September 23, 2019

The overly manly Israel Factor

The Forwards’ Jane Eisner gives me “the benefit of the doubt”, but still wants to know why our group of Israel Factor experts includes only men. She has a point – even if I don’t much appreciate the insinuated “deliberate attempt to shut out differing views”. If there’s anything we “deliberately” do is to make sure our panel is not representative of one viewpoint, and is not politically biased (and it is not).

But she does have a point. Having an all-men group doesn’t look good. And the fact of the matter is that The Israel Factor panel was always an all-men panel. We never had any woman on the panel and not for lack of trying.

Eisner asks: “Are there really no women in the entire state of Israel who might be able to comment on American politics? Do women there have no opinions at all?”

This is a manipulative question – two questions pretending to be one. The answer to the second question – “do women there have no opinions at all?” – is obvious. It is a nasty question and I’m sure Eisner knows as well as I do that Israeli women do have opinions on all matters (and some men would argue: too much opinion). As for the first question, the relevant question, the answer is, well, not really. As it happens, almost all Israelis who deal with US-Israel relations are men. Or, as Allison Kaplan Sommer put it in her Facebook response to Eisner’s comments: “In Rosner’s defense, I tried to think of, in all my years of reporting, if I had ever encountered or quoted a female Israeli academic/pundit type who specialized in the U.S. political scene. And I can’t really think of one”.

The panel – and I urge all readers to take a moment and read the short bios of our panelists – is half academicians and half practitioners. Its members were selected carefully and all of them are well known in Israeli circles as the most knowledgeable observers on the US-Israeli scene. There are caveats that had to be considered in the selection process. We don’t have any active government official on the panel – because officials wouldn’t be able to participate in such a project. We also don’t have any active politician on the panel. We didn’t feel such a person would be right for this kind of endeavor.

So why don’t we have a woman on the panel? If fact, there is a small number of Israeli women academicians that could join the panel. I’ve asked two such women to join in but it didn’t quite work out. To be a panelist on The Israel Factor one has to be well informed and keep track of day-to-day political developments. A historian that is teaching Israelis the story of the American Revolution, but who doesn’t read the daily papers and doesn’t closely follow the contemporary political scene, can’t be a panelist. An ex-diplomat who no longer follows the primary process can’t be a panelist. This is not a survey of public opinion, it is a survey of expert opinion, and we can’t add a female to the panel if this person isn’t an expert on the matters at hand.

So – we have an excellent panel, and it happens to be made up of men only. No “deliberate attempt” to do anything, but also no “innocent oversight”; just having to live with reality. If you have any names for me – if you think I’m missing someone – I’m open to all suggestions.