Recently someone started a discussion on a listerv of prominent movement activists. It started with an eagerness to learn altho it was written from a place of pain. It was about Women's March and the cyclical Farrakhan controversy we find ourselves in every few months. I felt compelled to respond and pour my heart in to it and it proved to be transformative and I wanted to share it with all of you and feel free to share it with others if you wish.
Thank you for your patience and for those that chimed in. I could write a dissertation/book about this and I may one day but I won't here (this will still be a bit long tho). I am requesting for all who read my words to approach them with an open mind and an open heart with the understanding that you may not agree with what I will put forth and that is okay with me. This is not intended to persuade or to convince, it is my voice and my experience and my truth - one that may not be comfortable for some.
I know and recognize that our Jewish family is experiencing real pain, hurt and trauma. I know this stems from generational trauma and history of genocide and that these past few weeks have triggered insecurity, fear and anxiety. This is a difficult time and it requires us to be clear-eyed and also recognize the real threats so we can protect each other. We are all we got and this movement is all we got.
The Farrakhan controversy began 8 months ago when Jake Tapper and Jonathan Greenblatt of the ADL "exposed/promoted" a video of the Minister Farrakhan at an annual gathering for the Nation of Islam called Saviour's Day where Tamika D. Mallory was present along with 15,000 other people including many Black celebrities, business people, dignitaries and pastors. She was not a speaker. Tamika has already discussed in length her longstanding relationship with the NOI after the brutal murder of her son's father 17 years ago and the positive role NOI played in this Black single teen mother's life. I won't rehash this but here for context. We heard painful and yet loving critiques from our Jewish friends, we had conference calls, meetings, we put out a statement that came out a few days late BECAUSE we have Jewish women on our staff who were impacted personally and working through a statement that was going to speak to all the concerns was not something that could happen overnight. Since then conversations continued and our important work continued.
Then the horrific tree of life shooting happened that took the life of 11 innocent Jewish Americans and all of a sudden Women's March was being asked to condemn the Minister Farrakhan. There was nothing new that happened between Women's March and the Minister. Folks decided to rehash 8 months ago. A white supremacist walked in to a synagogue and killed 11 innocent people and the focus became the Minister Farrakhan and the NOI. A few days before that a white supremacist sent dozens of pipe bombs to notable figures and a day before that a white supremacist killed two Black people at Kroger's (my Muslim American community also raised funds for these two innocent souls as well) after he could not get in to a locked Black church but here we were three women of color who are leading a powerful effective movement with millions of members being demanded to denounce Minister Farrakhan who had no relation to these white supremacists or these acts of violence. Instead of coming together as a country to call out white supremacy and the violence being inspired by this Administration - the deflection went to a Black man who has no institutional power - this is a feature of white supremacy.
This is not a letter in defense of Minister Farrakhan. He can do that for himself. We have been CRYSTAL CLEAR in BOTH of our statements that we REJECT antisemitism and all forms of racism. We have been CLEAR that Minister Farrakhan has said hateful and hurtful things and that he does not align with our Unity Principles of the Women's March that were created by Women of Color. Minister Farrakhan will tell you himself that he does not belong to nor adhere to our progressive movement or yours.
We are trained in Kingian nonviolence, the ideology of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that at its core calls us to attack the forces of evil not those doing evil. We believe in redemption for people of color who have been discarded, denounced and condemned for centuries in this country. People who engage in acts or behaviors or hold beliefs based on their own historical trauma. It's why we are not ashamed to work with formerly incarcerated individuals who have committed crimes that for some in society would have determined and decided to give them death. We have been slandered for working with criminals - but we are committed to a movement that leaves no one behind. Some folks who claim to be in the resistance or represent the resistance have no ideology or theory of change and have no understanding of the nuance that comes with organizing with communities of color because they have not done the work - and I pray that they do meet, build and learn because it will transform how they show up so they can help and not harm.
Last year when a St. Louis Jewish cemetery was desecrated with no hesitation I raised close to $165K for its restoration and because of the generosity of many in my community it allowed for the restoration of another Jewish cemetery in Colorado that was neglected for years. Immediately after the Tree of Life shooting, my colleague Tarek and I (through MPower Change) raised $206K to pay for ALL the funerals of the 11 innocent Jews that were killed. My role as a movement leader is not just to say profound words it is to set an example of what meaningful allyship looks like that is beyond thoughts and prayers. This was all erased. Oped after oped after oped after oped after quotes from people who want to see their names in print and barely any mention of our contributions when they decided to tear us down.
