What’s Linda Sarsour’s angle? The American activist, who was a surrogate for Sen. Bernie Sanders during his presidential campaign and an organizer of the Women’s March that brought half a million people to Washington in January to protest Donald Trump, last week helped start a crowdfunding campaign to repair more than 100 gravestones that vandals toppled in a St. Louis Jewish cemetery.
Sarsour, a Palestinian-American activist, is also a vocal supporter of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement that seeks to delegitimize Israel in the international community. And she doesn’t merely want Israel to open up opportunity in Gaza and quit its presence in Judea and Samaria, otherwise known as the West Bank. Rather, she is a proponent of a single binational state for Israelis and Palestinians, which would end the Jewish character of the State of Israel.
So at the same time that she is supporting and promoting an economic boycott of Israel, Sarsour tweets that she is raising funds “in solidarity with our Jewish sisters and brothers.” We don’t need friends like that. Quite simply, Sarsour is too close to the adversaries of the Jewish state to be a trusted partner — or supporter — of American Jews. And we refuse to allow her to use her apparent act of charity domestically to whitewash her hostile acts against Israel.
That doesn’t mean that we reject the outpouring of support and money that has come in from well-meaning Muslim Americans over the past two weeks. In fact, we welcome it. Both of our communities have looked for ways to draw closer in times of domestic trouble and uncertainty. Just last month, after the Victoria Islamic Center in Victoria, Texas was destroyed by fire, a local synagogue offered the mosque space to continue to worship. So, to the extent that individual donors to Sarsour’s crowdfunding campaign — which raised $110,000 — were motivated by the same spirit of goodwill, we welcome their gesture with thanks.
But Sarsour is no ordinary Muslim or Palestinian-American. She is a public figure, an activist and lightning rod who is openly anti-Zionist. As such, her motivations must be looked at more carefully than the average person with an open heart who contributes $10 to a crowdfunding campaign. Just last year, she told a banquet of the Council on American-Islamic Relations that the Muslim community should give to marginalized groups so that they will be “the staunchest supporters and best defenders of Islam against Islamophobia.”
That’s all well and good, and it may actually be a worthwhile strategy. But with Sarsour, it’s hard to tell when her brand of Islam ends and the demonization of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state begins. We therefore view her actions with suspicion until her motives are made clear. And based upon what we know now, we have no choice but to tell her, “Thanks, but no thanks.”