Editor’s Note: Collier Meyerson’s interview with Linda Sarsour about Zionism and feminism, published last week at TheNation.com, generated a number of thoughtful letters from readers, as well as a response from Emily Shire, whose New York Times op-ed on the subject prompted Meyerson’s interview. Selected letters, and Meyerson’s response, appear below; the first reply is Shire’s, a version of which she published at the Forward.
I recently wrote in The New York Times about my concerns, as a Zionist feminist, with the March 8 International Women’s Strike. Because the platform for the strike called for the “decolonization of Palestine” as part of “the beating heart of this new feminist movement” and one of its prominent organizers, Rasmea Odeh, is a convicted terrorist, I feared there was no room for a feminist like myself who believes Israel has a right to exist.
On March 13, The Nation published an interview by Collier Meyerson with Linda Sarsour, one of the leaders of the January 21 Women’s March. I respect the work Sarsour has done for the Women’s March, and I admire the way she has committed so much of her life to feminism. However, I was disappointed that Meyerson’s interview with Sarsour failed to address the actual concerns I presented in the Times.
Meyerson and Sarsour glossed over the fact that I wrote at the outset, “I hope for a two-state solution and am critical of certain Israeli government policies.” Ignoring that basic tenet of my perspective is a serious misrepresentation that seems all too convenient.
Incidentally, Sarsour appears to openly oppose the two-state solution—the very two-state solution championed by Bernie Sanders in February at J Street’s national conference, where he criticized Donald Trump for waffling on it. (Sarsour’s opposition to two states does not seem very progressive to me, but let’s put that aside.)
Sarsour then made an insinuation that was both presumptuous and inaccurate. She said, “It’s been a little surprising to the [right-wing Zionists] to see [Palestinian-American] women in leadership roles in social-justice movements because [they are realizing] it means that the Palestinian Liberation Movement and the Palestinian Solidarity Movement are gaining traction among young people and people of color in the United States.” Not only do I not identify as a “right-wing Zionist,” as noted above, but I certainly do not find the leadership of Palestinian women to be “surprising” or anything less than positive.
I sincerely hope women of all backgrounds take on feminist leadership roles. However, I draw a hard line at convicted terrorists, like Rasmea Odeh. Odeh was convicted for her role in a bombing that killed two Jewish college students at Hebrew University in a trial deemed fair by an observer from the International Red Cross. Though she disputes her conviction, Odeh has never denied being a member of a US and European Union-designated terrorist group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Tellingly, Meyerson and Sarsour conveniently do not address Odeh’s history, even though it formed a substantial part of my piece—so much so that the Times chose to feature her picture on the page.