The labels of antisemitism were here before the Minister Farrakhan controversy 8 months ago. Who remembers when a campaign was started by the alt-right and right wing Zionists to get me disinvited from a CUNY commencement speech last June? Who remembers the campaign against me last fall around my participation in a New School panel about the importance of combatting antisemitism in this moment with Jewish Voice for Peace and Jacobin Magazine? Minister Farrakhan was not even a factor yet in the conversation. I was already being labeled an antisemite and by extension the Women's March. It's very clear to me what the underlying issue is - I am a bold, outspoken BDS supporting Palestinian Muslim American woman and the opposition's worst nightmare. They have tried every tactic at their disposal to undermine me, discredit me, vilify me but my roots are too deep and my work is too clear and they have not succeeded so by proxy they began attacking my sister Tamika Mallory - knowing all too well that in this country the most discardable woman is a Black woman. Tamika has been disinvited from some things, and her twitter account that I have access to is full of hate that is unfathomable saturated with the N-words and worst things said to Black women. I will NEVER throw Tamika away. My loyalty to Black women who have risked their lives for all of us is and will be unshaken. I will continue to hold Tamika up because she has done that for too many people that society has written off.
Tamika and I are women with our own agency. We speak for ourselves and ourselves alone. We are being stripped of our agency when every few months we are asked to condemn the Minister about words that we did not say, nonetheless the words of a man who did not consult us on his words. We are being held to standards that no one would hold themselves to. I can share numerous examples of times when movement leaders could have said more and done more for various communities or in response to hateful things that have come from their communities and their "leaders"- blatant anti-blackness, islamophobia, anti-Palestinian rhetoric - yet that is UNFAIR which is why I don't expect it nor demand it. As a Muslim, I know all too well that I am expected to answer for other Muslims actions when white folks never have a second thought about having to do that - this is a feature of white supremacy.
Let's also recognize who the majority is that leads the attacks against women of color leaders - not people of color led institutions or activists. Wonder why. Who benefits when a powerful, effective and proven organization is attacked? Who benefits when the movement is divided? Who benefits from the confusion and the fractures? Not us. Not marginalized people. Not those who are counting on us to win. Let us not fall for the longstanding tactics of white supremacy of divide and conquer. Unity is NOT uniformity. I am not building a unified movement where we will all agree on every single point and issue. I am building a complex, intersectional movement with the clear understanding that it will be messy and uncomfortable because if it was going to be easy someone would have done it a long time ago and we would all have our rights and be enjoying our lives in a free democratic country that treats us all with dignity and respect. But here we are. We have seen UGLY. I pray that none of you have to experience what we have. A litany of death threats, unsolicited hate mail some with threats of violence. FBI visits to notify me of credible threats to my life that I had not even seen, the need for security detail, surveillance systems for my home - I don't say this for any pity or sympathy because I am NOT a victim, I am a survivor of a white supremacist system that wants to ban and rid itself of people like me and Tamika, I say this to say that these public toxic conversations invite these things to happen to us and we all have a responsibility to want us to be safe and out of harm's way. Tamika and I did not choose to be activists, this work chose us. This is not a side job, or a labor of love - this is a matter of life and death for the communities we love and come from.
I ask you all to model how we approach each other in the movement. Have conversations, reach out, ask questions, give benefit of the doubt, contextualize moments outside of your own personal feelings, remind yourself of the good this person or persons or organization has done. Use critical thinking skills. Be honest with your feelings, speak from the I, propose solutions and not demands. Challenge people in your circles, engage people. Tearing down, threatening movement leaders with "say this or else we won't do this or if you don't say this than its meaningless" is not the way.
The Women's March is an important institution in this resistance. We have organized the largest single day demonstration in American history, we have been the catalyst for 20,000 women to run for office, we have trained thousands of women in civil disobedience and direct action, organized the largest women led civil disobedience back in June around family separation, co-led close to 30 days of organizing around Kavanaugh and shifted the entire narrative, worked diligently with many of you on elections in key states winning back the House and NOW we are in the midst of organizing another HISTORIC mobilization to remind the Administration that we are still here as a resistance and send a message to Congress and yes to our friends in Congress that we will create the political will for them to be brave and hold them accountable to the platforms they ran on.
