Linda Sarsour is a New York-based, Palestinian-American activist who is highly adept at promoting herself. She seems to always be at center stage, availing herself of photo-ops, and procuring prestigious platforms from which to preach, including an invitation to be commencement speaker at CUNY’s School of Public Health.
How does she do this? She attaches herself to trendy, progressive causes, like “Occupy Wall Street,” “Women’s March on Washington,” or “Black Lives Matter,” proclaiming herself a “person of color” – although she is white; a “feminist” – although she is an apologist for sexism in Islamic countries; and a crusader for whatever cause du jour is in vogue.
As she observed in the New York blog, Gothamist:
The way you raise the profile of an issue, is by making the issue cool and relevant in pop culture. And if people are seeing it on Twitter, if they’re seeing Russell Simmons tweeting about police brutality, and getting people involved, at the end of the day young people are going to come out for that.”
So Sarsour presents herself as an all-embracing champion of “cool issues” in the name of solidarity. “Anyone who wants to call themselves an activist cannot be selective,” she declares. ( The Nation, March 17, 2017)
But this is just a cynical front. Far from the tolerant, inclusive bridge-builder she pretends to be, Sarsour seizes on contemporary issues to catapult herself to prominence, seizing leadership roles and using them as tools to draw more attention to herself and her own narrower ambitions – promoting Islam and Palestinian self-determination.
Speaking to fellow Muslim and Palestinian activists at an American Muslims for Palestine conference last November, Sarsour revealed the limits of her tolerance for solidarity and collaboration:
“We have limits to the type of friendships that we’re looking for right now and I want to be friends with those whom I know have been steadfast, courageous, have been standing up and protecting their own communities, those who have taken the risk to stand up and say – we are with the Palestinian people, we unequivocally support BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) when it comes to Palestinian human rights and have been attacked viciously by the very people who are telling you that they’re about to stand on the front line of the Muslim registry program. No thank you, sisters and brothers.” (Sarsour, American Muslims for Palestine Conference, Chicago, Nov.25, 2016)
Presuming herself the arbiter of participation in the feminist movement, she rejects anyone who supports Israel:
“Is there room for people who support the state of Israel and do not criticize it in the movement? There can’t be in feminism.’ (Sarsour, The Nation, March 13, 2017)
She downgrades other causes – even those she claims to espouse – as less compelling than her own, which she inflates with no regard for the facts.
“I want to make the distinction that while anti-Semitism is something that impacts Jewish Americans, it’s different than anti-Black racism or Islamophobia because it’s not systemic.” (Sarsour, Jewish Voice for Peace Video)
On Racism Against Blacks:
“Racism against blacks in the United States is very different from intolerance against Muslims. Speaking or showing racism against blacks is publicly rejected in the United States even if it is in secret, but unfortunately intolerance against Islam is perfectly acceptable, and promoted by the media…” (Sarsour, CNN Arabic, May 19, 2012)
‘Twenty-two states with anti-Sharia bills trying to ban us from practicing our faith, Mosque oppositions. We`re fighting zoning boards across the country. Our kids are hearing this rhetoric. We have people, mosques being vandalized, kids being executed, Islamophobia.” (Sarsour, The Rachel Maddow Show, MSNBC, Feb. 18, 2015)
Muslim children being executed on American streets? U.S. laws prevent Muslims from practicing their religion? Sarsour does not even try to back up her outrageous pronouncement with any facts or figures.
The fact is that the latest statistics on hate crimes in the U.S. published by the FBI, completely contradict Sarsour’s implication that Muslims are the most victimized: Blacks were the most frequent victims of hate crimes based on race, while Jews were the most frequent victims based on religion. There were 1,745 attacks targeting Blacks, 664 anti-Semitic attacks, and 257 anti-Muslim attacks.
Cultivating a persona of “universal victim” from which to advance her own activism, Sarsour, a Palestinian Caucasian who grew up in a comfortable, middle-class Brooklyn neighborhood, redefines herself as a “woman of color.” It is with this appropriated identity that she takes on a leadership role in the feminist movement while rejecting – not only supporters of Israel, but – those she labels as “white.” Sarsour cunningly wields these labels as tools to promote herself and to attack anyone who raises issues that she is not prepared to address.
Example 1: “If you’re in a movement and you’re not following a woman of color, you’re in the wrong movement.” (Sarsour,at an anti-Trump rally in New York’s Washington Square Park)
In this way, Sarsour attempts to silence those who shed light on misogynic practices and to avert criticism from the societies that tolerate or encourage them. She is particularly obsessive and malicious in her disparagement of Somali- born feminist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former Muslim, who campaigns against female genital mutilation (FGM), honor killings and child marriages that are prevalent in some Muslim communities. Sarsour repeatedly smears and agitates against Ali.
