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Phyllis Chesler Says She Was ‘Disinvited’ from UJA Women’s Rights Event

The prolific feminist author, who was set to speak at an upcoming New York event, published an op-ed wondering if organizers took issue with her opinions

Jonathan Zalman
March 16, 2017
Phyllis Chesler, May 31, 2014. Facebook
Phyllis Chesler, May 31, 2014. Facebook

Editor’s note: This post has been updated with comment from UJA.

A March 28 UJA New York event about “the relationship between Israel and the United Nations” and “the volatile issue of women’s rights in the region,” featuring Phyllis Chesler, Hadassah Lieberman, Anne Bayefsky, and Brooke Goldstein, is apparently in question. On Thursday, Chesler, emerita professor of psychology and women’s studies at the College of Staten Island, wrote an energetic op-ed explaining why she had been “dis-invited to an event in which I was to be honored.”

Her column, appearing in Arutz Sheva, details a series of conversations Chesler had with two UJA organizers, who, instead of having her speak as planned, wanted to give her a solo event at a future date, and give her an award (in the form of a plaque) in private or via mail, an offer Chesler called “shameful.”

According to Chesler, they explained:

Some donors were not comfortable with the “narrative” involved; no, actually, the donors were not comfortable with “the shape of the program;” no, in truth, the donors were not “comfortable with how the various phone calls went,” and thought that dis-inviting me would be best; no, I was being dis-invited because there was now “no budget to order copies of my books.”

In the end, Chesler settles on a theory that perhaps her opinions, something she wrote in the last week, is the culprit.

On March 8th, an interview with me about the Woman’s Marches, faux-feminism, and Linda Sarsour appeared in the Algemeiner and on March 9th, another interview with me on the same subject appeared at Breitbart, Jerusalem. On March 13th, I published a piece at Israel National Newsin which I criticized the articles written by Letty Cottin Pogrebin (3/8, in Ha’aretz) and Peter Beinart (3/9 at the Forward).

Did my appearance in Breitbart outrage some donors? Or, is it what I wrote in Israel National News where I critiqued the views of Pogrebin and Beinart, two darlings of the left-wing Democratic Party, stalwarts of J Street and the New Israel Fund, etc., that was a final straw?

I may never really know.

UJA provided Tablet with the following comment: “UJA is sincerely sorry if we caused any embarrassment to Professor Chesler. After one panelist dropped out for health reasons we made the decision to alter the program to feature just one speaker. Professor Chesler’s personal ideology and recent articles were not contributing factors at all in this decision. We then offered to honor Ms. Chesler at a future event and provide another opportunity for her to address our community. UJA has a long, established history of welcoming speakers from across the spectrum and representing a diverse array of views and opinions at our events.”

Jonathan Zalman is a writer and teacher based in Brooklyn.