Justin Feldman
From the Jewish Grassroots

Taking Down Anti-Semites & Getting Things Done

Co-presidents of the 2019 Women's March, Linda Sarsour, left, and Tamika Mallory, center, marching with Jewish Women of Color during the Washington DC Women's March on January 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Zahra Billoo; Linda Sarsour, Bob Bland, Tamika Mallory (Women's March)

A Review of Social Justice & Anti-Semitism

Just over the past two nights, Twitter witnessed the quick rise and fall of a newly serving Women’s March National Board member. 2019-2021 Board member Zahra Billoo, a “civil rights attorney and executive director” of the SF Bay area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), was exposed for her history of anti-Semitic statements and voted off the new Women’s March leadership. Pre-emptively, Billoo sought to cover her own faults and ‘set the story straight’ by revealing the news in a tirade against the movement via tweet around 12:00am PST.

The sudden event came not long after the release of the resignations of a few of the movement’s original co-founders Linda Sarsour, Tamika Mallory, and Bob Bland on accusations of anti-Semitic rhetoric and affiliations, when fresh members of the new 2019-2021 Women’s March leadership came under vigilant scrutiny for suspected similar behavior.

Tireless work by watchdogs, progressive Zionist activists, such as Zioness, and countless Jewish organizations to bring awareness to any hateful words on social media by the WM’s newly chosen members, led to the controversy that emerged last night.  It is crucial to point out that these organizations have proudly defended the inclusivity of Jewish representation in social justice movements, which has been smeared over the past several years, showing the importance of holding all individuals aspiring change to the same moral standard.

As a staunch progressive Jewish Zionist myself that has expressed deep disappointment and concern over the Women’s March reputation on anti-Semitism, I found it necessary to highlight the significance of rooting out hatred in widely embraced progressive causes, taking down anti-Semites, and getting things done. Here are some key reflections to point out from this incident to utilize for the future: 

When non-Jews ask us specifically why we fight so fiercely against Jew-haters like Zahra Billoo, we fight so fiercely frankly because it’s much easier today to unseat a white person who’s anti-Semitic from a social justice organization or legislature than it is to unseat a fellow marginalized minority who insidiously masks their anti-Jewish bigotry under their “human rights” and underprivileged “identity-based” discourse.

Likewise, when President Donald Trump tweets racist attacks or fake news against these anti-Semites of color on the basis of their immutable identities — the wrong reason — it makes it much more challenging for the public to hold them accountable and pursue their official removal for the right reason of anti-Semitism.

Taking down anti-Semites and getting things done ultimately means applying the same standard for everyone who obstructs the progress of justice movements and equitable governance. Only when we are able to skillfully address hateful rhetoric from all political aisles, liberal or conservative alike, and zone into the right steps of correction can we neutralize the threat of normalizing extremes. 

One of many tweets indicating Billoo’s incapacity for leadership, interfaith dialogue, and for demonstrating basic humane treatment.
Another tweet by Billoo, indicating ridiculously clear anti-Semitic affinities.

Despite that we can assume that Zahra Billoo’s anti-Semitic tweets were carelessly overlooked in her candidacy for a seat at the Women’s March table, it has always been incumbent upon the Women’s March leadership, as an aspiring moral platform taking charge of the future of this country, to choose their board with strong moral discretion. And beyond Billoo’s removal, we can observe that the movement still has much more to face, correct, and repair, namely the removal of board members Samia Assed and Carmen Perez for their anti-Semitic statements and affiliations, as well as a formal and procedural response to the systemic permeation of anti-Semitism in the organization.

Seeing that we have our handful of today’s Jew-hating politicians, civilians, and influentials of color continually growing — and we can’t hide from the fact of it — it is vital that we empower the humane majority of folks to directly participate in progressive conversations on what climate reform, healthcare reform, criminal justice reform, and so much more looks like without expending Jewish and other minority voices as a false pretense to elevate everyone else. People of color (and liberal voters) are projected to be the majority population of the United States in just a few decades from now. It’s critical that we join collectively, even more, in advancing our common cause and ensuring that rhetoric that is anti-Semitic, anti-black, anti-immigrant, anti-feminist, anti-Zionist, transphobic, and so forth is not granted mainstream legitimacy.

With deep commitment and vocalization, the Jewish community, among even-handed activists and allies, saw this week that taking down anti-Semites and getting things done is possible. Now it’s just a matter of dismantling this continuous phenomenon through institutional change.

About the Author
Justin Feldman (Yitzchak Eishsadeh) is a researcher, writer, and professional speaker. Formerly the National Activism Manager for the Israeli-American Council Mishelanu, a member of the Students Supporting Israel National Committee, and the youngest staff speaker in North America for StandWithUs, Justin has engaged thousands on Israeli history and advocacy strategy. Today, Justin has standardized and facilitated activism strategy guides for Zionist university students nationwide. In his spare time, Justin enjoys cooking, calligraphy, travel, and graphic design. He holds a B.A. in Political Science & Middle Eastern Studies from UCLA and is currently pursuing his M.A. in International Relations at NYU. You can follow Justin on Twitter @eishsadehy.
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