Thank you for reading this far. I know for some this may not have been easy and may have triggered you and I see you. Sit with this. Absorb it from a place of love and commitment to making this movement work. I pray that our Jewish family recognizes that this resistance is for you too and that you embrace the solidarity we have shown because we have a lot more to give. I am available for one on one conversations and am committed to making the time.
Stay focused. The real threat is white nationalism and white supremacy. They want to destroy us all. We are all we got and you know that you can count on me and the Women's March leaders to continue to be bold and put it all on the line. We hope to see you on January 19th, 2019. We promise you that we have remarkable things in store and you will leave inspired once again.
I will leave you with a quote that guides the way I show up in this work and I hope that it speaks to all of you. It is by an aboriginal woman by the name of Lila Watson and she said:
"If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time but if you have come here because you believe that your liberation is bound up with mine, let us work together."
My liberation is bound up with all of yours.
Dec 28, 2018
Linda, You are using the high profile aspect of the Women's March to further your own profile and agenda. You support extremists. That is just fact. Step down from the Women's March if you really care about our movement. Your personal agenda should not be tainting our movement.
Nov 22, 2018
I truly appreciate your olive branch towards the Jewish community here. While I certainly understand that neither you nor Tamika are responsible for anything Louis Farrakhan says or does, it does cast a very dark shadow when Tamika, a founder of the Women's March, calls this man GOAT and then further states (https://twitter.com/tamikadmallory/status/862760808232517633) that this man has the same enemies as Jesus (https://twitter.com/tamikadmallory/status/969218672731533313). While her intention wasn't necessarily anti-semitic (https://twitter.com/tamikadmallory/status/969707634378108928), there was plenty of room to view it as such. Yet when I tried to express this, her response was to shame me about Israel. I am a liberal Jewish American who believes in the rights of all at all times, is against occupation, Trump, Netanyahu and the state of Israel as it stands now. I and others like me tend to feel more akin to the plight of Palestinians than the right wing so-called Zionists who choose not to learn from their own history of oppression and instead propagate the same to others. (https://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/.premium-frozen-out-by-israel-repelled-by-trump-u-s-jews-find-affinity-with-palestinians-1.6676117) This is my very long way of saying I appreciate the effort - but being someone who has marched every year with the Women's March, I had hoped to feel more acceptance from the start than there actually was. But there is time to move forward and heal.
Nov 22, 2018
If this IS about Womens Rights then this Is the Womens March! If this is about womens, gays, transgender, anti israel, pro Fahrakhan, pro limitless absorbtion of people from all over till we become a welfare poor country like most of central and south america and anti white group it should Not be just called the Womens march! America during its history has a stain of allowing slavery and discrimination mainly of Black people but there was also discrimination at times at jews, latinos and even catholics or italians or irish or moslems. It is also true we came a very long way as now people of all races are doctors lawyers teachers mayors congress people and were President of the USA! There are many rich and poor people of all races and re ligouns! In contrast in most of the moslem world there are dictatorships with poor civil and religous and gender rights and in south and central america there is extreme corruption and crime which is why so many want to leave! In giant china it is a dictatorship as is noth korea. Russia seems to have been ruled by putin for decades. So G d bless America!! And if your sensitive to jews you would not tell them to not complain when gazan palestinians fire hundreds of rockets at jewish homes or say no jews allowed in the historic small jewish homeland jewish refugees have returned to! In 1948 the un voted to have the land shared into 1 jewish and 1 arab state and 5 arab armies and palestinian arabs responded by attacking the reborn jewish state. Middle east conflict is Not as simple as some may lead to believe! The "moderate" palistinian authority are known to pay those that succeed in killing jewish civilians to this day. They also publicly deny historic long ties of Jews to the Land of Israel including Hebron home of tomb of Jewish Forefathers and Rachels TOmb in Bethlehem and of course Jerusalem. By shouting you are a strong palestinian supporter of the boycott israel movement which doesnt believe israel has a right to exist and say you are your "oppositions worst nightmare" sounds like fighting words to many jews! There are over 20 Arab and Moslem lands but just this one small Jewish land. Yet even that is too much for the enemies of Israel. Thats By The Way What They Mean by chanting "From Sea to Sea Palestine Shall be Free" - meaning including the Jewish state. Maybe its best for a womans march to stick to american womens rights!
