Pittsburgh Synagogue Massacre Sadly Exposes Linda Sarsour’s Opportunism
Expressions of grief, shock, and solidarity came from all corners as a horrified nation learned about a Jew-hating gunman’s attack on a historic Pittsburgh synagogue.
Eleven Jews were killed because they were Jews, gathered for Shabbat services at the Tree of Life synagogue. Four Pittsburgh law enforcement officers were wounded as they raced toward the gunfire and prevented the tragedy from becoming even greater.
But one person’s statements of grief and solidarity stand out, largely because it contrasts a long record of sowing enmity and antisemitism. During a vigil on Sunday outside the White House, Linda Sarsour, microphone in hand, spoke of love and solidarity with American Jews.
“I hope that you commit and you join me and my sisters and brothers who are here today, to resist hate and choose unrelenting love every single time,” she said.
Her organization, MPower Change, issued a similar statement in Sarsour’s name, expressing “solidarity with our Jewish family, especially the community in Pittsburgh, after today’s horrific shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue. In the face of overwhelming hate, we choose unrelenting love and unity. We recommit ourselves to dismantling antisemitism and all forms of racism.”
How nice. If she is sincere, however, Sarsour would do well to revisit the years of hatred she has expressed against Israel, the Jewish state, which is a vital safeguard for Jews threatened by antisemitism around the globe. And she won’t have to look back very far.
Just last month, Sarsour spoke at the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA)’s national convention. She called herself an “unapologetic, pro-BDS, one-state solution supporting resistance supporter.”
By definition then, Sarsour’s ultimate ambition is a world with no Jewish state. BDS has been blasted as antisemitic, including by the Berlin State Office for the Protection of the Constitution, because it seeks to isolate Israel and many BDS leaders advocate Israel’s elimination. And a one-state solution would flood Israel demographically, stripping it of its Jewish majority.
At the same convention, Sarsour blamed the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) — the most prominent Jewish advocacy group in America — for the deaths of unarmed black people at the hands of police. Why? Because the ADL runs a program that takes high-ranking police officials to Israel, where they learn about fighting terrorism and other threats. To Sarsour, that means American police officers must “come back here and do what? Stop and frisk, killing unarmed black people across the country.”
You can listen to the whole clip for yourself.
Sarsour also argued at the ISNA convention that Muslims should not defend or “actually try to humanize the oppressor,” which was a reference to Israel.
Sarsour knows that she is seen as an antisemite. She made a video last year that seemed cynically devised to shut down those concerns. But in trying to condemn Jew-hatred, Sarsour couldn’t help but minimize its severity, saying, “It’s different than anti-Black racism or Islamophobia because it’s not systemic.”
During a discussion at New York’s New School a year ago, she blamed “Jewish media” for giving her a bad reputation.
Sarsour famously tweeted, “Nothing is creepier than Zionism,” and rejected offers of solidarity from pro-Israel Jews that are similar to what she claims to offer after the Pittsburgh massacre. Those aren’t views limited to criticism of specific Israeli policies, but a wholesale rejection of a Jewish homeland.
There are about 14.5 million Jews in the world, nearly half — 6.5 million — of whom live in Israel. Another estimated 5.7 million live here in the United States, France, Canada, and the United Kingdom. For the sake of argument, say only half of those Jews living outside Israel consider themselves Zionists (though the available data indicates the figure is much higher).
But that means that nearly 10 million of the world’s 14.5 million Jews are Zionists. Sarsour, by her own words, is hostile toward about 70 percent of world Jewry. But she’s no antisemite?
Was the slaughter at the Tree of Life synagogue a turning point for Sarsour? It’s a valid question, considering her embrace of Rasmieh Odeh, a woman who was convicted in the 1969 bombing of a Jerusalem grocery store that killed two Israeli students. Odeh’s friend acknowledged her central role in the bombing plot — on camera — and Israeli investigators found similar explosives in Odeh’s bedroom.
Still, Sarsour said that she was “honored and privileged” to be in Odeh’s presence last year — just before Odeh was deported for naturalization fraud.
And all of this doesn’t even address Sarsour’s inability to condemn Hamas or acknowledge that its obsession with destroying Israel makes life for Palestinians in Gaza worse every day.
Sarsour spoke with emotion on Sunday. Her voice cracked at times, and if you didn’t know her, you’d think she was offering a sincere, heartfelt expression of grief, love, and support. The problem is that we do know Sarsour. And we know that our skepticism is more than justified.
Steven Emerson is considered one of the leading authorities on Islamic extremist networks, financing, and operations. He serves as the Executive Director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, a non-profit organization that serves one of the world’s largest storehouses of archival data and intelligence on Islamic and Middle Eastern terrorist groups.