(September 19, 2019 / JNS) Amid an outcry over anti-Semitic and anti-Israel tweets made by Zahra Billoo, the Women’s March reportedly voted to drop her from the board of the women’s rights group just days after her appointment.
Billoo was among 17 new board members appointed to the Women’s March after three of its founding and most controversial board members—Linda Sarsour, Tamika Mallory and Bob Bland—resigned in July after accusations of anti-Semitism.
“While Ms. Billoo should never have been appointed, we applaud the Women’s March, Inc. leadership for voting to remove her. After years of waffling and empty statements in response to the Jewish community’s attempts to communicate our pain and alienation, this swift, decisive action is welcomed,” the Zioness Movement said in a statement.
While the Women’s March has not yet released a statement on the decision to drop Billoo, she took the Twitter on Thursday morning in more than two-dozen tweets claiming to be the subject of an “an Islamophobic smear campaign led by the usual antagonists, who have long targeted me, my colleagues, and anyone else who dares speak out in support of Palestinian human rights and the right to self-determination.”
Since this is going to be in your newsfeeds in the morning – here’s a thread about me being voted off the board of @WomensMarch tonight 1/
— Zahra Billoo (@ZahraBilloo) September 19, 2019
The controversy over Billoo comes as the Women’s March attempts to distance itself from accusations of anti-Semitism among its founders that threatened to derail the movement’s mission to advocate for human rights and women’s issues in the wake of President Donald Trump’s election in 2016.
Sarsour, Mallory and Bland, along with co-chair Carmen Perez, remained at the center of controversy for failing to condemn and promote anti-Semitism in the movement. Mallory also has ties to—and has refused to disavow—anti-Semitic rhetoric long reverberating from Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.
A single, civil-rights lawyer who serves as executive director of the San Francisco Bay Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Billoo has over the years made numerous anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic comments. She has accused Israel of committing “war crimes and terrorism as a hobby,” being a racist state and “a settler colonial nation engaged in ongoing apartheid.”
According to Canary Mission, Billoo—also a supporter of Farrakhan, the BDS movement and Students for Justice in Palestine—has defended terror financiers and Iran terror proxies Hamas and Hezbollah. She equated the Israel Defense Forces with ISIS and Nazi Germany, and among her demonization of American Jewish institutions compared the Anti-Defamation League to Hamas.
Prior to the announcement that the Women’s March board removed Billoo, several Jewish and pro-Israel groups and leaders expressed outrage over her selection.
Nisi Jacobs, founder and CEO of WoMen Fight AntiSemitism, called Billoo “worse than Sarsour and Mallory.”
She told JNS that “this is a slap in the face. It’s worse than doing nothing. You have a window of opportunity—three years of Jewish women raising our voices to be included, heard and treated better—and after three years, we’re slapped in the face yet again when the sting had already started to cool.”
Jacobs said “it degrades the brand even more that it took them three years to find someone more anti-Semitic and more vehemently anti-Zionist, and ignorant of the history of Israel and obsessed with Israel, even though she is supposedly focused on women’s rights. It seems to me that the organization has learned nothing.”
Rolene Marks, executive for Public Diplomacy and Hasbarah at the Women’s International Zionist Organization, told JNS that WIZO was “greatly concerned” about Billoo joining the Women’s March.
“It is our hope that the Women’s March would have learned from the controversy and hurt caused by three of its former members with regards to Jews and Israel. In a climate of rising anti-Semitism and where many Jewish women feel marginalized for identifying as Zionists, it is incumbent on the Women’s March to rectify the situation,” she said. “I think they need to figure out a way to reconcile that they have replaced three anti-Semites with another one, and they need to figure out how to fix this, whether it be replacing her, or publicly admonishing her for her comments and taking a stand against them.”
Sarah Levin, executive director of the group Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa, told JNS that the Women’s March has “lost so much credibility” that Billoo’s appointment “comes as no surprise,” considering her anti-Semitic history. “The Women’s March group seems to be a hollow shell that’s used not for the advancement of women’s rights, but for the elevation of specific activist platforms and agendas that sadly promulgate anti-Semitism and divisiveness among diverse Jewish communities.”
StandWithUs CEO Roz Rothstein told JNS, “Sadly, it’s clear that the organization has failed to learn from past mistakes. Instead of reforming itself, the march traded one anti-Israel and anti-Semitic leader for another. Everyone loses when a movement working towards positive change is hijacked by those who spread hate. Women’s March Inc. should do better.”
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