Nov 21, 2018
She’s making it all about herself. That should tell you a lot right there. First of all, she should completely and unequivocally renounce Farrakhan, and promise she’ll do everything in her power the dissociate herself from his messages of hate, and that’s ALL she should be doing. Should that be so difficult? She should come out and say she and her allies have continually (into the present) made very hateful racists remarks. “We have been perpetuating the demonization of the Jewish people and their state. This stops now. We have expressed solidarity with a the outspoken leader of racist, homophobic, etc. hate group. This stops now.” But she won’t do that, of course, as she has consistently demonized Jews and their institutions (and all her other perceived enemies) for years. Just the other day she accused American Jews of “dual loyalty” (an ancient anti-Semitic canard) https://www.jpost.com/.../Muslim-activist-Sarsour...). Her statement on Farrakhan: “This is not a letter in defense of Minister Farrakhan. He can do that for himself. We have been CRYSTAL CLEAR in BOTH of our statements that we REJECT antisemitism and all forms of racism. We have been CLEAR that Minister Farrakhan has said hateful and hurtful things and that he does not align with our Unity Principles of the Women's March that were created by Women of Color. Minister Farrakhan will tell you himself that he does not belong to nor adhere to our progressive movement or yours.” That’s what RBG would call a skim milk apology. And “crystal clear”? In one of those statements they mention, they deflect all accusations of the anti-Semitism in their midst, and instead put all the blame on the Right. These are not people who care about protections for minorities. These are people who care about scoring political points for themselves. By contrast, consider the Women’s March’s official creamy-rich response to the Harvey Weinstein scandal: "This is an important day in terms of visibility for all women whose lives have been devastated because of the actions of Harvey Weinstein. We seek justice for women and all people who have been harassed and abused in the workplace. No person should be violated at work, or anywhere else. Ever. Toxic masculinity and misogyny can no longer be ignored or tolerated at the workplace or any other place in society. We stand with the brave women who came forward against Harvey Weinstein. We hope their courage will continue to inspire others to break their silence." Would it have been so hard to respond in similar language with respect to Farrakhan etc.? Absolutely yes, apparently. And then she goes, in this very letter, to blast “right wing Zionists” for trying to get her disinvited for a talk at CUNY because of her outspoken racism. “Who remembers when a campaign was started by the alt-right and right wing Zionists to get me disinvited from a CUNY commencement speech last June?” What in the world does this have to do with confronting her and her colleagues’ bigotries?? In a letter of apology??!! Again, it’s all about her, and her paranoid, conspiracy-theory-driven hatreds. Another beaut: “I was already being labeled an antisemite and by extension the Women's March [sic]. It's very clear to me what the underlying issue is - I am a bold, outspoken BDS supporting Palestinian Muslim American woman and the opposition's worst nightmare.” Pure Trumpian tactics, denying her own racism because of, well, um, because of what, exactly? More about their Farrakhan affiliation: “We are being held to standards that no one would hold themselves to.” Really? I, for one, rather easily hold myself to standards that would never permit me to be an avid, outspoken supporter of a vile racist homophobe. Regarding the Women's March leadership, well, I think they are a big deal, and it’s important to expose them before they (and those like them) gain the power they crave. They are a false flag operation. The Liberal/Left/Progressive movement (which, I have always naturally aligned with), is increasingly becoming embodied by the likes of the so-called Women’s March leadership. It is being hijacked by people who are outright homophobes, transphobes, misogynists, religious fundamentalists, and yes, especially anti-Semites). This can be confirmed by the things they say, and by the company they keep. Even good ol’ David Duke has on several occasions expressed his support for the March’s Linda Sarsour in particular (when she engages in anti-Semitism). When confronted with her hate, Sarsour lashes out and calls it a Zionist and right-wing conspiracy. The REALLY scary part is that an increasing number of people actually buy into her Trumpian madness! The Right is forever lost, of course, but now the liberal center is being gutted, and in its place, a regressive Left. I worry about a future in which this country becomes a literal battleground between these two extremist camps. And you who who’ll be caught in the middle…So yeah, I think they are a big deal. This expresses things nicely, with details that should interest you (things have since gotten even worse in the Women’s March ranks): https://www.nytimes.com/.../womens-march-progressives...
