Top Arab MK hails ‘inspiring’ boycott activist Linda Sarsour
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Top Arab MK hails ‘inspiring’ boycott activist Linda Sarsour

Ayman Odeh says the Palestinian-American, who indicated Zionism and feminism are incompatible, is a 'freedom fighter'

Linda Sarsour speaking onstage during the Women’s March on Washington in Washington, D.C, Jan. 21, 2017. (Theo Wargo/Getty Images)
Linda Sarsour speaking onstage during the Women’s March on Washington in Washington, D.C, Jan. 21, 2017. (Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

The top Arab Israeli lawmaker heaped praise Monday on a pro-Palestinian advocate of a boycott on Israel who recently appeared to suggest that Zionism and feminism were incompatible.

Ayman Odeh, the leader of the Joint (Arab) List faction, tweeted support for Linda Sarsour, calling her a “freedom fighter.”

“Linda Sarsour, the freedom fighter who fights for the rights of all people! You inspire us all in our struggles,” he wrote on his official account.

In an interview with The Nation last week, Sarsour — an organizer of the Women’s March in DC — indicated those who identify as Zionist cannot be feminist because they are ignoring the rights of Palestinian women.

“It just doesn’t make any sense for someone to say, ‘Is there room for people who support the state of Israel and do not criticize it in the movement?’ There can’t be in feminism. You either stand up for the rights of all women, including Palestinians, or none. There’s just no way around it,” Sarsour said.

She also said that Palestinian-American women in social justice movements cannot be as visible as other women because they are the target of unspecified attacks from “right-wing Zionists.”

“The fact of the matter is that there are hundreds of Palestinian women organizing, but not all of them are visible. And I’ll tell you why,” Sarsour said. “You’ve probably seen that any visible Palestinian-American woman who is at the forefront of any social-justice movement is an immediate target of the right wing and right-wing Zionists. They will go to any extreme to criminalize us and to engage in alternative facts, to sew together a narrative that does not exist.”

She was responding directly to criticism of the platform’s statement on Israel by Emily Shire, the politics editor of the women’s news site Bustle. Shire wrote about her dilemma as a Zionist feminist in a New York Times op-ed published March 7.

Ayman Odeh, the leader of the Joint (Arab) List, speaks during a vote on a bill that would allow suspension of Knesset members, March 28, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Ayman Odeh, the leader of the Joint (Arab) List, speaks during a vote on a bill that would allow suspension of Knesset members, March 28, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“I find it troubling that embracing such a view is considered an essential part of an event that is supposed to unite feminists,” Shire wrote. “I am happy to debate Middle East politics or listen to critiques of Israeli policies. But why should criticism of Israel be key to feminism in 2017?”

Shire also criticized the strike for the involvement of Rasmea Odeh, a Palestinian woman convicted and sentenced by an Israeli military court in 1970 to life in prison for her role in two bombing attacks, including one in 1969 that killed two Israelis. Odeh was among the eight authors of an op-ed in The Guardian announcing the movement. She confessed to planting the bomb, though in recent years has claimed that the confession was given under torture, which is disputed by Israeli officials.

“While the fairness of Ms. Odeh’s conviction is debated, the fact that she was a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which was categorized as a terrorist organization by the State Department, is not,” Shire wrote.

Sarsour was in the Jewish media spotlight last month for different reasons. Following the vandalism of a Jewish cemetery outside St. Louis, she and another Muslim activist, Tarek El-Messidi, organized a fundraiser for the repair of the burial site. They raised over $160,000, far exceeding their $20,000 goal.

She also condemned the omission of Jews from the White House’s Holocaust Remembrance Day statement in January as “absolutely outrageous” and “the definition of anti-Semitism.”

Sarsour has stirred controversy for her support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel. She has called herself “a critic of the State of Israel” and has dubbed Zionism “creepy.”

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