Activist Sarsour says Israel built on idea of Jewish supremacy
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Activist Sarsour says Israel built on idea of Jewish supremacy

Palestinian-American activist says comment only refers to Israel’s Jewish nation-state law, dismisses criticism of her remarks as attempt to paint left as anti-Semitic

Linda Sarsour speaks at Mothers of the Resistance: Women Leading the Movement during the 2019 SXSW Conference and Festivals at JW Marriott in Austin, Texas, March 11, 2019. (Rita Quinn/Getty Images for SXSW via JTA)
Linda Sarsour speaks at Mothers of the Resistance: Women Leading the Movement during the 2019 SXSW Conference and Festivals at JW Marriott in Austin, Texas, March 11, 2019. (Rita Quinn/Getty Images for SXSW via JTA)

Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour sparked a storm of outrage over the weekend when she claimed over the weekend that Israel was built on supremacist foundations, and later clarified that her comments were only directed at Israel’s controversial nation-state law.

Speaking Friday at the annual conference of American Muslims for Palestine in Chicago, Sarsour criticized progressive Zionists.

“Ask them this, how can you be against white supremacy in America and the idea of being in a state based on race and class, but then you support a state like Israel that is based on supremacy, that is built on the idea that Jews are supreme to everyone else,” she said.

Sarsour, a frequent target of ire from the pro-Israel community, has been been campaigning on behalf of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who is Jewish. She is one of the original national organizers of the Women’s March, and often speaks out against Israel and its government.

In a series of tweets on Tuesday, Sarsour said her comments referred only to Israel’s nation-state law.

“I was specifically referring to the racist argument at the heart of the nation-state law recently passed by the Israeli government – not the Jewish people. I apologize for the confusion,” she wrote.

The controversial law, passed last year, asserts 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.”

In her tweets, Sarsour said that “We need to be consistent and challenge the State of Israel on its system based on valuing one people over another. We are against a supremacist state in America that values race/class over others & we need to be honest in how we speak about Israel.”

She also dismissed criticism against her comments as an “attempt to paint the Left in USA & UK as antisemitic to disrupt potential transformative campaigns & opportunities for true progress for our nations.”

Sarsour’s comments at the conference drew criticism on social media, including from Jonathan Greenblatt, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League.

“She slanders the founders of Israel as supremacists, invoking a centuries-old anti-Semitic trope when she describes them as having believed that Jews are ‘supreme to everybody else,’” Greenblatt wrote Tuesday, of Sarsour’s comments.

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