We’ve come a long way as women. We’ve fought endlessly for our rights. We’re strong, we’re capable, and we deserve to showcase that.
Calling ourselves feminists and activists means understanding that we have no right to discriminate against other minorities.
Intersectionality is a beautiful concept; it screams, “I am hurt, so I will help others who are hurt as well.”
However, when intersectionality turns into a game of picking and choosing who we want to defend — and when it turns into a platform to discriminate against other minorities — it turns from beautiful to disgraceful. When antisemitism and anti-Zionism become a part of the “progressive feminist” narrative, an immense problem arises.
Feminism and Zionism were born through the need of a group of people to challenge the status quo — a group of people who fought the power that patronized them, degraded them, and treated them as the “other.” Feminism and Zionism sought recognition and pride as women and lovers of Israel, respectively.
These two entities seek to create autonomy amongst their communities, where they can be themselves and act according to their values. Feminism and Zionism are liberation movements; they are revolutions.
The main founders of the national Women’s March — Linda Sarsour, Bob Bland, and Tamika Mallory — received multiple accusations of antisemitism and anti-Zionism. Sarsour, a public advocate for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which delegitimizes Israel’s existence, favors a one-state solution and has tweeted “nothing is creepier than Zionism.”
According to The Jerusalem Post, Sarsour told a large group of Muslims that her “movement had no room for Jews who don’t share her anti-Israel values,” while discussing BDS. Such a statement evoked a feeling of rejection among progressive Zionists who want to embrace causes such as tolerance and feminism, while maintaining their love of Israel.
Due to the accusations of antisemitism and anti-Zionism, Sarsour, Mallory, and Bland were forced out of the Women’s March. Despite this, they had originally been replaced by an individual with toxic views on Israel and Zionism: the lawyer and activist Zahra Billoo.
Billoo tweeted in June 2012, “Apartheid Israel kills children as a hobby.” Additionally, she made clear comparisons between ISIS and the IDF, saying, “Who has killed, tortured, and imprisoned more people: Apartheid Israel or ISIS?”
“When antisemitism and anti-Zionism become a part of the ‘progressive feminist’ narrative, an immense problem arises.”
As a progressive feminist, but also a die-hard Zionist, this kind of rhetoric tells me I have no place in the movement according to people like Billoo and Sarsour. Because of the love that I hold for a specific country, I cannot stand up among everyone else and proclaim to the world that “I am a woman, and I am proud.”
Women have spearheaded the Zionist movement since its birth. The fourth prime minister of Israel was Golda Meir, and she was present at the signing of Israel’s Declaration of Independence. Today, women comprise almost 27% of the Knesset, and this number is only increasing. Feminism is at the root of the establishment of the State of Israel, and it is an utter shame that the rest of the world seems to disassociate the two.
Billoo has been removed from the Women’s March because of her antisemitic remarks, and hope increases as we see improvements for the better in the March and in progressive feminism as a whole. Unfortunately, there are still many members of this organization who are anti-Zionist: Charlene Carruthers and Samia Assad, both board members, have spoken out against Israel.
Carruthers tweeted that BDS can be used to stop the “Israeli regime.” Assad retweeted a video stating that “Israel = worse than the devil.”
Feminism is an authentic cause, one that aims to showcase the strength and voices of women. And anyone attempting to tarnish this movement does not deserve to be a part of it.
When we only allow certain women to fight the battle for the feminist movement, we are silencing others and disguising this as change. We must defend others, but not at the risk of infecting the movement’s original ideals.
This positive change will only come when the vulgar values of anti-Zionism and antisemitism are recognized as a problem; when others notice that these remarks and beliefs have absolutely no place in a movement dedicated to the courage, power, and virtue of women. And once that happens, Zionism and feminism will be able to operate as one.
Originally published in The Algemeiner.
Contributed by 2019-2020 John Jay College of Criminal Justice CAMERA Fellow Sarah Saide.