Signs of hope: women take to the streets to demand equality in a vicious theocracy
There is a country in the Middle East where peaceful political demonstrations are put down with live ammunition. where political prisoners are kept in solitary confinement for years, are likely to be tortured and/or raped, and on their "release" are confined to house arrest and forbidden to leave the country. A country where religious leaders proclaim that followers of the state religion are obligated to murder those of other religions, and where the books in which they do so become best-sellers. A country where access to the basic rights of citizenship depends on your religion; where the media are heavily censored; where religious police enforce segregation of the sexes on public transport and at social gatherings, and require women to cover their hair and wear long dresses in public for fear of exciting lust. A country where the government openly funds terrorist organisations. A country with uninspected and unregulated weapons of mass destruction, and the means to deliver them into any country it wishes. A country which has invaded every one of its neighbours, which scorns peace negiotiations, and which ignores both the United Nations and the international community as a whole.
Have you guessed where it is yet? It is, of course, Israel. And if that's the only democracy in the Middle East, then I'm the only lesbian in Indo-China.
In a recent post explaining why Israel should be expelled from UNESCO I declared that Israel's contribution to culture was the desecration and destruction of archaeological sites. Important though that programme is, I would hate to give the impression that it is Israel's sole contribution to culture. One cannot, for example, forget Israel's role in music. It bans touring musicians or simply attacks them with tear gas, has singers flogged for performing before mixed audiences and censors CDs. Of course, protests against Israeli musical propagandists in foreign countries are routinely derided as antisemitism little short of building gas-chambers, even though such protests hardly ever involve the use of whips or tear-gas. (Now imagine if the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra's Promenade Concert had been greeted with a couple of CS grenades...that might have justified the whining.) (Incidentally, to judge from a review of their undisturbed concert a few nights later the protest may have saved the evening from being one of unrelieved tedium leavened only by the disruptive presence of noisy Mossad agents. )
Anyway, Israel's place in worldwide musical culture as a country where women are attacked and beaten for performing music, has led to a domestic backlash by women who are fed up with being second-class citizens and have begun to protest. It is especially brave of them as the culture of misogyny goes right to the heart of the Israeli Army (and thus in one of the world;s most militaristic societies, of israeli life in general). I dare say the protestors who aren't shot will vanish into the Gulag, but it's a brave attempt, and one wishes them well in their struggle for democracy and against religious tyranny.
Update: it happened. And they're not dead yet. Not flogged, even. There's progress towards the twenty-first century, right there.