CAMERA has written before about anti-Israel activist Linda Sarsour’s antisemitism as well as about one particularly hateful comment about other women that she’s refused to disavow. Yet, Elle magazine is now giving her a place of honor in its feature, “20 Women Of Color In Politics To Watch In 2020,” a list of what it claims are “the women in politics you’ll need to know next year.”
The list was originally published on December 17. On Friday, Elle appended an Editor’s Note, attempting to distance itself from the list by claiming:
The below list was compiled by She the People, a national non profit network of women of color committed to social justice and voter mobilization. A previous version of this story did not make clear that the list was compiled by She the People and not ELLE magazine.
Yet, it was Elle that made the decision to publish this list on its platform, without considering the past positions and public statements of the women included. The list claims that Sarsour is “guided by a radical love.” It makes no mention of the fact that Sarsour is a vocal proponent of the BDS movement, a movement that is based in hatred, and which seeks to eliminate the existence of Israel as a Jewish state. She’s also been criticized for her association with Louis Farrakhan. Most recently, she came under fire for saying at a conference that Israel “is built on the idea that Jews are supreme to everyone else.” All of which makes one wonder, what, specifically, does Elle think makes Sarsour a “woman to watch”?
Elle describes itself as “the world’s largest fashion magazine and media brand inspiring women to explore and celebrate style in all aspects of their lives with content that is inclusive and innovative. The quality of photography and storytelling makes ELLE a trusted authority for consumers and a go-to partner for celebrity, fashion and beauty exclusives.” The magazine claims over a million paid subscribers, nearly five million print readers, and ten million unique visitors to its website.
Like other fashion magazines, however, Elle finds itself out of its element when it wades into the politics of the Middle East. Two years ago, when Glamour announced its choice to honor Sarsour as one of its Women of the Year, CAMERA asked whether blatant bigotry against Israel and Jews was acceptable to that publication’s editors, and we now ask the same of editors at Elle. Similarly, we ask again whether anti-Black or anti-LGBT bigotry would disqualify a woman for inclusion in this honor, or if only bigotry against Jews is condoned?
As we wrote in 2017, Sarsour is a long-time supporter of the movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel (BDS) – a movement that was condemned in a bipartisan vote, 398-17, of the U.S. House of Representatives this past July. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has said BDS, “is a deeply biased campaign that I would say … is a ‘reinvented form of anti-Semitism’ because it seeks to impose boycotts on Israel and not on any other nation.”
During her recent tenure as one of the leaders of the Women’s March, Sarsour was widely criticized for her association with well-known antisemite Louis Farrakhan. In 2015, she was a speaker at a rally that he organized, and in 2017, she proudly reposted a video of the speech, saying, “I stand by every word.” Only after heavy criticism did she finally disavow him, in January of this year. By then, however, it was too little, too late, and she subsequently left the leadership of the Women’s March under a heavy cloud of controversy over both her association with bigotry and the group’s alleged financial mismanagement.
separates anti-Zionism from anti-Semitism by redefining the former to mean ‘criticizing Israel.’ This way, she can claim to be an opponent of anti-Semitism while engaging in anti-Zionist activities. But that is simply being disingenuous. Zionism is the national movement of the Jewish people and anti-Zionism is the denial to Jewish people of the right to self-determination in their historic homeland. …
Although she tries to present herself as simply a critic of Israel, what Sarsour is really campaigning for is the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state.
More recently, Sarsour doubled down on antisemitism when she said at the American Muslims for Palestine conference last month that Israel “is built on the idea that Jews are supreme to everyone else.” Jonathan Greenblatt, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said of her comments, “she slanders the founders of Israel as supremacists, invoking a centuries-old anti-Semitic trope when she describes them as having believed that Jews are ‘supreme to everybody else.’”
Sarsour is also an outspoken supporter of Rasmea Odeh, who was convicted in Israel for the terrorist killings of Edward Joffee and Leon Kanner in 1969 in Jerusalem. While Odeh’s supporters claim she is innocent, her conviction was based not only on the confession she made the day after her arrest, but also on physical evidence of bomb-making materials found in her home. International Red Cross observers deemed her trial fair. Odeh lied on immigration papers when she came to America and was stripped of her citizenship and deported. Before she was deported, however, Sarsour appeared with her at an April 2017 conference of the radical anti-Zionist group, Jewish Voice for Peace, where she said she was “honored and privileged to be here in this space, and honored to be on this stage with Rasmea.”
In light of these associations, any lip-service that Sarsour has paid, ostensibly speaking out against antisemitism, has rung hollow.
In addition, Sarsour has also made several problematic statements about women’s issues, but one in particular stands out for its viciousness. In 2011, Sarsour tweeted:
Ayaan Hirsi Ali is both a survivor of and campaigner against female genital mutilation (FGM). Making such a comment about her goes beyond the bounds of decency. When asked about this tweet by a student at a college event, Sarsour could have taken the opportunity to apologize or recant it. Instead, as we previously wrote, she “immediately retreated to her identity politics defense, suggesting that the student had no right to speak: ‘So let’s give some context here because this is an event organized by an Asian-American, celebrating a community, talking about communities of color, who are being directly impacted at this moment, and I have a young white man in the back, who is not directly impacted by any of the issues that I mentioned. Let’s give some context here.’”
The bland description of Sarsour and her work in Elle’s “20 Women Of Color In Politics To Watch In 2020” gives no hint of any of these controversies. Which begs the question, whether Elle vetted this list at all, or whether it allowed its contributor to simply regurgitate Sarsour’s own self-promotional talking points.