I am writing this letter to Stosh Cotler, Executive Director, of Bend the Arc, described on its website as: “A Jewish Partnership for Justice”. Bend the Arc does some great work and are to be admired. Yet I am perplexed and was thus compelled to write this letter below, which speaks for itself:
Dear Ms. Cotler,
I am writing this to you in my personal capacity, and not in the name of the various organizations I represent. I received your e-mail today that starts with these words:
I’m writing you today with tears in my eyes, but with more conviction than ever.
Over the past several weeks there’s been an escalation of threats of violence against Linda Sarsour, a prominent Muslim-American civil rights activist”…. “Linda has had to hire private security just to appear in public and keep her family safe, at great personal cost…. she’s been a leading voice in our shared interfaith work of building a more just society.
I have been a supporter of Bend the Arc – sharing the sentiments and quoting your leadership, including posting your press releases on my advocacy blog – (some https://oblogdeeoblogda.me/?s=muslim .) When I received your e-mail plea today to support Linda Sarsour I wondered if you had seen her new anti-LGBT tweet? Some may interpret this as anti-semitic and others may interpret it as anti-LGBT. It hurt me deeply both ways.
I know she has raised money for the destroyed Jewish cemetery – however I can only wonder now if that was a publicity stunt to mask her true sentiments.
I am an open lesbian and Jewish, born in South Africa, (a granddaughter of Pogrom refugees,) where I practiced as an attorney before immigrating to the United States. I support Israel’s right to exist and my prayer and hope has been for a two state solution where Jews and Palestinians can co-exist in peaceful harmony.
I now serve as a human rights advocate, focused on LGBTI issues in the USA and globally. I am the Executive Director of African Human Rights Coalition, where we serve Christian and Muslim LGBTI asylum seekers and refugees. We have fought voraciously against the Trump travel ban and the suspension of the U.S. refugee program, also having submitted an Amicus Brief in the Trump appeal case. We have provided direct advocacy to LGBTI refugees, helping several reach the USA despite Trump’s continued efforts to obstruct.
This week I saw this tweet that disturbed and hurt me greatly: When asked by a Jewish LGBT activist to stand with the LGBTQ community for Pride month – this was Linda Sarsour’s ONLY response:
“Selective memory. Remember the stabbing at the pride parade in Israel?”
And she attached the Haaretz article about the stabbings to the tweet. (screenshot herewith)
Hen Mazzig, the man who invited her to show support for LGBT in Pride Month said: “I was hoping that on Pride Month Sarsour will stand with the LGBTQ community and come out in support of us and against the oppression of the Palestinian authority/Hamas and other Arab regimes in the Middle East. She didn’t, she decided to attack the only country in the Middle East that offers lgbtq rights.”
Linda Sarsour must embrace this critical aspect that our intersectionality demands of someone with her voice, and without it can Bend the Arc still support her unconditionally in the manner you suggest in your e-mail?
I do not support death threats against anyone. I have had that awful experience myself. It is an insidious attack which threatens a person’s basic freedoms and rights as a human being. No one should live in fear of being killed for our beliefs and nor should we suffer such fear because of our human sexuality. In the same way as she is impacted by such, as indicated in your e-mail, surely she should speak out vehemently against the constant death threats suffered by LGBTI people around the world, to include those in the Middle East, more likely to receive these threats by virtue of extremism..
Every LGBTI Jew I know and every Jewish organization I know spoke out vehemently against the attack by that Jewish extremist at Jerusalem Pride. The man was caught and justice was served by the Israeli judicial system. The man received life in prison. These attacks by Jews are rare and when they happen we all speak out against them.
AHRC receives numerous calls for help from LGBT people in the Middle East, seeking to escape death threats from family and authority alike, and in every instance they have been of the Muslim faith, seeking to escape a country where such is more prevalent. These young people receive these death threats and some have been killed, just because they are LGBT. We have yet to receive such a plea for help from a Jew seeking to escape any country. That is just the hard honest truth. And even with this we do NOT believe that all Muslims threaten to kill their gay children. We still consider this an act of extremism which we cannot attribute to all of the Muslim faith. Why would Ms. Sarsour simply not stand with LGBT during Pride month? And why instead choose to tweet what can clearly be seen as a painful jab drenched in hypocrisy.
For Sarsour to invoke the stabbing of Israeli LGBT people at a pride rally, as her only (or as any) response to an LGBT activist calling for her voice, as if suggesting ALL Jews or Israelis attack gays, is as hypocritical as anyone can get. She is out there representing to the world that we must accept people of the Muslim faith, free of the warped idea that all Muslims are extremists, who terrorize and slaughter in the name of Islam! Yet she suggests that this one horrific incident by an extremist Jew who hurt gays – a rare event- is the reason she cannot come out against extremist Muslims who hurt gays – a frequent event?
I am asking you to reconsider fund raising for a body guard for Linda Sarsour. I would like to ask you if you would consider instead fund raising for safe shelter for the thousands of LGBTI Muslim individuals threatened with death every day. We would be happy to introduce you to our world of safe shelters. In promoting Sarsour you may also be perceived as promoting your own organization in a manner that hurts me and my global LGBTI community. I am writing this with tears in MY eyes and in absolute conviction!
With regards and in peace –