ZOA to Sen. Gillibrand: Cancel Bigoted CUNY Commencement Speaker Sarsour
News Press Release
April 26, 2017

April 25, 2017


The Honorable Kirsten Gillibrand

478 Russell Senate Office Building

Washington, DC  20510


Dear Senator Gillibrand:

We deeply appreciate that you have spoken out against anti-Israel bias.  That is why we were so surprised – and horrified – to see that you posted a photo of the extremist anti-Israel bigot, Linda Sarsour, on social media, praising her as one of “the four exceptional organizers” of last January’s Women’s March on Washington.  Please take down the photo, explain why you are doing so, and publicly condemn Sarsour for her bigoted and divisive views.  We also urge you to call on CUNY’s School of Public Health & Health Policy to rescind Sarsour’s invitation to be the school’s commencement speaker. 

Sarsour openly supports the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, which demonizes, isolates and ultimately seeks to destroy the Jewish state, as its leaders openly admit.  She opposes the right of the Jewish State of Israel to exist, and has made hateful and vile statements about Jewish nationalism – tweeting that “nothing is creepier than Zionism” – and Jewish leaders, tweeting that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Netanyahu is a waste of a human being.”

Touting, praising and honoring Sarsour legitimizes, mainstreams, and gives credibility to anti-Semitism and radical Islamic terrorism.

Sarsour supports violence against Jews in Israel.  She posted a photo of a young child walking toward Israeli soldiers, holding rocks in both hands, and praised it as “the definition of courage.”  When she faced understandable public outcry from New York City Council Member Rory Lancman among others, Sarsour tweeted, “The Zionist trolls are out to play. Bring it.”  Sarsour also tweeted her support for the intifada – the term for the Palestinian Arab terror war against Jews in Israel – describing it as “invaluable on many fronts.” 

When Governor Andrew Cuomo signed Executive Order No. 157 condemning BDS, he said, “New York State stands firmly with Israel.”  As a U.S. Senator representing New York State, you should also be standing with Israel, our strongest ally, and opposing Israel’s haters, not embracing and praising them.  You should be as repulsed as we are by Sarsour’s contempt for the right of Jewish self-determination and for the Jewish State’s very existence.

As a feminist, you should be equally sickened by Linda Sarsour’s selective views about feminism, because they are nothing less than bigoted:  Sarsour has absurdly and hatefully claimed that if you are a Zionist, then you cannot be a feminist.  That is false.  There is absolutely no conflict between Zionism and feminism.

Sarsour has even gone so far as to condemn and demean one of the most courageous and outstanding feminists in the world, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who has spoken out against the role that Islam plays in tolerating the abuse of women.  Ayaan Hirsi Ali knows about these abuses first-hand.  Once a devout Muslim, she has publicly criticized Islam for legitimizing abhorrent practices such as genital mutilation, and she has faced death threats for her advocacy.  Instead of respecting this brave defender of girls’ and women’s rights around the world, Sarsour tried to delegitimize her for speaking out against radical Islam, disgustingly tweeting that Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s “vagina should be taken away,” and that she does not “deserve” to be a woman.   

Sarsour is an extremist whose values are not American values.  She expressed regret after U.S. forces captured Iraqi dictator and mass murderer Saddam Hussein, saying “my Arab pride was hurt.”  When she recently shared a podium with Rasmea Odeh – who had been convicted of murdering two college students in a 1969 supermarket bombing in Israel and who is being deported for concealing her terrorist crime on her U.S. immigration forms – Sarsour said she was “honored and privileged to be here in this space, and honored to be on this stage with Rasmea.” 

Sarsour claims to care about bigotry – but she minimizes the problem when the bigotry is expressed against Jews, saying that anti-Semitism “can’t exactly compare . . . to anti-black racism or Islamophobia.”  She also showed shocking insensitivity and ignorance to the suffering of black slaves in the U.S. when she tweeted, “The sacrifice [that] the black Muslim slaves went through in this country is nothing compared to Islamaphobia [sic] today.”

Touting, praising and honoring Sarsour legitimizes, mainstreams, and gives credibility to anti-Semitism and radical Islamic terrorism.  Please take down her photo and explain why, condemn her bigoted and divisive views, and urge CUNY to withdraw her invitation to be a commencement speaker. 


Morton A. Klein, President, Zionist Organization of America

Susan Tuchman, Esq., Center for Law and Justice, Zionist Organization of America


cc:  The Honorable Charles E. Schumer

       Stephen M. Greenberg, Esq., Chairman, Conference of Presidents of Major American 

         Jewish Organizations

         Malcolm I. Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman, Conference of Presidents of Major

         American Jewish Organizations

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