According to Durban II revisionist historian Naomi Klein, the single most "courageous" event of her life -- as she touts it on her website, in magazine interviews and in her authorized biographies -- was a 1990 article that she wrote "criticizing Israel," which got her "lynched." Following is the true story, exposed for the first time by UN Watch.
Naomi Klein: "What Israel has become: A country with racism and misogyny at the core of its being"
Click here for the original article in PDF
(Naomi Klein, The Varsity, University of Toronto, Nov. 29, 1990, pp. 5-6)
Victim to Victimizer
What Israel has become: Racism and misogyny at the core of its being
By Naomi Klein
There is name for Jews like me. I am called a “self hating Jew.” You see, Jews are not allowed to dislike other Jews, to disapprove of mainstream diaspora opinions, or to criticize Israeli policy in anything other than a strictly Jewish forum, without being accused of self hatred.
Why all the guilt? Because a Jewish education is an education of fear. From early primary school we are thought that Jews have always been persecuted and hated; that Israel exists for a reason: because nobody else would take us, because they will come again. The climax came in the fifth grade on a class outing to a Holocaust exhibit. These are photographs of gas chambers, these are lampshades made of Jewish skin, this is you.
However, it is not the non-Jews I fear. When I speak out on issues of misogyny in Israeli culture – of Israeli soldiers’ brutality towards Palestinian women, of the escalating incidents of battery and rape of Israeli women by Israeli men, of the abusive treatment of women who dare to protest the occupation, and of the servile attitude of the diaspora, it is only other Jews who come after me, as they have been known to condemn the many voices of dissent in our community. I am asked to believe that this country which silences me is going to save me. On the contrary, I wish to be saved from Israel.
Jews made the shift from victims to victimizers with terrifying ease. Military service is compulsory in Israel. It is the backbone of the Israeli economy. Although women are also drafted, they are mainly channeled into secretarial jobs. Every Israeli man from the age of 18 to 21 serves in the army. They are taught the siege mentality and to hate Arabs. This hatred makes these lost years meaningful.
These young men, who begin to feel their own strength and the strength of their country with a machine gun in their hand, are reported to go into Arab villages and gratuitously scatter garbage and broken glass for Palestinians women to pick up with their bare hands. This is above and beyond the sanctioned bulldozing of Palestinian homes, the closing of their schools, and the shooting of their children. After all, Israelis are stronger; they have guns. Israeli men reach maturity by brutalizing and degrading Palestinians, particularly Palestinian women.
The effect the violence in the Israeli male’s life has on Israeli women is worsening. As the brutality of the intifada escalated, so does the brutality in Israeli homes and reports of rape. In the army, brute force rules and it appears to be crushing Israeli women.
By far the most disturbing development in Israeli men’s misogyny towards Israeli women is something known to Israeli women as “Holocaust pornography” where images of emaciated women near ovens, shower heads, cattle cars, and the like are used to sell clothing and other products: “Jewish women are sexualized as Holocaust victims for Israeli men to masturbate over... the themes are fire, gas, trains, emaciation, and death,” writes Andrea Dworkin in October 1990 Ms. Magazine.
A woman walking alone in Jerusalem has the freedom to choose which type of harassment she will endure depending on which part of town she is in. On one side, she can expect verbal and possible physical sexual assault from Israeli men who believe that a woman alone is asking to be raped. On another side, in the orthodox districts of the city, she can expect to be stoned by Israeli men for showing a little too much skin. But that’s not violence -- that’s religion. And when a ten year old Palestinian boy throws a rock at an Israeli soldier because he has robbed him of his freedom, he gets shot. But that’s politics, not religion.
Women’s concerns about rape and brutality are considered trivial when men are busy worrying about death and war. But, in Israel, the feminist and the peace movements are closely connected. There is an organization in Israel called Women in Black. They are women in mourning until the end of the occupation. Every Friday afternoon, groups of Israeli women dressed in black stand vigil at busy intersections all over the city, holding signs which read “End the Occupation” in English, Arabic, and Hebrew. They too are stoned – for political and religious reasons. Passing cars throw fruit and insults; calling them “traitors” and to “go fuck an Arab.” Since the increased tension in the Gulf, conditions have deteriorated. Last month, right-wing Israeli protesters came to a vigil with sticks and beat the Women in Black, calling them “Hussein’s whores.”
There are dialogue groups of Palestinian and Israeli women that organize conferences and teach-ins on the intifada. In Tel Aviv, a group called ”Yesh S’vul” [sic] (there’s a limit) protests near the Women in Black. They are a small group of soldiers on reserve who are refusing to serve in the occupied territories.
There are Jews in Israel who are working against hatred.
As for me, I know that I, like many others outside of the mainstream diaspora, am a Jew against racism and sexism. Some time ago I might have said that I am a Zionist against what Zionism has become in Israel. But for now, I am a Jew against Israel – just as Israel repeatedly proves itself to be against me.
