Americans of liberal political leanings, including Jews who work for liberal causes, have begun to understand that those who claim to work towards gender and racial justice hold fervent anti-Israel beliefs. In 2016, when supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement accused Israel of committing “genocide” against Palestinians and called it an “apartheid state,” it became the focus of criticism from pro-Israel groups that had previously shown support for BLM’s supposed goals of racial justice.
A similar phenomenon is occurring within feminist groups ever since the election of Donald Trump. An American affiliate of the International Women’s Strike — a grassroots feminist movement that organized “A Day without a Woman” events around the world last Wednesday — is calling “the decolonization of Palestine.”
Muslim activist Linda Sarsour, who was a principal organizer of the anti-Trump Women’s March on Washington in January and who also helped plan the Women’s Strike, recently responded to criticisms about the mixing of anti-Semitism and feminism. Interviewed by The Nation, Sarsour said that Zionists cannot be feminists simultaneously because they allegedly ignore the rights of Palestinian women.
“It just doesn’t make any sense for someone to say, ‘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. You either stand up for the rights of all women, including Palestinians, or none. There’s just no way around it,” Sarsour said. At the Women’s March on Washington, however, pro-life women were not welcomed.
Sarsour also said that Palestinian-American women in social justice movements cannot be as visible as other women because they are the target of unspecified attacks from “right-wing Zionists.”
“The fact of the matter is that there are hundreds of Palestinian women organizing, but not all of them are visible. And I’ll tell you why,” Sarsour said in the interview. “You’ve probably seen that any visible Palestinian-American woman who is at the forefront of any social-justice movement is an immediate target of the right wing and right-wing Zionists. They will go to any extreme to criminalize us and to engage in alternative facts, to sew together a narrative that does not exist.”
Sarsour referred to criticisms leveled by Emily Shire of Bustle, a women’s news site. Shire wrote in the New York Times, “I find it troubling that embracing such a view is considered an essential part of an event that is supposed to unite feminists.” She wrote, “I am happy to debate Middle East politics or listen to critiques of Israeli policies. But why should criticism of Israel be key to feminism in 2017?” Shire also pointed out that a convicted terrorist, Rasmea Odeh, was among the eight authors of an op-ed in The Guardian announcing the movement.