Moral Low Ground


Israeli Women Strip, Pose Nude in Support of Egyptian Blogger Aliaa Magda Elmahdy

Dozens of Israeli women posed nude in a show of solidarity with an Egyptian blogger and activist who has received a flood of death threats and insults after she posted a nude photo of herself online.

(Photo: Aliaa Magda Elmahdy)

According to YNet, the Israelis were acting in support of Aliaa Magda Elmahdy, a 20-year-old Egyptian student who posted a nude photo of herself on her blog and Facebook. She did so to protest the limits of free expression in Egypt, calling her photos  “screams against a society of violence, racism, sexism, sexual harassment and hypocrisy.”

Speaking to CNN, Elmahdy decried “a society where women are nothing but sex objects harassed on a daily basis by men who know nothing about sex or the importance of a woman.”

“The photo is an expression of my being and I see the human body as the best artistic representation of that,” she said.

Elmahdy’s brave act has ignited a firestorm of condemnation in Egypt and throughout the Muslim world. She has received many death threats, insults and an unending stream of condemnation.

Addressing the Islamists whose power has increased in Egypt as a result of this year’s revolution that overthrew longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak, Elmahdy wrote:

“Prosecute nude models who worked in Fine Art Faculties in the early 1970s, hide all art books and smash naked archaeological statues. Then take off your clothes and look at yourselves in the mirror, then burn your body that you so despise to get rid of your sexual complexes forever, before subjecting me to your bigoted insults or denying my freedom of expression.”

But in addition to the criticism, Elmahdy has also received an outpouring of support from more progressive quarters around the globe, and her blog has received 1.5 million visitors since she posted the photos.

Among her supporters are the 40 Israeli women led by 28-year-old Or Tepler, who according to YNet started a Facebook event that invited women “to show support in a non-violent and legitimate way for a woman who is just like us – young, ambitious, full of dreams and evidently has a developed sense of humor.”

Stripping in solidarity. (Photo: Anat Cohen)

“Girls, let’s give the world a good reason to see the unique beauty of Israeli women,” Tepler wrote. “Regardless of whether they are Jewish, Arab, straight or Lesbian – because here, as of now, it doesn’t matter… Let us show the doubters that our international discourse doesn’t depend on governments.”

“I got the idea the day that the blogger’s photo was posted,” Tepler told Ynet. “I didn’t expect that she would get the response that she got. It got on my nerves that she received a quarter of a million abusive comments and death threats… I felt that when a liberal, enlightened woman in Cairo cannot express herself and gets threats from her state, I should show solidarity.”

And so it was that the Israeli women posed nude with a banner reading “Love without limits” in Hebrew and Arabic. But unlike Elmahdy, the Israelis did not bear all for the camera; the banner obscured their private parts and the women not covered by the banner used their hands to conceal their breasts.

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