October 20, 2019

ADL, Jewish Groups Condemn New Women’s March Board Member

People cheer during the Women's March rally in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. January 21, 2018. REUTERS/Steve Marcus

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and other Jewish groups condemned the Women’s March for bringing on a new board member “who has a long history of deeply offensive and anti-Semitic statements.”

The Women’s March announced on Sept. 16 that co-chairs Linda Sarsour, Tamika Mallory and Bob Bland stepped down from their positions on July 15. They also provided a list of 16 new board members, including Zahra Billoo, executive director for the Council on American Islamic Relations-San Francisco Bay Area (CAIR-SFBA).

Billoo repeatedly and unapologetically has said that she views Zionism – the belief in Jewish nationhood –  as racism,” the ADL said in a Sept. 17 statement. “She has equated Israel to that of an apartheid regime, and clearly rejects the very idea of a Jewish state, calling for a Palestine from the river to the sea.’ She has lifted up statements that defend the terror organization Hamas’ intentional targeting of rockets to murder Israeli Jewish civilians, and has done so under the guise of someone working for peace. And in 2010, Billoo retweeted a highly offensive tweet that there is ‘no need for a holocaust museum, seeing as Israel has taken it upon itself to recreate it. #Israel #Nazis.’”

The ADL statement also noted that Billoo “has said that Zionism has no place in the LGBTQ+ community and antiracist movements; thereby, excluding the overwhelming majority of the American Jewish community.” 

The statement concluded that Billoo’s statements on Israel have gone beyond “fair criticism” and into anti-Semitism. “Outright rejecting Jewish nationhood and singling out solely the Jewish state with inflammatory and virulent rhetoric is anti-Semitic, plain and simple,” the ADL said. “We call on its leadership to condemn the statements and sentiments of Billoo.”

Other prior statements from Billoo include comparing Israel to ISIS and calling Israel “a terror state.”

Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center Rabbi Abraham Cooper said in a statement to the Journal, “Person equating [Israel Defense Force] defenders of 9 million citizens of democratic Israel to mass murdering, beheading, and mass raping of women and girls – ISIS –has no moral compass, and shouldn’t be in [a] leadership position of any human or civil rights group.”

The Zioness Movement said in a Sept. 16 Facebook post that Billoo “has repeatedly slandered Jewish organizations and attacked Muslim Americans who fight for women’s rights alongside Zionists, claiming they are ‘faithwashing.’ Billoo’s numerous and unqualified attacks on Zionists leave no room in this coalition for American Jews, 95% of whom support Israel’s right to exist and consider Zionism an inherent part of our identities, alongside our commitment to progressive politics. No American Jew should be asked to check their full identities at the door in order to engage in progressive spaces.”

They added, “It is truly astonishing––and wildly disappointing––that the organization’s effort to hit the reset button would so badly miss the mark. Perhaps this wasn’t a reset after all, but rather a reaffirmation that their inclusivity has boundaries, their commitment to intersectionality has limits, and they’re willing to tolerate anti-Jewish bigotry?”

The Progressive Zionists of California (PZC) similarly said in a statement to the Journal that they were “disappointed” with the new board.

Like many others, we were elated to see that Linda Sarsour and other toxic members of the board had served their term and were not selected to serve another,” PZC said. “There was an opportunity to truly engage America’s Jewish community, and appears that yet again, such good will was squandered. However, this leaves PZC more committed than ever to reaching out to the many communities of the diaspora: from disaffected Ashkenazi Jews to Mizrahi and FSU Jews who are routinely excluded from communal conversations, to everyone in between to educate about Israel, progressive Zionism, and progressive American politics.”

The Women’s March, Billoo and CAIR-SFBA did not respond to the Journal’s requests for comment.