Women’s March cuts ties with another board member following ‘Islamophobic smear campaign’

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Zahra Billoo has been voted off the Women’s March national board. The move comes less than a week after three founding members rotated off the board following years of false allegations of anti-semitism.

Early on the morning of September 19, Billoo posted a long Twitter thread explaining the board’s decision. “The past 48 hours have been a spiral of bad news and smear efforts,” she wrote, “Part of the smear campaign is motivated by opponents of the Women’s March, because the organization has traditionally challenged the status quo of power and white supremacy in our country. However, much of the campaign is driven by people who oppose me and my work challenging the occupation of Palestine, our country’s perpetuation of unjust and endless wars, and law enforcement operations targeting the American Muslim community.”

Earlier this week it was announced that Linda Sarsour, Tamika Mallory, and Bob Bland would be stepping down as board members to focus on other projects. Sarsour has been falsely accused of anti-semitism by pro-Israel organizations for years over a number of alleged transgressions, including her support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and her assertion that Zionism is incompatible with feminism. Mallory had been criticized for allegedly supporting the Nation of Islam and praising its anti-semitic Louis Farrakhan. In 2018, she attended a Farrakhan event where he declared that he had “pulled the cover off of the eyes of the Satanic Jew.”

After the exodus of the three members, the organization appointed Zahra Billoo, the Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, to the board. The decision was immediately met with right-wing condemnation. Jon Levine of the New York Post posted a long Twitter thread that included many past Billoo tweets that were critical of Israel. “I’m more afraid of racist Zionists who support Apartheid Israel than of the mentally ill young people the #FBI recruits to join ISIS,” she wrote in 2015. “doesn’t see any difference between American youth leaving the country to join ISIS or the IDF. Both are murderous, war crime committing, terrorist entities,” reads another.

In her aforementioned Twitter thread, Billoo wrote:

This isn’t about a lost seat, there will be many seats. The Women’s March, Inc. has drawn a line in the sand, one that will exclude many with my lived experiences and critiques. It has effectively said, we will work on some women’s rights at the expense of others…To be clear, anti-Semitism is indeed a growing and dangerous problem in our country, as is anti-Blackness, anti-immigrant sentiment, Islamophobia, ableism, sexism, and so much more…I condemn any form of bigotry unequivocally, but I also refuse to be silent as allegations of bigotry are weaponized against the most marginalized people, those who find sanctuary and hope in the articulation of truth…In looking at the tweets in question, I acknowledge that I wrote passionately. While I may have phrased some of my content differently today, I stand by my words…I told the truth as my community and I have lived it, through the FBI’s targeting of my community, as I supported families who have lost loved ones because of US military actions, and as I learned from the horrific experiences of Palestinian life…In attempting to heal and build in an expedited manner within Women’s March, Inc., I offered to meet with stakeholders to address their concerns, and to work with my sisters on the new board to learn, heal, and build together…these efforts were rejected. And in rejecting these efforts, the new Women’s March, Inc. board demonstrated that it lacks the courage to demonstrate allyship in the face of fire.

At the time of this piece being published, Women’s March had yet to release a statement on the ouster of Billoo.

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Identity politics is a losing game for the left. The Women’s March is all about identity politics. The women mentioned above are all about identity politics, even when they identity is black, Palestinian, or Islamic. Sometimes IP opposes IP; that doesn’t make IP any less flawed and fundamentally neoliberal. We need to move beyond this aimless, confusing nonsense.

Many of those who seek the liberation of Palestine encounter negativity, in part, due to problematic tactics that have been tolerated.

Generally, gaining the goodwill of others comes with high expectations.

Well, if one thinks about it, what was the point in firing Sarsour et al just to bring on Billoo. If it was all about the ‘Benjamin’s’ it didn’t make sense. An AIPEC conspiracy? Doubtful. There are going to be two womens movements soon. That is my prediction. There is no putting this omelette back in the shell. Honestly, it might be better after the split. It’s not like American women are any more unified… Read more »

“While I may have phrased some of my content differently today…”

That is the mistake.

@Annie Robbins

Yes I read it. I linked to it in the article.