Women’s March finds new allies in Zionist feminist movement

Demonstrators flocked to the streets to participate in the second Women’s March.

January 21, 2018 20:41
3 minute read.
Women’s March finds new allies in Zionist feminist movement

Mila Kunis supports Scarlett Johansson as she speaks during the Women's March Los Angeles 2018 on January 20, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. . (photo credit: CHELSEA GUGLIELMINO / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP)


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A year after millions turned out to protest the inauguration of US President Donald Trump, demonstrators flocked to the streets to participate in the second Women’s March, marking an end to a tumultuous first year in office.

The coordinated rallies in Washington, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and about 250 other cities featured speakers who blasted Trump for policies that many said hurt women and urged voters to turn out for congressional elections in November.

“Your vote is the most powerful tool at your individual disposal,” actress Eva Longoria told the Los Angeles rally. “Everybody who has the privilege of voting must do so.”

The protests, however, have not come without controversy. One of the public faces of the organized demonstration is the march’s cofounder, Linda Sarsour, a “Brooklyn-born Palestinian-American-Muslim” and self-proclaimed “civil rights activist.”

Sarsour made waves before last year’s Women’s March by saying there was “nothing creepier” than the Jewish liberation movement.

She also insisted that Zionism and feminism were incompatible, telling The Nation magazine in March: “Is there room for people who support the State of Israel and do not criticize it in the movement? That can’t be in feminism.”

Sarsour’s comments appeared to have an effect on later demonstrations. One Jewish group was asked to leave the Dyke March rally last summer in Chicago for carrying a rainbow flag with a Star of David. The Slut Walk in August later banned “nationalist” symbols from their demonstration, but allowed religious markers inside the protest.

Soon after these events made headlines, Jewish-American women responded by organizing their own group within the larger framework of the growing equality movement.

“I believe this was... the catalyzing events that led to the forming of Zioness Movement,” the group’s Washington DC branch leader Ann Lewis told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday.

The Zioness Movement, organized in 2017, describes itself as a female Zionist organization devoted to social justice and progressive causes.

“Soon after the first Women’s March in 2017, which was an impressive, empowering experience, I became aware that Linda Sarsour was using her new visibility as one of the March co-chairs to issue some ugly, divisive statements,’ Lewis said.

“Sarsour has the right to express her opinion, although it is misleading that she does so while citing her Women’s March title. It is wrong and dangerous to imply that she speaks for the millions of women and men who came out for the Women’s March,” she added.

Lewis said the Zioness Movement, much like the wider Women’s March, also aims to help shepherd a growing cultural shift in America that is denouncing perpetrators of sexual violence and abuse while being dedicated to the “principles of Zionism and feminism.”

“Marching for Zioness enables us to participate fully, on behalf of all our values,” Lewis added.

This year’s Women’s March, however, showed there was still progress to be made in permitting groups and individuals fully to participate in the rallies.

A Palestinian women’s group pulled out of the Women’s March Los Angeles over the inclusion of Jewish actress Scarlett Johansson as a featured speaker.

Several other pro-Palestinian groups also boycotted the march on Saturday, one of dozens that took place across the United States to highlight women’s rights and progressive causes. The first march held last year took place in cities around the world the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

The Palestinian American Women’s Association cited in a post on Facebook Johansson’s “unapologetic support of illegal settlements in the West Bank, a human rights violation recognized by the international community whose calls only led to a reaffirmation of her position, sending a clear message that Palestinian voices and human rights for Palestinians do not matter.”

Johansson is a former spokeswoman for SodaStream, whose main plant was formerly located in the West Bank. The plant was moved to the Negev Desert in southern Israel in 2015, where it employs 1,400 employees, one-third of whom are Beduin. More than 70 of the West Bank Palestinians who worked for the company when it was located in Ma’aleh Adumim, also work at the new plant.

JTA contributed to this article.

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