Activist who raised funds for vandalised cemeteries: Zionism and feminism incompatible

Activist who raised funds for vandalised cemeteries: Zionism and feminism incompatible

Palestinian-American who raised more than $100,000 to repair Jewish cemeteries hits out at Israel supporters

Linda Sarsour
Linda Sarsour

Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour, who raised $100,000 to repair vandalised cemeteries, has said support for Israel and feminism are incompatible.

An organiser of January’s Women’s March on Washington and an activist who also helped plan the Women’s Strike, came forth with a harsh message in an interview with The Nation.

Sarsour said those who identify as Zionist cannot be feminist because they are ignoring 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 criticise 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.

Sarsour also said 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 organizsng, but not all of them are visible. And I’ll tell you why,” Sarsour said. “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 criminalise us and to engage in alternative facts, to sew together a narrative that does not exist.”

Sarsour was responding directly to criticism of the platform’s statement on Israel by Emily Shire, the politics editor of the women’s news site Bustle. Shire wrote about her dilemma as a Zionist feminist in a New York Times op-ed published March 7.

“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 criticised the strike for the involvement of Rasmea Odeh, a Palestinian woman convicted and sentenced by an Israeli military court in 1970 to life in prison for her role in two bombing attacks, including one in 1969 that killed two Israelis. Odeh was among the eight authors of an op-ed in The Guardian announcing the movement. She confessed to planting the bomb, though in recent years has claimed that the confession was given under torture, which is disputed by Israeli officials.

“While the fairness of Ms. Odeh’s conviction is debated, the fact that she was a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which was categorised as a terrorist organisation by the State Department, is not,” Shire wrote.

Sarsour was in the Jewish media spotlight last month for quite different reasons. Following the vandalism of a Jewish cemetery outside St. Louis, she and another Muslim activist, Tarek El-Messidi, organised a fundraiser for the repair of the burial site. They managed to raise over £130,000 ($160,000, far exceeding their £16,000 $20,000 goal.

Aiming to to raise £16,000 ($20,000) initially, the amount nearly trebled after world-renowned author of Harry Potter, JK Rowling retweeted the Jewish News story covering the campaign.

Within hours of Rowling retweeting the story on the campaign to her 10 million followers, the amount raised almost trebled from £18,000 to £45,000.

The popular author wrote alongside the web link: “This is such a beautiful thing. The tweet received around 10,000 retweets and more than 30,000 likes.

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