Nov 20, 2018
We speak for ourselves and ourselves alone. We are being stripped of our agency when every few months we are asked to condemn the Minister about words that we did not say, nonetheless the words of a man who did not consult us on his words. We are being held to standards that no one would hold themselves to." BDS holds all of Israel responsible for the policies of a government they as individuals may not support. Many Jews in Israel do not support Natanyahu or his government. BDS Makes no distinction. You cannot separate the hateful anti-Jewish rhetoric of Louis Farrakhan from the man or his movement, just as you cannot separate Harvey Weinstein's sexual assaults and abusive behavior from his philanthropy. Farrakhan's statements over decades are simply incompatible with the goals and aims enunciated by the Women's March. You ask your "Jewish Family" to ignore your embrace of a man who vilifies and lies about them in the name of solidarity with the Women's March. Where is your solidarity with those members of your family who Farrakhan slanders?
Nov 20, 2018
So glad I'm finally able to comment after being blocked from commenting this coming from somebody who supposedly stands up for democracy and free speech and exchange of ideas. The BDS movement which you support let's face it calls for not a peaceful solution or an exchange of ideas but the absolute destruction of the Jewish state. In the meantime wow the haters attempt to tear down Israel, Israel is continuing advances such as this.https://www.israel21c.org/israeli-scientists-develop-implanted-organs-made-from-patients-own-cells/?fbclid=IwAR2hDv1cw6DqNq5wH5ImmEcgF3e_UPk_AJVAZcBnOMuZTBCteaOPErMgUQs
Nov 19, 2018
Interesting and obfuscating reference to Dr. King's ideology - "that at its core calls us to attack the forces of evil not those doing evil." Is Linda saying that Minister Farrakhan is an evil doer, but because she believes in redemption she won't denounce him? I would argue that Minister Farrakhan is actually a force of evil. His twisted, ahistorical cosmology foments antisemitism, homophobia, and other hatreds. How is that not deserved of condemnation?
Nov 19, 2018
Linda Sarsour, this is one of the most heartfelt, powerful statements I have ever read. Thank you. I am Jewish and I stand with Palestine. I am active with the Justice for Palestine cause, through Jewish and non-Jewish organizations. Accusing people who stand against oppression of oppressing the oppressors is a dishonorable, but familiar, tactic for those whose agenda cannot stand on its merits. Even groups who have been horribly oppressed in the past may turn into oppressors, themselves. It is especially heinous when a formerly oppressed group turns its wrath (in this case, backed by the military might of the US, for their own imperialist reasons) on those who were not their oppressors. Israel backs white supremacists and neo-Nazis, from Trump, to right wing Evangelicals, to Christian Zionists, to Christian fascists, to anti-Semitic fascists around the world, such as Bolsonaro and Orbán. In fact, Israel supplies arms to human rights violating regimes across the globe. Israel and their apologists weaponize and use antisemitism as a tool (to deflect criticism from their violations of the Geneva Convention and to stifle advocacy for Palestinian human rights), instead of working to eradicate it. Human rights icon Desmond Tutu said about Israel: “I know firsthand that Israel has created an apartheid reality within its borders and through its occupation. The parallels to my own beloved South Africa are painfully stark indeed.” He further stated, “We learned in South Africa that the only way to end apartheid peacefully was to force the powerful to the table through economic pressure." And BDS is precisely the sort of “economic pressure” that Tutu talked about. Israel, unsurprisingly (along with Reagan) backed the South African Apartheid regime. The synagogue at which the 11 Jews were recently murdered was involved with HIAS, a group that aids refugees. Israel, as a military state deports/threatens to murder refugees and non-white Jews. So, it was unsurprising that Zionists targeted HIAS, before the murders, for their humanitarian work. After the murders, these hypocrites (including Netanyahu) used these victims as tools to continue to have unconstitutional, undemocratic laws introduced (and enforced) in the US, with the aim of stifling protected dissent. Israel demonized the victims and their advocacy for refugees, while they were alive and then exploited their deaths. It does not get more antisemitic than that. HIAS, BTW, was a signatory on a 2017 letter in support of Linda Sarsour, whose standing ovation commencement speech at CUNY drew anger from the powerful and corrupt Israel lobby. Journalist Mairav Zonszein quoted Netanyahu on twitter: Netanyahu, in a closed door Party meeting said, “the occupation is nonsense, there are plenty of big countries that occupied and replaced populations and no one talks about them.” Netanyahu not only admits, here, that what Israel is, is Occupied Palestine, but he admits to what can only be called (by the word “replacement”), genocide. I deplore the antisemitism and homophobia of Farrakhan, but it is disingenuous, intellectually dishonest, and the height of hubris for Zionists to single out support by some black and brown people for someone who has spoken out for their communities, while at the same time supporting the violent racism and greed (which is, when you get down to it, what is the bottom line of the stealing of land that is the Occupation) of Israel. The de facto became de jure with the passage of the notorious Nation State Law.
