Two days before International Women’s Day, March 8, the government’s far-right Minister of Science and Technology, Ofir Akunis, sparked a controversy in the Knesset when he told women parliamentarians that if “you continue to whine, you will never become leaders.” “You want to mark Women’s Day, and that’s fine,” Akunis said in remarks during a special plenary session to mark the day. “I’ll go with the flow.”
Akunis named former neo-liberal British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, former Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Çiller, and current US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley as “positive role models” for aspiring female leaders. “What happened? Stop it, change your old-fashioned perceptions and learn from them,” Akunis said. “If you continue to whine, you won’t ever be leaders.
“In my opinion, Nikki Haley is a real leader. Learn from her about leadership,” he told the female MKs in the room.
Akunis’s remarks drew audible groans and cries of protest from lawmakers, with several storming out in protest.
Joint List MK and Communist women’s rights activist Aida Touma-Sliman (Hadash) slammed Askunis’s shameful remarks, and said marking women’s day “symbolizes the hope in the struggle for a more just society.”
On Friday, March 9, a march of solidarity with African asylum seekers and refugees facing deportation from Israel will be held in Tel Aviv in conjunction with a commemoration of International Women’s Day. The march will be “spearheaded by the brave women who dare to stand up to injustice: to stand against the deportation and for South Tel Aviv, and to demand respect, recognition and equality for the refugee community.”
The organizers of the march have written: “International Women’s Day 2018 is a day we celebrate the significant contribution and crucial role and voice of women troughout the world. Not only is it a day in which we celebrate the countless accomplishments women have achieved in and since obtaining equal rights, it is a day on which we highlight the crucial role women contribute to activism and advocacy for human rights in Israel and around the world. Together we will raise our voices, the voices of women from all backgrounds, voices that have often been silenced. This year International Women’s day will recognize the courage and resilience of female asylum seekers and refugees, and their journeys to freedom. We will all walk together – asylum seekers and refugees, citizens of South Tel Aviv, Mizrachim and Ashkenazim, Arabs and Jews, and women from all over Israel – to raise our voices against the deportation and demand respect, status, and equality.”
The march will commence at 12 pm, starting from the Achoti (“My Sister) House – the feminist center at 70 Matalon Street in south Tel Aviv. From there, they the marchers will head towards the Eritrean Women’s Community Center and continue towards the Migrant’s Garden Library, in Levinsky Park.