On this week’s POMEPS podcast, Marc Lynch speaks with Lihi Ben Shitrit about her new book, Righteous Transgressions: Women’s Activism on the Israeli and Palestinian Religious Right. Shitrit is an assistant professor at the School of Public and International Affairs, University of Georgia, Athens.
“The book is a comparative study of women’s activism in the Israeli and Palestinian right, but specifically four groups: the Jewish settlers in the West Bank, the ultra-Orthodox Shas movement, the Islamist movement in Israel, and the Palestinian Hamas,” said Shitrit. “What motivated me to do this was the fact that you can still pick up a book on any of these movements and not find any women mentioned— not by name, not even by subject, not even the category of women. As if women are not important to the politics of these movements. And for me that was a glaring gap because we know women support these movements.”
“One thing that I found was that women in these movements think that they’re not recognized enough in terms of the general public— the media and academia don’t cover them and don’t recognize their contributions. Their own movements recognize their contributions, but the wider public doesn’t,” said Shitrit. “So they wanted also to convey their message. And at the end of the process, I had so much access and great support by women who really supported what I was doing.”
“The question that I’m asking is how do women in very conservative religious movements— with very clear ideas about women and men’s different public and private roles— how are they able to participate in forms of activism that seems to transgress or go beyond what the movement says that they should do?” Shitrit said. “And why do we see variation? Why do we see that in some movements, women’s activism really adhere to the very conservative ideology of their movement— and in other movements women totally transgress and participate in much more expansive forms of activism.”
“I’m hoping what comes from the book will be that the people I work with actually read the book— and maybe find that they have so much in common with women in these movements. Maybe this could be a kind of fresh step towards seeing others as someone who has something in common with you.”