(September 20, 2019 / JNS) For those who are determined to restore the Women’s March to a central place in the politics of the “resistance” to President Donald Trump, this past week brought both good news and bad.
The good news was that after tolerating a leadership compromised by anti-Semitic connections from the group’s inception, the three most controversial members of its board were eased out. Tamika Mallory, Bob Bland and Linda Sarsour left the leadership of the organization in July, though the move was only announced last week when the March also made public the identity of several new board members. The change was widely described as an attempt to reposition the group as being more inclusive, especially towards Jewish women, as well as to redirect the conversation from its own glaring faults back to its anti-Trump agenda.
But rather than being able to present itself as the new-and-improved version of the influential protest group against the administration, what followed provided more proof that whatever you might think about Trump, the Women’s March is still inextricably tied to anti-Semitism and leftist hate for Israel.
As it turns out, one of the new board members—Palestinian American activist Zahra Billoo—was just as, if not even more, anti-Semitic than the trio she helped replace. An examination of her Twitter account revealed a host of posts that were astonishing in their open anti-Semitism, and contempt for Israel and Jews.
Billoo authored a great many tweets that spoke of Israel as being peopled by “baby killers,” compared Hamas rocket fire to an act of resistance by a rape victim and said that she was “more afraid of racists Zionists who support Apartheid Israel than I am of the mentally ill young people the FBI recruits to join ISIS.” The latter combined calumnies against Jews with spreading anti-American paranoid conspiracy theories.
Unlike the case with Mallory, Bland and Sarsour, who continued leading the group for years after their anti-Zionism and support for hatemonger Louis Farrakhan—head of the Nation of Islam—was revealed, Billoo was quickly shown the door by the organization. Within days after her offensive tweets were first brought to the attention of the public, she was voted off the board.
That seemed like progress and, like the earlier announcement of changes in the group’s leadership, appeared to promise that the organization had learned its lesson about anti-Semitism and that perhaps it—and the movement it spearheads—finally understood the growing danger from anti-Semitism on the left.
If so, that would be a boost not only for the March, but to liberals who were discouraged by the way a group that had become the primary address for anti-Trump activism had become entangled with hate. Yet the problem with the Women’s March goes deeper than Billoo—or even Bland, Mallory and Sarsour.
The trouble with Billoo should have been clear even before her tweets were publicized. She served as executive director of the San Francisco chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), a group founded in this country as a front for the Hamas terror group. CAIR may now masquerade as a civil-rights group for Muslim Americans, though it continues to be an apologist for anti-Israel terrorism and an opponent of efforts to root out Islamist extremism. It’s worth asking why anyone would be surprised that a leader of CAIR would be guilty of Jew-hatred and a believer in conspiracy theories? Her vile opinions could not have been a secret to her colleagues. Under the circumstances, one can almost sympathize with her anger about her ouster (which she expressed in a Twitter thread in which vented more Jew-hatred and paranoia). Had her Twitter account not been scrutinized, she would still be associated with the Women’s March.
Nor was she the only new board member with questionable associations. Samia Assad, another member of the new board, is a Palestinian American who serves as board chair of the Albuquerque Peace and Justice Center. That group has supported events connected with the anti-Israel BDS movement. In particular, it has collaborated with Jewish Voice for Peace in promoting the “Deadly Exchange” campaign that aims to stop training programs for police and other first responders in Israel. Its purpose is to allege that Israel—and its American supporters who have championed such exchange programs—is responsible for the shooting deaths of African-Americans at the hands of U.S. police. That is a modern blood libel that is drenched in lies about Israel and traditional anti-Semitic myths. Yet no prominent liberals are calling for her dismissal, even as they praise the March for voting out Billoo.
The issue here is not faulty vetting. Such choices are inevitable for a group whose organizing principle is support for intersectional myths that link the Palestinian war to destroy the Jewish state to the struggle for civil rights in the United States. Their collective mindset is one that regards “apartheid state” lies and BDS efforts to discriminate against Jews and Israel as normative discourse, not hate-inspired canards that should be confined to the fever swamps of the far-left.
Many, if not most, of those who flocked to Women’s March protests because they believed it to be an expression of mainstream criticisms of Trump no doubt reject such views. But those who did so were merely playing the role of “useful idiots” who are always exploited by radicals. That the March was led for so long by fans of Farrakhan and by those who consider women who are Zionists to be inauthentic females is not an accident or a mistake that can be corrected.
Those who wish to maintain a distinction between criticisms of the president and support for the anti-Semitic left should continue to boycott the Women’s March and everyone associated with it, no matter what superficial changes it makes.
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of JNS—Jewish News Syndicate. Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.
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