Smearing the women's strike

Nicole Colson reports on a twisted tirade against organizers of a March 8 day of action.

Supporters of Rasmea Odeh demand that false federal charges against her be dropped (BoycottIsraeliApartheid.org)Supporters of Rasmea Odeh demand that false federal charges against her be dropped (BoycottIsraeliApartheid.org)

A RANT in the New York Post smeared organizers of the March 8 International Women's Strike, denouncing veteran fighters for justice as terrorists, criminals and authoritarians.

Kyle Smith's tantrum-in-column-form betrays just how threatened the right wing is when people begin to organize and fight for their rights.

Titled "Meet the terrorist behind the next women's march," the article decries the March 8 action as a "public instance of Trump haters shouting slogans to one another and mistaking it for constructive politics."

Smith goes on to call Rasmea Odeh--one of the authors of an article published in the Guardian newspaper, among other outlets, calling for the action--"a convicted terrorist." Angela Davis, the icon of the Black Power struggle and revolutionary activist who continues to inspire millions--is dismissed as "a Stalinist professor and longtime supporter of the Black Panthers."

It apparently took some work to find an accusation to hang on SocialistWorker.org contributor Tithi Bhattacharya. She is denounced for having "praised Maoism in an essay for the International Socialist Review"--though that peculiar description doesn't seem to bear a resemblance to any article she has written.

Letting his manly opinions fly, Smith all but calls organizers of the March 8 event hysterical, declaring that "the bristling tone of the manifesto and its call for a 'militant' uprising are yet another indicator that liberals are increasingly willing to justify violence in the name of opposing Trump."

Well, yes--years of women's rights being rolled back and a misogynist sitting in the White House does make some women "bristle." But in the end, Smith can't decide whether the organizers of the March 8 strike are shadowy terrorists, Stalinists, "liberals" or some combination of all three.

Smith helpfully warns "nice liberal Democrats" (really, that's how he refers to them) that "this newer, angrier cohort is just as hostile to their own party. 'I have problems with the Democratic Party that is just as linked to the corporate capitalist structure as the Republican Party,' Davis said at a rally last year."

If a woman saying she has "problems with the Democratic Party" and corporate capitalism is what Smith considers "angry," he must not be paying attention.

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FAKE CONCERN over ladies getting uppity aside, Smith's smears wormed their way into other press coverage.

In addition to some fascist websites picking up the column--leading to a flood of neo-Nazi hate mail directed at some March 8 organizers--Britain's bottom-feeding tabloid the Daily Mail used Smith's story as the basis for its own, run with the headline "'Illegal immigrant' terrorist to organize women's strike."

The lengthy Mail article goes on to repeat Smith's attacks on Davis and Bhattacharya--but mainly rehashes decades-old Israeli government propaganda against Palestinian rights activist Odeh, who endured weeks of torture inside an Israeli prison in 1969 before giving a coerced confession about planting a bomb in a Jerusalem supermarket.

A 2014 report by U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation Policy Director Josh Ruebner noted that Odeh's confession came after being repeatedly physically and sexually assaulted, including in the presence of her father. Quoting Odeh, Ruebner writes:

[I]nterrogators "tore my clothes off me while my hands were still tied behind my back. They threw me to the ground completely naked and the room was full of a dozen or so interrogators and soldiers who looked at me and laughed sarcastically as if they were looking at a comedy or a film. Obviously they started touching my body." In her father's presence, interrogators threatened to "violate me" and "tried to introduce a stick to break my maidenhead [hymen]."

Odeh eventually "confessed," she said, only because she feared her father would be killed. But neither Smith, his bosses at the Post nor the Daily Mail bothered to question a conviction based on a "confession" extracted after torture.

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AFTER ALL that, Smith has the audacity in his article to lecture the left for being inflexible. Instead, it should be attempting to build "the political arts required to win elections--finding common ground, forging alliances, making friends. Instead, all of these demonstrations are about denouncing enemies, and making yourself feel better about the November defeat by gathering publicly with those who share your rage."

He fails to explain what kind of "common ground" and "alliances" ordinary women and men should make with a president who has bragged about committing sexual assault--and with a party whose representatives, like Oklahoma Rep. Justin Humphrey, who recently referred to pregnant women as "hosts," aim to deny women the fundamental right to control their own bodies.

Organizers of the International Women's Strike on March 8 are pressing forward, despite Kyle Smith's objections. They have put forward a platform that includes an end to gender violence, reproductive justice for all, labor rights and an anti-racist and anti-imperialist feminism, among other issues. As the call to action states:

In the spirit of solidarity and internationalism, in the United States March 8th will be a day of action organized by and for women who have been marginalized and silenced by decades of neoliberalism directed towards working women, women of color, Native women, disabled women, immigrant women, Muslim women, lesbian, queer and trans women.

March 8th will be the beginning of a new international feminist movement that organizes resistance not just against Trump and his misogynist policies, but also against the conditions that produced Trump, namely the decades long economic inequality, racial and sexual violence, and imperial wars abroad.

It will take more than Kyle Smith to silence the voices of a new movement.