Linda Sarsour
Linda Sarsour Reuters

A private research university in New York City held a panel discussion on anti-Semitism Tuesday, featuring five far-left activists, including anti-Zionist, Sharia advocate Linda Sarsour.

The event, titled “Antisemitism and the Struggle for Justice”, was hosted by the New School on its Manhattan campus.

While the panel was ostensibly charged with discussing the rise of anti-Semitism and plans to combat it, the discussion often focused on criticism of Israel, the American Jewish community, and the Trump administration.

After the five panelists were announced earlier this month, organizers drew criticism for the selection of marginal, far-left figures, some of whom have themselves been accused of anti-Semitism.

The panel included Leo Ferguson, from the Jews for Racial & Economic Justice group; Rebecca Vilkomerson, chair of the radical anti-Israel Jewish Voice for Peace organization; JVP activist Lina Morales; Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman; and co-chair of the 2017 Women’s March, Linda Sarsour.

The 37-year-old Brooklyn-born activist had been criticized in the past for having compared Zionist Jews to neo-Nazis, praising Arab stone-throwing terrorists who target Israeli Jews, and musing that female critics of Islam should be sexually mutilated.

In April, Sarsour shared a stage with convicted murderer Rasmea Odeh, lauding the PFLP terrorist who murdered two Israelis before illegally immigrating to the US.

ADL National Director Jonathan Greenblatt blasted the choice of panelists, accusing them of “fomenting” anti-Semitism “rather than fighting it”.

“Having Linda Sarsour & head of JVP leading a panel on #antisemitism is like Oscar Meyer leading a panel on vegetarianism. These panelists know the issue, but unfortunately, from perspective of fomenting it rather than fighting it.”

“Seriously there’s not a single Jewish organization that studies this issue and/or fights this disease would take this panel seriously, let alone the institution that put it together. It’s a sad day for the @theNewSchool.”

During Tuesday’s event, panelists repeatedly emphasized the importance of “intersectionality” – the notion popular among many on the progressive left that various forms bigotry and bias, real or imagined, are inter-related or intersect.

“Anti-Semitism is one branch on a larger tree of racism,” said Sarsour. “You can’t just address one branch, you gotta address all the branches together so that we can get to the root of the problem.”

Yet the discussion rarely highlight specific forms of anti-Semitism facing Jews around the world, either from terrorists in Europe and Israel, or from groups on the far left and right in the US. Instead, at times the panelists veered into biting criticism of the American Jewish community, Israel, and the Trump administration.

In her opening statement, Wilkomerson ripped the “institutional Jewish community” for the alleged demonization of those engaged in delegitimizing Israel, while, as she claimed, turning a blind eye to “actual anti-Semitism”.

“Jewish institutions and individuals right now are supporting and encouraging the demonization of peaceful forms of resistance to Israel’s human rights abuses. The institutional Jewish community has thus abdicated their crucial responsibility to fight against actual anti-Semitism. They’ve traded it for support for Israel.”

Later, Sarsour addressed the controversy regarding her selection for the panel which had to some extend overshadowed the event itself.

“Apparently, I’m the biggest problem for the Jewish community. I am like the existential threat, apparently. I am confused, literally, every day. I’m confused by people who actually don’t know who I am, never sat at a table with me, and for sure have never been anywhere near a social justice movement in these United States of America.”

Sarsour used her opening statement to declare her unabashed support for the anti-Israel BDS movement.

“Just in case it’s not clear, I am unapologetically Palestinian-American and will always be unapologetically Palestinian-American. I am also unapologetically Muslim-American. And guess what? I am also a very staunch supporter of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions [BDS] movement.”

“What other way am I supposed to be, as a Palestinian-American? What other positions do people expect me to have as a Palestinian-American who’s a daughter of immigrants who lived under military occupation and still has family in Palestine who live under military occupation? I should be expected to have the views that I hold.”

While Sarsour has a long record of hostility towards Israel and Zionism, she also noted her own ‘criticism’ of the US, called President Trump “the existential threat”, and blamed “the Jewish media” for tarnishing her reputation.

“I’m not only a critic of the State of Israel, I’m sure damn well a critic of the United States of America and I always have been, even under the Obama administration.”

“The existential threat resides in the White House, in the highest offices of this land. And if what you’re reading all day long, morning and night, in the Jewish media is that Linda Sarsour and Minister Farrakhan are the existential threat to the Jewish community, something really bad is gonna happen and we’re gonna miss the mark on it.”

“I am not looking for any approval from Zionists, right-wing Zionists, from Jewish Americans, from not Jewish Americans – I don’t need anybody to invite me to the movement to dismantle anti-Semitism.”