marriage women". Unable to obtain a divorce, they are forced to live "in internal exile in the Promised Land". It is clear that the repression of women by orthodox Jews in Jerusalem is no different to that by mullahs in Tehran.
Inferior even to women in Israeli eyes are the Palestinians. Dworkin charts the ruthlessness of the early Jewish state in its devastation of Palestinian villages. She shows how the extensive murder of Arab civilians has been excised from official history. As might be predicted, she is particularly acute on the military's use of pornographic weapons, both their own penises (Israeli soldiers masturbate in front of crowds of Palestinian women to make them disperse) and their propaganda (Israeli intelligence produces doctored photographs of Palestinian women in sexually compromising positions to force them to collaborate). One consequence has been the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, designed to keep women secluded, and thereby completing the circle of oppression.
Dworkin provides an authoritative new perspective on the familiar theme of why a nation established with the goodwill of much of the world now attracts widespread condemnation. …