The Women’s March, held annually in Washington D.C., promotes itself as a unity movement between people of all faiths, ethnicities, races and genders. However, this mission statement becomes a problem when one of its leaders is outwardly anti-Semitic.
One company that has been involved with the Women’s March is Ben & Jerry’s. Founded by Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, the ice cream brand has supported liberal and progressive causes since its inception, including aid for asylum seekers and the legalization of same-sex marriage, among other issues. However, Ben & Jerry’s are actively betraying their progressive values by promoting the Women’s March and Linda Sarsour—Women’s March board member—whose anti-Semitic past, present and future should not be overlooked.
As an avid BDS supporter, Sarsour has openly spoken negatively about Zionism, tweeting in 2012 that “Nothing is creepier than Zionism.” More recently—in September—Sarsour declared that American Muslims shouldn’t dare “humanize” Israelis. She has even gone so far as to claim that one cannot be a Zionist and a Feminist at the same time, a claim that seems to contradict the openness of the message behind the Women’s March. However, one of the biggest criticisms against Sarsour is her open admiration for Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, whose anti-Semitic remarks include the statement that he is “not an anti-Semite,” but rather an “an anti-termite,” as well as his supposed characterization of Judaism as a “gutter religion.”
Recently, Ben & Jerry’s has released a new flavor called Pecan Resist, which “[celebrates] the activists who are continuing to resist oppression, harmful environmental practices and injustice.” The ice cream company is donating $25,000 to four organizations, including Sarsour’s Women’s March. Despite all the aforementioned controversies, Ben & Jerry’s recently defended their partnership with the March in a statement: “We’re comfortable with the idea that the people and the causes we partner with may have a point of view different from our own on some issues. They can be controversial, just as we can.” Being anti-Semitic, however, is not merely “controversial.” It is incompatible with any forward-thinking cause. As a company with progressive values, Ben & Jerry’s should cut all ties with the Women’s March.
Jewish or not, those of us who ignore these acts of hatred are fueling a dangerous fire. Anti-Semitism is specifically about demonizing, double standards and delegitimization, as defined by the U.S. state department’s definition of anti-Semitism. Given her illustration of Jews as an anathema, it’s rather hypocritical of Sarsour to claim that, “You either stand up for the rights of all women, including Palestinians, or none,” especially with her continued support of the dehumanization of the Jewish people. Although today’s hyper-polarized political climate has created a blanket for such radical beliefs to enter mainstream discourse, it is unjust to have such a blatantly controversial figure represent something so objectively humane as a Women’s March. Similarly, Ben & Jerry’s endorsement of the Women’s March, and therefore of Sarsour, is illogical, as it is wholly unnecessary for an ice-cream company to go out of their way to endorse an anti-Semite.
In today’s culture, Sarsour has been granted the status of a cultural icon, as she is widely viewed as the leader of today’s Progressive movement. Like Ben & Jerry’s, Sarsour and the Women’s March proclaim themselves to be tolerant, progressive and open-minded. However, there is nothing tolerant about telling Jewish women they are not feminists. There is nothing progressive about refusing to explicitly condemn Louis Farrakhan. There is nothing open-minded about delegitimizing the State of Israel and dehumanizing its citizens. Sarsour is clearly unfit to lead a movement that claims to be open to people of all walks of life, and Ben & Jerry’s—as a socially responsible corporation—should not take a role in providing her with an even greater platform.
This article was written by StandWithUs Northeast High School Interns:
Sam Burg, Natick High School, MA
Danielle Mimeles, Northern Valley Regional HS at Old Tappan, NJ
Kirill Sokol, Brooklyn Technical HS, NY
Eyal Yakoby, Princeton Day School, NJ
Maria Ntourlia, StandWithUs Northeast High School Coordinator