NEW YORK - As hundreds of people gathered on Manhattan’s 42nd street on a rainy Thursday afternoon to protest Linda Sarsour’s upcoming speech at a City University of New York graduation, they were met with vocal opposition from the some of the activists’ supporters.
Sarsour, a Palestinian-American activist known for her anti-Israel rhetoric, is set to address the graduates of its School of Public Health at their commencement ceremony on June 1st.
Since her participation was announced, pro-Israel activists and politicians have lead efforts to pressure CUNY and state officials into rescinding her invitation. In an interview conducted in March, Sarsour said one cannot be part of the feminist movement unless he or she is critical of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. Last month, she also publicly supported a convicted Palestinian terrorist, Rasmea Odeh.
“I don’t think that she should be representing not only a city school, but a taxpayer funded school, with hate speech,” one of the anti-Sarsour protesters, Lisa Bloomstein told the Jerusalem Post.
Bloomstein, who chose to come to the protest despite the heavy rain, said she isn’t just protesting Sarsour for her stances on Israel.
“It’s a lot more than that,” she said. “As Jews, yes we don’t want to see someone calling for boycott and for denying the existence of the State of Israel, but more than that, as an American, I’m standing up for our democratic values and our civil liberties.”
“I think there’s gotta be many many other women and men who are muslim and could better represent our values rather than a woman like this,” Bloomstein added.
Parallel to the protest, on the other side of the same street, Linda Sarsour supporters held signs and shouted at the pro-Israel speakers, calling them “fascists”.
One of the organizations present on that side, Refuse Fascism, issued a statement saying the anti-Sarsour protest is “aimed at intimidating, silencing and even unleashing harm against those who have the courage to stand up and say no”.
Travis Morales, who defended Linda Sarsour, told the Jerusalem Post the Palestinian activist represents “a voice of conscience”
“She and any other person who is standing up against the crimes of the Trump-Pence regime must be defended,” he said. “We cannot allow them to silence and intimidate.”
“Linda Sarsour is not anti-Jewish, from my understanding, she is anti-Zionist,” Morales added. “One horrific crime against humanity [the Holocaust] does not justify another horrific crime against humanity, which is the genocide and expulsion of the Palestinian people from their historic homeland.”
Thursday’s rally which was held outside CUNY offices, drew much criticism mainly because it included the participations of controversial right-wing activists Pamela Geller and Milo Yiannopoulos, a Breitbart editor associated with the alt-right. Both spoke to the pro-Israel attendees, against Linda Sarsour.
Yiannopoulos begun his speech mentioning the terror attack which took place this week in Manchester in the UK.
“It’s now more important than ever to fight Islam in America and particularly its emissaries like Linda Sarsour,” he said.
NY Assemblyman Dov Hikind, who has been leading the efforts to cancel Sarsour’s CUNY speech over the past months, said he is proud to be standing at the rally, even alongside people like Yiannopoulos.
“Where is the establishment of Jewish organizations? They are quiet. If they were doing public rallies, I’d be at their rallies,” he told the Post. “People who are concerned about Milo, those same people give excuses to Linda Sarsour. So, double standard? Hey, what’s new?”