So, my profile is not about one country but, unfortunately, about two. So long as Israel continues to usurp Palestine, it will be a country with racism and misogyny at the core of its being. Until this brutality ends, Israel is a country with blood on its hands and on its profile.
The Cover Up: How Klein Reimagined Scandal into Martyrdom
By Hillel Neuer
Naomi Klein turned the story of her 1990 "Victim to Victimizer" article into a central episode in her life mythology, one that now features prominently in her sympathetic biographies. Consciously or subsconciously, however, she has it completely backwards.
As the anti-globalization activist tells it, she wrote a normal article that in turn was met with a lunatic response. The truth is the opposite.
In her various accounts, Klein describes a simple op-ed that urged Israel to “end the occupation not only for the Palestinians, but also for its own people, especially its women.” An odd use of metaphor and silly charge, perhaps, but nothing that should provoke extraordinary hurt and outrage.
And in response to this non-event, as she tells it, "the Jewish community in Toronto just decided to lynch me." To discuss a response, she claims, no less than 500 Jewish students gathered for a “lynch mob” meeting. However, she showed up herself, unrecognized, and stood up and told them off.
“I was 19,” Klein told the Guardian, “and it made me tough.” The experience “prepared me for controversy,” empowering her to take on multinationals and the World Bank.
Heroic stuff. The facts, though, tell a very different story.
Klein’s article was anything but normal. Its thesis sentence and blaring headline: “What Israel has become: Racism and misogyny at the core of its being.” “Israeli men,” she said, “reach maturity by brutalizing and degrading Palestinians.” Then there was “Israeli men’s misogyny towards Israeli women.”
Most disturbing, said Klein, “is something known to Israeli women as ‘Holocaust pornography’, where images of emaciated women near ovens, shower heads, cattle cars, and the like are used to sell clothing and other products.” Jewish women, she informed her readers, “are sexualized as Holocaust victims for Israeli men to masturbate over… the themes are fire, gas, trains, emaciation, and death.”
If such aberrant ads or magazines ever existed, they were well hidden. But Klein was looking to demonize—not only Israel, but Judaism, and Jews.
“A Jewish education is an education of fear,” continued Klein. “Jews made the shift from victims to victimizers with terrifying ease.”
“I wish to be saved from Israel,” she concluded. “I am a Jew against Israel—just as Israel repeatedly proves itself to be against me.”
Interestingly, all this Goebbels-like venom—Israel as wicked, racist, and depraved in its essence—as well as the article’s hysteria, rage and paranoia, are erased from Klein’s later accounts.
Is she deliberately covering up what she wrote? For a superstar author who basks in the rich glow of the mainstream media, there is certainly every incentive for her to hide the crackpot material that she actually wrote in "Victim to Victimizer." But then why dies she keep bringing it up, boasting?
No, it would seem that Klein truly imagines that she never said what she said. In a 2002 interview with the counterculture Heeb magazine, Klein imagined herself as a martyr. Revealingly, she made reference to some of her incendiary accusations, but projected them as emanating from her pursuers.
"The first thing that happened was that there were articles in the Jewish press, headlines like, 'Varsity Writer Calls Israel Racist and Misogynist.' I'll never forget that -- it was like a two-page spread about what a terrible person I was."
Klein's memory appears to have completely repressed the fact that the newspaper had merely reported her own words and her own headline. Psychologists describe this phenomenon as the defense mechanism of denial.
After years of reimagining, Klein eventually becomes appalled that anyone would accuse her of saying that Israel was "a country with racism and misogyny at the core of its being." It had to be a malicious libel thrown at her by the Toronto Jewish lynch mob.
While the Canadian Jewish News did allocate one page to the episode, she was nowhere described as "a terrible person." The story quoted her article, reported the sharp reactions, and in several paragraphs gave the last word to Klein. Some lynch.
It would seem that Klein has been blocking out the memory of what she wrote. And there was nothing to ever remind her, because the 1990 "Holocaust pornography" editorial had never appeared on the internet -- until UN Watch posted it now.
If Klein's article was the opposite of how she later described it, her portrayal of the Jewish community's reaction is equally questionable.
She tells of confronting a lynch mob, at a meeting organized by the Jewish Student Union. There were 500 people packed in the room and there was just dead silence." But is that what really happened?
The Canadian Jewish News reported a December 5th meeting between 50 Jewish students and the Varsity editors, noting Klein’s attendance. It says nothing about her supposed dramatic intervention. Others present don’t recall any.
Could the face-off have happened at a subsequent meeting? Perhaps, except that a key element of her story is that she was able to attend the meeting -- and hear a woman say "If I ever meet Naomi Klein, I'm going to kill her" -- because "nobody knew what I looked like."
But by December 6th, everyone in the University of Toronto knew what Naomi Klein looked like. The future author of No Logo had posed on the front cover, in a rare color photo for the cash-strapped paper, wearing a baseball cap with the L.A. Raiders logo.
Although the newspaper denied any connection, Jewish students saw the Klein cover as a deliberate affront to their complaints from the previous week. Some called her "Cover girl." They all knew exactly what she looked like.