The Women’s March has cut ties with three founding board members — Linda Sarsour, Tamika Mallory and Mari Lynn “Bob” Bland — whose reputations have been tainted with claims of anti-Semitism.
A press release announces the departure of the three board members and the appointment of 17 new members. It does not mention claims of anti-Semitism against Sarsour, Mallory and Bland.
“Founding Women’s March Board Members Tamika Mallory, Bob Bland, and Linda Sarsour will transition off of the Women’s March Board and onto other projects focused on advocacy within their respective organizations,” the press release states.
Sarsour, an ardent Palestinian nationalist, drew controversy through her connections with Nation of Islam minister Louis Farrakhan, who once called Jews “Satanic.” In addition, Mallory attended and received a shout-out at the 2018 event at which Farrakhan called Jewish people “Satanic,” claimed they control the American and Mexican governments and are encouraging Black men to use marijuana to feminize them.
After the controversy, Mallory stood by Farrakhan, and Sarsour and Bland defended her.
Farrakhan is listed under the Southern Poverty Law Center as an extremist who has spewed a number of slurs against Jewish people, once tweeting, “I’m not an anti-Semite. I’m anti-Termite,” hearkening back to Holocaust-era rhetoric claiming Jews must be exterminated.
Bland even tweeted to turn opposers’ arguments against them, saying holding two women accountable for a man’s words is misogynistic.
These women have also made anti-Semitic comments of their own. A 2018 Daily Beast article references a Tablet magazine piece that reported that Mallory and Women’s March leader Carmen Perez told the group’s founders that “Jewish people bore a special collective responsibility as exploiters of black and brown people.”
Last year some top staffers and supporters cut ties with the Women’s March based on the trio’s backing of Farrakhan. In March 2018, Alyssa Klein, who served as the organization’s social-media director, left, and tweeted about her problems with loyalty that does not question power.
“Especially if it means turning a blind eye to the hate spoken about a group of people,” she said.
Strangely, Sen. Bernie Sanders, who would be the first Jewish president if he were elected, recently named Sarsour as an official surrogate to his campaign. She has long ignited controversy for her staunch opposition to Israel’s existence. She openly supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement, which calls for various forms of boycott against Israel. Many have argued BDS is inherently anti-Semitic.
An article by Forward, a Jewish advocacy publication, claimed many of the new Women’s March board appointees are also anti-Semitic. For example, new member Zahra Billoo, an attorney and the executive director of the San Francisco chapter of the Council of American-Islamic relations, has also expressed her complete opposition to Israel.
It is important to note an opposition to Israel’s political and military practices in the midst of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not inherently anti-Semitic. According the Human Rights Watch, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were killed in the hands of the Israeli military as of last year. News regarding both sides’ ideologies is fraught with propaganda.
However, as comments by these former Women’s March leaders and Farrakhan prove, anti-Semitic rhetoric can often go hand-in-hand with political criticism of Israeli occupation.
The Women’s March tweeted Sept. 16, denying that Mallory, Bland and Sarsour left due to the claims of anti-Semitism.
“Despite reports saying otherwise, our outgoing board members have simply served out their terms and are moving on to new ventures,” the tweet says. “We are more unified than ever and thank them for their groundbreaking work and sacrifice.”