Saturday, October 27th, 2018 is a day that will forever be etched in tragedy. For the Jewish people. For Pittsburgh. For America. 11 lives were taken in an act of violence and hate. These 11 people were partaking in a baby naming ceremony in the Tree of Life Synagogue during the Sabbath, until a man who “just wanted to kill Jews” entered the synagogue and opened fire on the congregation, taking 11 innocent souls, forever inflicting pain and suffering on a community.
In the days following the shooting, I constantly read my newsfeed, seeing what others had to say and how they were handling their grief. There were those who took to love: photos of Jews and non-Jews alike gathered at vigils, mourning the victims. There were those who took to anger: opinionated posts of those who felt the need to politicize the massacre, and commentators arguing over its cause.
But one post caught my eye – a video that could only be described as deception: anti-Semitism wrapped in a neat bow. The video featured Linda Sarsour, Palestinian activist and one of the leaders of the Women’s March, speaking at a vigil the night after the massacre in front of the White House. A crowd was gathered around her with perked ears, clinging to every word as she spewed lines about how we should all “resist hate and choose unrelenting love every single time,” and how “unity is not uniformity… we don’t have to agree on the same political issues.”
My stomach dropped for the second time since I first heard about the shooting. Choosing love every single time? We don’t have to agree on the same issues? This is coming from the same woman who is quoted minimizing anti-Semitism, saying it’s not systemic, even though anti-Semitism made up 54% of religious hate crimes in 2016.
Sarsour is also the same woman who is a close friend and supporter of Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan, a well-known anti-Semite, who recently made the anti-Semitic comparison of Jews to termites. She failed to condemn Farrakhan’s words. These words don’t sound like unrelenting love to me.
In regards to Sarsour’s preaching about how we don’t have to agree on the same political issues, one can’t help but label her as an indisputable hypocrite. In 2017, Sarsour claimed that Zionists cannot be feminists as part of her platform on which the Women’s March is based. Sarsour’s words alienate those who support Israel from wanting to partake in a protest that deals with a completely different political issue, causing some Zionist feminists to feel forced to “sacrifice” their Zionism for the sake of feminism. What ever happened to unity, Linda?
I could continue describing more examples of the way Sarsour and her followers seem to forget her anti-Semitic past. I could mention how, at the Jewish Voice for Peace conference in Chicago in 2017, Sarsour felt “honored” to be speaking with Rasmea Odeh, a convict in Israel who murdered two Jewish students at Hebrew University in a 1969 terror attack.
I could also recall the time Sarsour called Zionism, the belief that Jews have the right to self-determination and should live in their ancestral homeland, “creepy.” Because when there is a rise in anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic attacks in the United States (not to mention Europe), it’s “creepy” to want to live safely in the only Jewish nation in the world.
I could go on, but I won’t. Because this a time when Jews and non-Jews must cast our differences aside and come together in genuine mourning and prayer and healing. Sarsour may use words of “unrelenting love” now when it’s most convenient for her and her following, but to a pro-Israel Jew, that only adds more salt to the wound when our community is already hurting. Linda Sarsour doesn’t speak for me.