Don’t you just hate it when the word “hate” is tossed around to hide hatred?
The Washington Post’s “A Muslim activist, fearless in the face of hate” (April 5 print edition) epitomized this double-speak. The word “hate” appears half-a-dozen times, including in the headline, in Ausma Zehanat Khan’s review of Linda Sarsour’s We Are Not Here to be Bystanders; A Memoir of Love and Resistance. It does so always as a diversion.
Sarsour is the photogenic Palestinian American co-organizer of the 2017 Women’s March, a campaign surrogate for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in this year’s Democratic Party presidential primaries, supporter of sharia (Islamic law) and consistent anti-Zionist and antisemite. Evidence of her less-than-flattering attributes went missing in Khan’s apologia, prominently played in The Post’s “Book World” pages.
Khan apparently believes and would have readers believe what Sarsour asserts about herself. This is that the memoirist fearlessly confronts “Islamophobes” and “the xenophobic far right.” “Hate groups” are said to “besiege” Sarsour because she is a “woman of color,” one “daring unapologetically to occupy a platform as a Muslim woman” and “for being an outspoken advocate of Palestinian human rights.”
Translation from Khan’s leftist clichés: Criticism of anything Sarsour says or does must be illegitimate since it can only come from groups who hate non-white women, Muslims and Palestinian Arabs.
Khan evasively says “Sarsour was an organizer and a board member of the Women’s March until she stepped down in 2019, along with Bob Bland [Mari Lynn Foulger] and Tamika Mallory, over tensions with others on the board. The three had been accused of antisemitism, charges they denied.”
Tensions? Denials? Specifics, please.
Bland, Sarsour and Mallory have defended Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan, perhaps the United States’ leading antisemite. Online magazine Tablet’s exposed the antisemitism among Women’s March leaders that pushed out Jewish co-organizers (“Is the Women’s March Melting Down?” by Leah McSweeney and Jacob Siegel, Dec. 10, 2018). Khan’s review also erases criticism of Sarsour et. al.’s March management, including handling of book-keeping, contract awarding and merchandizing.
Khan hides hostile statements about Jews and the Jewish state. One of Glamour magazine’s 2017 women of the year, celebrity activist Sarsour claimed “nothing is creepier than Zionism”—the Jewish national liberation movement that led to Israel’s founding.
And for Sarsour, Judaism itself is creepy. On the campaign trail for Sanders last November, she urged the annual conference of American Muslims for Palestine to “ask them [progressive supporters of Israel] this, ‘How can you be against white supremacy in America and the idea of being in a state based on race and class, but then you support a state like Israel that is based on supremacy, that is built on the idea that Jews are supreme to everyone else?’”
Sarsour inverted the Jewish concept of “chosen people” —a concept of message, into messenger—and tars it with Nazi-like racism, Marxist class exploitation, and Ku Klux Klan-like attitudes. Criticized, she offered a semi-apology.
Somehow, Palestinian Arabs, who claimed a national identity above clan and village and apart from “greater Syria” only in the 20th century, are entitled to one. But Jews, rooted historically and religiously in the land of Israel for more than 3,000 years, are not. Maybe nothing is creepier than Sarsour’s Palestinian supremacism.
The reviewer missed the fact that Sarsour “outspoken advocacy of Palestinian human rights” rarely if ever whispers about actual suppression of those rights. By Hamas—a U.S.-designated terrorist movement—in the Gaza Strip and the thuggish, corrupt Fatah in the West Bank, and by Syria, Lebanon and other Arab countries.
Khan’s heroine worship allows no journalistic scrutiny. But Sarsour’s “woman of color” status is a flag of convenience. In a Vox video the same month as the first Women’s March, Sarsour acknowledged that “when I wasn’t wearing hijab [a head-scarf covering a woman’s hair in compliance with Islamic law or custom] I was just some ordinary white girl from New York City. Wearing hijab made you know that I was a Muslim.”
In other words, clothes make the woman when ideology misaligns religion, race and gender to be able, Animal Farm-style, to make some more equal than others. In progressive terms, privileged.
Khan echoes Sarsour’s transparent attempt to insulate herself against charges of Jew-hatred by citing backers such as Sen. Sanders and Jewish Voice for Peace. Sanders’ voting record on U.S.-Israel issues is perhaps the worst in the U.S. Senate. He has parroted false allegations that the Israeli military has inflicted disproportionately high casualties on Palestinian civilians. He rarely mentioned his Jewishness before seeking the presidency.
As for Jewish Voice for Peace, Khan unknowingly hit the bull’s-eye. The Anti-Defamation League says JVP in effect perpetuates classic anti-Jewish stereotypes. Its “ongoing insistence that virtually all criticism of Israel cannot be antisemitic gives cover to antisemites who couch their malice toward Jews as mere anti-Zionism.” Bingo!
Khan writes that Sarsour’s “consciousness of Palestinians as a dispossessed, colonized people … is key to her rise as an activist and to the hate she has endured.” The myth of Palestinian Arab dispossession and colonization by imperialist, racist Zionists was long a staple of Soviet and Arab League propaganda.
Exposed by Arieh Avneri in The Claim of Dispossession, Jewish Land Settlement and the Arabs, 1878 – 1948 (1980 in Hebrew, 1982 in English) and Joan Peters’ best-selling From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict Over Palestine (1984), the myth, as the “Palestinian narrative,” survived Soviet collapse and Arab League irrelevance. Now embedded in much of academia and news media, it falsifies history by inversion. In fact, Arab migration into Jewish-developed areas and recurrent Arab anti-Jewish violence spurred British authorities to block Jews from Mandatory Palestine—envisioned as the restored Jewish national homeland—before and during the Holocaust.
Khan is author of a series of crime novels, lawyer and former editor-in-chief of Muslim Girl magazine. What she is not, judging by this review, is a reliable literary critic. Just as The Washington Post is not a reliable source when it comes to antisemitism and anti-Zionism.