Nov 19, 2018
Sarsour seems to miss the point. Her antisemitism is not all about Farrakhan. It's perhaps easier to talk about Farrakhan because his antisemitism is so overt and explicit. However, she needs to not just repudiate Farrakhan but her other antisemitic views and actions. That includes no longer supporting BDS. Sarsour, please read and self-reflect: https://www.holocaustremembrance.com/working-definition-antisemitism
Nov 19, 2018
A quick explanation of why Linda is an anti-semite: Anti-Semitism is not simply hating the Jew as other. Anti-Semitism works differently; What anti-Semitism does is turn "the Jew" into the symbol of whatever it is that a given civilization defines as its most loathsome qualities. And so, under Christianity, before the Holocaust and Vatican II, the Jew was the Christ-killer. Under communism, the Jew was the capitalist. Under Nazism, the Jew was the race-polluter. Now we live in a different civilization. Now we live in a civilization where the most loathsome qualities are racism, colonialism, apartheid. And lo and behold, the greatest offender in the world today, with all the beautiful countries of the world, is the Jewish state. The Jewish state has become the symbol of the genocidal racist apartheid state. That’s Israel, the Jewish state. An Israeli political philosopher named Jacob Talmon once put it this way: ‘The state of the Jews has become the Jew of the states.’ What that means is criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitism. Criticism of Israel’s existence, denying Israel the right to exist, calling Israel the ‘Zionist entity,’ that is anti-Semitism. That is a classical continuity of thousands of years of symbolizing the Jew. So using that kind of language places Linda in very uncomfortable company. That kind of language can come today from the far left, it can come from white supremacists, it can come from Islamist extremists, it can come from many sources. But all of those groups converge on one idea: the Jew remains humanity’s great problem in the form of Israel hatred. And this is why no amount of token donations to Jewish causes will wipe away the stain of anti-semitism from Linda's worldview. Linda does good and important work organizing for many marginalized people, but that doesn't excuse her bullying Jews out of progressive spaces. When she says 'we shouldn't humanize zionists', when she stands with convicted terrorists like Rasmea Odeh, when she says that anti-semitism is not systemic, these words and actions cause real pain and trauma in the Jewish community. Linda has real power in progressive spaces. She is respected and admired. When Linda spreads her anti-semitic views through progressive spaces it silences us. Any charge against Linda is swiftly met with accusations of being far-right, alt-right, oppressor (even Jake Tapper is alt-right in her eyes!). In Linda's worldview there is no room for argument or for debate. Any jew that believes in their self determination is her enemy. This is extremely dangerous. Let me be clear: the vast majority of world Jewry believe in our right to self determination (which we define as zionism). To deny our identity, to deny our peoplehood, to deny our right to self determination, to deny our historic millenia-long connection with the land of Israel is anti-semitic. No amount of cover by fringe Jewish groups will change that (the same way Candace Owen cannot give cover to racists). I hope that one day Linda will see that hate will never win. We Jews have seen where jew hatred can lead. Now Linda doesn't have any systemic power, but if she ever does we Jews are in big trouble. *much of the above definition of anti-semitic anti-zionism comes from Yossi Klein Halevi.