Sarsour went so far as to attack Ali, a victim of FGM, in cruel and mysogynistic terms, in a 2011 tweet that was widely criticized and which Sarsour later scrubbed from her twitter feed. (It is preserved in archives and screenshots):
When confronted about her vulgar tweet by a student at a college event where she spoke, Sarsour 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.” (Dartmouth College, May 12, 2017. See film of that event here.)
In much the same way, she tries to deflect attention from a feminist film, Honor Diaries, that examines gender inequality in Muslim-majority societies, by attempting to discredit the messenger and suggesting that the profiled women’s rights activists, who include Muslims and black women, are not entitled to present their views.
“We don’t need Islamophobes to talk to us and tell the stories of oppressed and abused Muslim women,” she said. ‘It’s just disingenuous.” (Al Jazeera America, April 14, 2014)
Sarsour similarly attempts to deflect criticism from the sexism and oppression within Muslim patriarchal societies, while confining her own rebuke of Islamic countries to their not accepting sufficient numbers of Muslim refugees or other general human rights issues.
Sarsour positions herself as “a racial justice and civil rights activist” and an opponent of all forms of bigotry, including anti-Semitism. She garnered headlines (and established her bona fides as a combatant of anti-Semitism) by raising money to repair a vandalized Jewish cemetery, and she finds common cause with Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), a radical group that shares Sarsour’s extreme anti-Israel, BDS views. But Sarsour redefines the concept of “anti-Semite” to mean the bogeyman of minority or disadvantaged groups:
“… we have anti-Semites basically in power in the White House…. the same people who hate Jews hate Muslims. They hate LGBTQ people. I mean they’re usually pretty anti-Black and unconditionally pro-law enforcement. So there’s a connection among these groups of people.” (Sarsour, Jewish Voice for Peace Video)
She 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.
Indeed, Sarsour attacks Zionism in malevolent terms, echoing the infamous 1975 “Zionism is Racism” UN General Assembly resolution, sponsored by Muslim states and subsequently revoked.
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:
Pressed by Haaretz to detail her views, Sarsour said that she believes in a one-state solution that, experts agree, will not be a Jewish state because the larger population will be Palestinian. “My hope is that it will be one state, one man one vote, that everyone is treated equally. Then you can say that part of the world is a true democracy.” (Ha’aretz, Jan. 25, 2017)
When it comes to a Palestinian state, however, she does not talk of “one man one vote” but a state that is wholly Palestinian:
“It is our generation that ignited the revolutions in the Middle East, it is our generation that will change US Foreign policy, it is our generation that will bring back a Palestinian State for the Palestinian people…” (Sarsour, blog post response to political columnist Ray Hanania’s post about extremist Arabs)
In other words, what she advocates is the replacement of the Jewish state with a Palestinian one.
To that end, Sarsour is a strong proponent of the venomous Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign to delegitimize the Jewish state— a campaign that is widely recognized as anti-Semitic in nature.
In addition to the BDS activists’ articulated goal of eliminating a Jewish state, their actions frequently demonstrate anti-Semitic motives rather than a quest for civil rights. Here are just a few of the numerous examples of how BDS activists have singled out Jews for bullying:
As part of its “Globe to Globe” festival in May 2012, London’s Shakespeare Globe Theatre invited companies from around the world to perform Shakespeare’s plays in their native languages. After the Palestinian Ashtar company performed Richard II in Arabic, BDS activists attempted to shut down the Israeli Habima company performance of The Merchant of Venice in Hebrew.
Regarding Justin Bieber’s 2011 performance in Tel Aviv, BDS activists reportedly threatened Justin Bieber’s Jewish manager with “the Jew manager will die.”
In August 2013, BDS activists protesting the performance of Israeli jazz musician Daniel Zamir at Johannesberg’s Wits University, chanted and sang out “Shoot the Jew.”
- In August 2015, BDS activists in Spain pressured organizers of a music festival to exclude singer Matisyahu from performing unless he publicly denounced Israel and declared his support for a Palestinian state. The American performer, who was singled out solely because of his Jewish identity, refused to cooperate and his performance was canceled. But following fierce criticism by the international press, Spanish government and others of this overtly anti-Semitic action, organizers reinstated the Jewish singer’s participation in the festival. A Spanish court has now admitted a criminal complaint against the BDS activists, filed by an association of human rights lawyers fighting against anti-Semitism.
