It is a truism that any society and culture can be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable members. We can take this further by saying that it is possible to measure a society and culture’s health by looking at how it treats women.
If we use this standard then most Middle Eastern countries fare poorly except—of course—for Israel. Decades ago there was the promise of equal treatment for women in the Arabic world. One could find fashionable women wearing pencil skirts from Kabul to Cairo. Women were not equal to men—not yet, anyway, but western influence seemed to be bringing equality. Something happened though to the winds of change coming from the West: they left women becalmed in an Arabic culture increasingly influenced by fundamentalist Islam and Wahhabiism in particular.
As order in Egypt has broken down female reporters have found themselves increasingly in danger of physical and sexual abuse. Even women who are far more powerful—U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, for example—face bigotry and even violence in Egypt. During her latest visit tomatoes and shoes bombarded her motorcade. To make sure that she didn’t mistake the protesters’ disdain for simple anti-American sentiment the protestors chanted “Monica! Monica!” to humiliate Secretary Clinton with a reminder of her husband’s notorious affair.
We can contrast this with Secretary Clinton’s reception in Israel. Certainly there were protestors, but her treatment was nevertheless respectful. This is to be expected in Israel. Sex did not hinder Golda Meir: she grew from kibbutzim to one of Israel’s founding figures to one of Israel’s most famous prime ministers. Israeli civil society acknowledges the equality of women. Secretary Clinton’s treatment in Israel was not because Israel needs American support against Iran—indeed, Egypt needs American support far more—but it was instead a product of Western cultural norms and ideals. Hilary Clinton was treated well in Israel not because she was an American emissary, nor because she was a woman, but because she is a human being and therefore deserving of respect.
Americans—particularly those that support Palestinian causes and delegitimization—need to ask themselves if they are willing to take one half of the population out of the public sphere and force them into a lesser status. Their answer to this says much about their political beliefs. Those that deny the place of women in the political sphere are at best bigots. Those that claim women are equal while undermining them by promoting a profoundly misogynistic culture are either woefully ignorant or anti-Semites whose purpose is not justice, but the annihilation of Israel.