The Women’s March has cut ties with three of its founders who have been accused of anti-Semitism.
Linda Sarsour, Tamika Mallory and Bob Blandstepped down from the board on July 15, reported The Washington Post on Monday.
The movement told the outlet that the three would “transition off of the Women’s March Board and onto other projects focused on advocacy within their respective organizations.”
Sarsour became an official surrogate last week for the Democratic presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
The Women’s March movement began as a reaction to the election of U.S. President Donald Trump in 2016 as opposition to his positions on women’s rights, as well as on other issues such as LBGTQ rights, racial equality, gender equality, disability rights, the environment and other progressive causes. Millions turned out in marches across America the day after Trump’s inauguration, and the movement has since continued with chapters across the United States and the world, organizing and holding events and rallies, in addition to celebrities and others continuing to speak on the movement’s ideals.
However, Sarsour, a Palestinian American, has been an outspoken critic of Israel and has supported the BDS movement; the Anti-Defamation League says her BDS advocacy “encourages and spreads anti-Semitism.” Similarly, Mallory has been closely aligned with Farrakhan.
Both Sarsour and Mallory have been repeatedly slammed for praising Farrakhan, a known anti-Semite whose annual Saviour’s Day was attended last February by Mallory, where Farrakhan said “the powerful Jews are my enemy.”
In the wake of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting in October 2018, scrutiny over anti-Semitism within the leadership of the Women’s March began to increase. Actress Alyssa Milano, a prominent member of the #MeToo movement, and actress Debra Messing said they would not speak at the 2019 Women’s March because of Sarsour and Mallory’s refusal to distance themselves from Farrakhan.
“Any time that there is any bigotry or anti-Semitism in that respect, it needs to be called out and addressed. I’m disappointed in the leadership of the Women’s March that they haven’t done it adequately,” Milano said in a November interview.
Last December, Tablet published an extensive history of the Jew-hatred behind the movement.
The 2019 Women’s March saw support withdrawn ahead of the event from organizations including the Democratic National Committee, National Council of Jewish Women, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations, the Human Rights Campaign, Greenpeace, Children’s Firearm Safety Alliance, Coalition Against Gun Violence and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense.
‘Bigotry in our culture’
Members of the Jewish community applauded the departures, though some expressed alarm over Billoo being a part of the movement.
“This move is long overdue, and we must be vigilant to ensure that all forms of hate have no place in the progressive movement,” Aaron Keyak, a former head of the National Jewish Democratic Council, told JNS. “We get enough of that out of the White House and his supporters.”
“This is the latest attempt by the same core group to appropriate words like ‘women rights’ and use them to justify their own failed strategies: Starting with the latest version of [the] same cast of characters and, unfortunately, the same fringe ideologies,” said Ann Lewis, a prominent Democratic strategist and former Clinton White House communications director. “With so much real work to be done, it is unfortunate that a group with this dismal track record will be out there again seeking attention.”
“We are glad that the Women’s March did the right thing in removing obviously anti-Semitic board members from its ranks,” Republican Jewish Coalition spokesperson Neil Strauss told JNS. “Now Democrats from Bernie Sanders and [New Jersey Sen.] Cory Booker on down need to publicly and loudly denounce Sarsour and the others, and distance themselves.”
“Meanwhile, the Women’s March should really re-examine its new board members, Zahra Billoo, in particular, because no credit can be given when you replace anti-Semites with anti-Semites,” continued RJC.
“We welcome the transition of leadership for the national organization, and commend the progressive and diverse new board members,” Jewish Democratic Council of America vice chair Barbara Goldman told JNS. “No matter where it comes from, we take anti-Semitism seriously, and we hope the next era of the Women’s March will welcome and call in the Jewish community in more comprehensive ways.”
The World Jewish Congress called the moves “a positive development.”
“We believe that these three individuals stepping down from the leadership of the Women’s March is a positive development,” World Jewish Congress North America executive director Betty Ehrenberg told JNS. “Sarsour’s past statements that Zionists cannot be feminists wholly rejects people who love Israel and defend women’s rights, and ignore Israel’s stellar record on women’s rights. This is not only discriminatory and anti-Israel, but reflects a deep prejudice that flies in the face of what a Women’s March is supposed to achieve.”
“Sarsour has publicly embraced convicted terrorist Rasmea Odeh, who participated in the bombing of a supermarket in Jerusalem in which two young men were murdered, and has repeatedly expressed anti-Israel and anti-Semitic sentiments,” she continued. “The Women’s March should never have rewarded such blatant anti-Semitism or contempt for the Jewish state by including Sarsour and her like-minded colleagues in their leadership.”
Added Ehrenberg: “People at the helm of a movement for women’s rights should inspire women and girls towards respect and tolerance, and not help sow bigotry in our culture.”