The German CDU party passed an anti-BDS resolution comparing it to the Nazi boycott of Jews in 1930’s Germany, noting that, “Who today under the flag of the BDS movement calls to boycott Israeli goods and services speaks the same language in which people were called to not buy from Jews. That is nothing other than coarse anti-Semitism.”
In Canada, Ontario’s legislature rejected BDS, saying it promotes hatred against Israel. Similar anti-BDS legislation has been passed with bi-partisan support by nearly 20 U.S. states thus far, including Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Illinois and California. The legislators recognize BDS as “one of the main vehicles for spreading anti-Semitism and advocating the elimination of the Jewish state,” as Tennessee’s anti-BDS legislation explains. All 50 US State governors signed a condemnation of BDS as “incompatible with the values” of the U.S.
Yet, Linda Sarsour continues to defend, justify and promote BDS, characterizing it simply as a “free speech” issue.
Arab civil rights activist Linda Sarsour…says the proposed [anti-BDS] resolution violates the right to protest.
“Whatever happened to, ‘I don’t agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend your right to say it?'” said LInda Sarsour, the executive director of the Arab American Association of New York and a BDS supporter. (“Cops remove dozens from fierce City Council hearing over measure condemning movement to boycott Israel,” New York Daily News, Sept. 8, 2016)
Sarsour attacks US politicians who support Israel, in language evocative of conspiratorial anti-Semitism.
And when it comes to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Sarsour encourages violence, glorifying a photo that encourages Palestinian children to attack Israelis.
It is not only children throwing stones whom Sarsour celebrates. She expressed her “honor” at sharing the stage at an anti-Israel event with convicted terrorist Rasmea Odeh.
Sarsour embraces convicted terrorist Rasmea Odeh at JVP event
A member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorist group, Odeh was convicted by an Israeli military court for her role in terror attacks, including the 1969 attempted bombing of the British Consulate and the bombing of a Jerusalem supermarket in which two Hebrew University students, Edward Joffe and Leon Kanner, were murdered.
In 1970, Odeh was sentenced to life imprisonment by an Israeli military court, but was released in a prisoner exchange ten years later, and moved to Jordan. She subsequently immigrated to the U.S., concealing her past imprisonment and conviction. In 2014, the PFLP terrorist lost her U.S. citizenship after she was found guilty of immigration fraud by a U.S. court, and was sentenced to 18 months in prison. But she appealed, alleging that her original signed confession of guilt in terrorist act was false, extracted through sexual abuse and torture
by Israeli investigators, and that she was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) when she lied on her U.S. immigration papers. Odeh was released on bail while a new trial was scheduled to take place in May 2017. Evidence for Odeh’s original conviction of the terrorist bombings, however, is not based solely on her signed confession but also on physical evidence of bomb-making materials in her home and testimony by her co-conspirator. In addition, her trial in Israeli military court was deemed fair by International Red Cross observers.
Unlike the first immigration fraud trial where evidence for Odeh’s role in the terrorist bombings was not relevant, the new trial was to hear the prosecutions’ position that Odeh’s excuse for lying on immigration papers – her proclamation of innocence and torture – is the issue in question, and would weigh the evidence to that effect. But shortly before the trial was to have taken place, Odeh agreed to a plea bargain whereby she would plead guilty to have knowingly lied on immigration papers, be stripped of her U.S. citizenship and deported. (Law Professor William Jacobson has followed Odeh’s legal battles closely and has set out the details of the case in numerous entries on his blog. The Investigative Project has also examined the detailed facts in Rasmea Odeh’s case, showing how a terror convict became celebrated as a feminist victim.)
Sarsour supports and embraces Odeh and her modus operandi.
Playing The Victim
Like Odeh, Sarsour tries to garner support among liberals and innoculates herself from criticism by playing the victim card and attacking her critics as her persecutors.
Who is Linda Sarsour?
She is a woman who has two sets of standards.
She poses as a universal activist who embraces all marginalized people, but she excludes anyone whose views do not completely align with hers.
She is a white woman who poses as a woman of color, but she denies other white women the stage she seizes for herself.
She poses as a black feminist, but she refuses to fight for women’s rights in Muslim societies and tries to silence other black and Muslim feminists who expose oppression against women.
She poses as an opponent of anti-Semitism and a proponent of racial justice who fights for Palestinian national self-determination, but she denies Jews the same right.
She demands free speech for herself and for her BDS campaign, but shuts down the free speech of anyone who disagrees with her.
In summary, Linda Sarsour is a poseur who uses others to promote herself.