Former Women’s March leader and current Bernie Sanders campaign surrogate Linda Sarsour attempted to explain controversial comments she made at the 12th Annual Conference for Palestine, which took place in Chicago this past weekend. True to her noxious brand, the Palestinian-American activist compared Jewish self-determination to white supremacy in a full-throated speech that only a hateful artist of her caliber could manage.
“Ask them this: How can you be against white supremacy in the United States of America and the idea of living in a supremacist state based on race and class but then you support a state like Israel that is built on supremacy; that is built on the idea that Jews are supreme to everybody else?” Sarsour asked. She elaborated, “How do you then not support the caging of children at the U.S.-Mexican border, but then you support the detainment and the detention of Palestinian children in Palestine. How does that work, sisters and brothers?”
Sarsour later attempted to clarify her comments, alleging that her critique was directed towards the Israeli government for its recent passage of the Nation State Law, not towards the collective Jewish people. As Jewish Telegraph Agency explains, the relatively new legislation declares “that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, that national self-determination in the State of Israel is ‘unique to the Jewish people,’ and that Hebrew is the state’s language — while Arabic, previously an official language, is now designated as having ‘a special status in the state.’”
Given Sarsour invoked a common trope used by famous Ku Klux Klanner David Duke, which compares Zionism to white supremacy, Sarsour’s alleged “clarification” does little to quell concerns that she is not simply a raging antisemite. The abject reality of her current explanation is that it fails to comport with her earlier statement.
Furthermore, for someone supposedly well-versed in critiques of Israel, the conflation of Jews with the Israeli government should not occur with such discomfiting ease. Yet she used the word “built,” suggesting the very foundation of Israel is centered upon Jewish supremacy. Intentional or not, the anti-Zionist mask slipped, and what lies beneath is rather ugly.
A short history lesson may be in order for Sarsour (as the Democratic Majority tweeted earlier) in order to demonstrate that Israel’s core has never been about “Jewish supremacy.”
Jewish self-determination was never thought to be at the exclusion of Palestinian statehood. Nevertheless, anti-Zionists such as Sarsour peddle such a falsehood in the hopes that their audiences will remain ignorant of history.
But knowledge is the best disinfectant. UN Resolution 181, also known as the Partition Plan for Palestine, was well-received by Jews living in then-Mandatory Palestine in 1947. The plan called for the creation of a Jewish state and an Arab state, a nod to each creed’s desire for self-determination and a genuine attempt to honor the parallel, but separate societies that had cropped up in the region.
In a pattern of behavior that would continue to plague the Palestinian people for decades to come, Arab leaders rebuffed the plan, instead opting to launch a war of aggression against their neighbors in an attempt to ethnically cleanse the area of Jews. Thankfully, it was unsuccessful.
For the Palestinians, this rejectionism incurred consequences. Palestinian statehood never achieved maturation because Arab leaders have rejected the creation of Palestinian state west of the Jordan River upwards of six times. As I have stated in the past, it would be unjust and frankly absurd to then allege that this intransigence from Arab powers imposes on Israel an obligation to maintain the area as Judenrein as the Jordanians left it. It does not, but the soft bigotry of low expectations might compel one to think so.
It’s also probably worth offering a definition of Zionism for someone like Sarsour, who seems deeply misguided, borrowing her understanding from 1970s Soviet propagandists. As the Anti-Defamation League states, Zionism is “the national liberation movement of the Jewish people in the Jews’ historic homeland.” Even amidst the pursuit of self-determination and while facing existential threats from a host of neighbors, Israel offers minorities full protection of the law and proudly does so.
In the 1940s and 1950s, hundreds of thousands of Jews fled the murderous white supremacists of Nazi Germany, only to have Sarsour now allege the existence of such Jews and their grandchildren in their historic homeland is akin to white supremacy. Additionally, almost one million Jews were expelled from surrounding Arab countries, many fleeing to Israel as a safe haven from violent regimes. Would Sarsour say this, too, is a sign of “Jewish supremacy?”
For Sarsour, it is easier to blame “the Jews” than to offer any meaningful criticism of Palestinian leadership, which has effectively prioritized its own virulent and violent antisemitism over the interests of its own people. Between Hamas—the designated terrorist group running Gaza—and the Palestinian Authority—the leading political organ that spends 10 percent of its budget on funding terrorism—Sarsour has many figures from which to choose.
It’s genuinely bewildering why her blame always lies squarely with the Jews. Or maybe it’s not.