By KAY MATTHEWS
The Northern New Mexico Women’s March will take place on Saturday, January 19 from 11 to 2 pm. Folks will gather on the east side of the Capitol/Roundhouse and march down Old Santa Fe Trail to the Santa Fe Plaza where there will be presentations and speakers. This year’s march is largely indigenous centered, organized by NewMexicoWomen.org and Three Sisters Collective, with FemmeCees Patricia Trujillo and Christina Castro. Tewa Women United, Somos un Pueblo Unido, Sixth World, Planned Parent Hood, Stephanie Garcia Richard, and NM Immigrant Law Center are all part of the program, along with many others.
Unfortunately, all is not so well at the national level. The tired argument that criticism of the Israeli government or advocacy of the BDS (boycott, divest, sanction) movement against Israeli oppression of the Palestinians is anti-Semitic has reared its ugly head in the National Women’s March, billed as the Women’s Wave. Fractious debates in both Washington D.C. and New York have called for the resignation of the original four co-chairs and the withdrawal of organizations of the main march in D.C. Two separate marches in New York City reflect this false equivalency.
A January 15 article in Mondoweiss, a journal of News & Opinion About Palestine, Israel & the United States, provides some history and context to the controversy. Here are some excerpts:
“Since the march came to prominence as the largest single-day demonstration in American history following Trump’s inauguration in 2017, Zionist groups have been attacking the organization based around highly publicized allegations that the organizers are anti-Semites, primarily over ties between Tamika Mallory and Linda Sarsour [two of the four co-chairs] to Louis Farrakhan.
However, the Women’s March has vocally disavowed Farrakhan’s statement about Jews, LGBT people, and women, and has issued repeated statements condemning anti-Semitism as one of many forms of unjustifiable oppression. Mallory has continued to stand by her stance that she applauds what Farrakhan as done in the black community but is opposed to his anti-Semitism, most recently on The View on Monday. Also yesterday, the Women’s March added three Jewish women to its steering committee.
Farrakhan has made undeniably bigoted statements about Jews and others throughout his tenure as leader of the Nation of Islam, a radical black quasi-religious organization that fuses black nationalism, mythology about African-American community figures, and some Islamic traditions. His organization has a strong presence among black grassroots organizing, making it virtually impossible for anyone involved in black community work to avoid rubbing shoulders with him or his supporters. Indeed, in 2005, President Obama was pictured meeting with Mr. Farrakhan during an event organized by the Congressional Black Caucus. The associations are not limited to critics of Israel; Charles Rangel, one of the longest-standing incumbent politicians in the House of Representatives, was a staunch supporter of Israel during his tenure — and a decades-old associate of Farrakhan.”
As a result of this controversy, a new group called WoMen4All has been established to set up an alternative network of “sister marches” that promote Zionism. According to the Mondoweiss article, “WoMen4All’s leadership includes a blatantly anti-Muslim individual and its website supports organizations that allege Islam is an inherently dangerous and intolerant religion alongside right-wing pro-Israel lobbying groups. It claims that the movement to boycott Israel until Palestinian rights are respected is anti-Semitic and by extension that the Women’s March is anti-Semitic because Sarsour and others have condemned Zionism . . . .”
I went to the WoMen4All website to take a look and found this statement: “WMFA’s members are progressive Democrats. We will not be silent with Zionism under siege on the far left and far right. We endorse Democratic candidates who stand against #AntiSemitism #BDS and #AntiZionism. We offer this popular definition from CAMERA on CAMPUS as a reminder: Zionism is here to stay!” Camera on Campus is an organization that provides assistance to students to publicly defend Israel against hostility and distortions on campus.
So two years after the largest march in D.C. history to oppose the election of Trump we’re still contending with the power of the “all but Palestine liberals” to derail progressive movements and disparage progressive activists, whatever their missteps or learning curves may be. CNN fired black professor and activist Marc Lamont Hill for defending Palestinian freedom “from the river to the sea.” The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute gave Angela Davis the Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award and then took it back when a local Jewish organization objected to her support for boycotting Israel (the Institute ultimately apologized after being chastised by Birmingham’s black mayor). But the tide is turning, and the American public, like the Birmingham mayor, is fighting back against a hypocritical Jewish lobby that cannot claim to be progressive when demonstrating against Trump while supporting Zionist Israel.