Activist Linda Sarsour addresses attendees at a vigil for Nabra Hassanen, a 17 year old teenage Muslim girl killed by a bat-wielding motorist near a Virginia mosque, Manhattan, New York, U.S., June 20, 2017..
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMR ALFIKY)
Linda Sarsour defended the legality of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel during her speech on stage in Washington at the third Women’s March. Her critique of anti-BDS laws came hours after rejecting the antisemitic statements of Louis Farrakhan.
Sarsour, a leader of the Women’s March movement, called herself “a proud Palestinian-American woman” and said that “there are no perfect leaders” in her remarks on Saturday. She said that “the media can talk about any controversy they want” – a reference to claims of antisemitism among the movement’s leadership – “but the real controversy is in the White House.”
“We will protect our constitutional right to boycott, divestment and sanctions in this country,” Sarsour also said, a reference to pending legislation in the Senate to allow state and local governments to refuse the services of companies that boycott Israel.
Prior to attending the march, Sarsour told CNN’s New Day Weekend that the march rejects antisemitic and homophobic statements by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.
“We unequivocally have rejected the comments made by Minister Farrakhan on LGBTQ communities and on Jewish communities. We have said multiple times on our statements at womensmarch.com, we unequivocally denounce transphobia and ask people to ask us directly and to read our statements and understand we have been doing this work before there was a Women’s March,” she said. “And our track records are very clear: That we have stood up for all communities. We are the first people on the front lines when there is a fight for justice in this country.”
She noted her meeting earlier in the week with 13 rabbis from New York, in which nine of them endorsed her as well as the march. “What that proves is that we have been doing the work. We have been learning and evolving as a movement and people have to understand that we are trying to create a big tent of women of all religious backgrounds, people of color – people of different sexual orientations, even people across different ideologies,” Sarsour said.
“We are a polarized nation so we went to the rabbis. We had a meeting and talked about issues of pain and trauma and historical trauma and trauma of black people in America. Muslims, refugees. So we will continue those conversations,” Sarsour said.
For the third year in a row, the main Women’s March was held in Washington DC and hundreds of sister marches were held across the country. According to reports, there were fewer participants than in previous years, in part due to the accusations of antisemitism against the leadership of the March.
On Saturday, three of the speakers on the main stage were Jewish women, who were named last week to steer the committee: transgender rights activist Abby Stein; former Union for Reform Judaism staffer April Baskin; and Jewish diversity activist Yavilah McCoy.
Marches not affiliated with the national march also were held on Saturday in cities throughout the country.