Sarsour sparks controversy with Winnipeg engagement

Linda Sarsour (Wikimedia Commons photo)

Despite calls from members of the community for the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg to publicly take a stand against Linda Sarsour’s upcoming appearance in the city, the Federation has chosen to try quiet diplomacy instead.

It hopes to persuade the organizers of the upcoming Sorry Not Sorry: Unapologetically Working for Social Justice panel to disinvite Sarsour, who co-founded the Women’s March and is a prominent critic of Israel.

In a statement, Federation CEO Elaine Goldstine said, “Regarding Linda Sarsour’s upcoming appearance, we met with representatives of Social Planning Council of Winnipeg (SPCW) and the Canadian Muslim Women’s Institute (CMWI). We brought forth the concerns of the Jewish community, detailed the many reasons why Linda Sarsour should not be allowed to be given a platform in our community and emphasized her unrepentant anti-Semitism.”

Sarsour is a Palestinian-American who was born and raised in New York and has garnered an international profile in the last few years with her anti-Israel and anti-Semitic broadsides. She has publicly defended such noted anti-Semites as Rev. Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam movement, and newly elected Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who has a noteworthy record of making anti-Semitic remarks.

Sarsour continues to play a role in the Women’s March movement, which, according to an article in Tablet magazine last fall, is riddled with anti-Semitism, a tone set by Sarsour and other leaders.


Marty York, B’nai Brith’s chief media relations and communications officer, further points out that Sarsour rejects the legitimacy of Zionism and has stated that Zionist women should be excluded from feminist movements. She has also promoted age-old anti-Semitic tropes, such as accusing American Jews of dual loyalties and U.S. politicians of being more loyal to Israel than to their own country.

She has also been quoted as saying that “Jews condone violence against Arabs and are cool with mosques being attacked,” and “That nothing is creepier than Zionism.”

The panel discussion, which is scheduled for April 26, also includes educator and poet Tasha Spillet and Nora Loreto, a left-wing writer, activist and organizer. It was originally scheduled to be held at the new Seven Oaks Performing Arts Centre at Garden City Collegiate in northwest Winnipeg. However, the Seven Oaks School Division pulled the plug on the venue after school trustees and the division’s superintendent, Brian O’Leary, were made aware of Sarsour’s history by concerned community members.

“When we booked the panel discussion, we only knew that the Social Planning Council is funded by the United Way,” said O’Leary. “This panel discussion was neither sponsored nor embraced by the Seven Oaks School Division.”

In a press release, the SPCW describes Sarsour as “an award-winning racial justice and civil rights activist, community organizer and every Islamophobe’s worst nightmare.”

“We think Ms. Sarsour will contribute to the conversation, which is about how to make the necessary societal and systemic changes needed to create a truly just society,” noted Kate Kehler, the SPCW’s executive director, in a press release. “She has been involved and led organizing efforts on a multitude of issues and has been recognized by the Obama White House as a ‘champion of change.’ ”

York responded by saying that, “It is incumbent upon the SPCW and CMWI to follow their own values of creating communities that are just and equitable and swiftly rescind their invitation to Sarsour. Equity means that members of all identity groups could attend without being harassed or targeted. That includes Jews.”