Intersectionality is supposed to be inclusive. It is supposed to link disparate struggles and experience of oppression. The place of intersection is meant to be a site of resistance and solidarity, a nexus of common cause. Unfortunately, there is one group that hasn’t quite intersected: Jews. Jewish concerns have been shunted aside, anti-Semitic behavior has been ignored and a strident anti-Zionism has been welcome. The result is that the intersectional left is an “unsafe space” for Jews.
An event on campus this week, the “Mutuality Lecture,” highlights this problem. Linda Sarsour, one of the featured speakers for the Mutuality Lecture, is on record as labeling anti-Semitism as “different than anti-black racism or Islamophobia because it is not systematic,” a strange way to describe the world’s oldest hatred. She has likewise weaponized intersectionality to claim that feminism is incompatible with Zionism. Jews are the only group that is asked to choose between their right to self-determination and its commitment to women’s rights. As James Loeffler recently put it, “Jews are welcome to fight for human rights — as long as they check their Zionism at the door.” If nothing else, the urgency of injustice should preclude such discriminatory demands that a tiny minority coat-check its aspiration to political rights.
Sarsour has a well-documented history of intolerance when it comes to the Jewish State that is perhaps only matched by her misogyny towards women whose politics she disagrees with. “Nothing is creepier than Zionism,” she opined in 2012; imagine if a similar claim had been made about the political aspirations of another group. Her obscene vitriol towards Ayaan Hirsi Ali, too vulgar to even print in this newspaper, is conveniently effaced. Sarsour’s habit of supporting convicted killers across multiple countries seems to be the one kind of diversity she truly embraces.
The evidence is overwhelming; Linda Sarsour is a purveyor of toxic and divisive rhetoric. Her elevation to the front lines of the Women’s Movement and the #Resistance speaks to the most radical and yes, bigoted elements in those coalitions. Her inclusion on a panel on anti-Semitism at the New School was a helpful clarification of the border between tragedy and farce. On would not know any of this, however from the promotional materials for this event. Curious minds might enquire, how could the dean of humanities and sciences, the vice president for the arts, the vice provost for undergraduate education and many other campus groups and organizations fund and sponsor someone whose most egregious comments are Googleable in an instant? The answer can be found in two distinct dogmatic positions that explain why intersectionality has gone so awry.
The first doctrine of intersectional faith is the belief that Jews are not central to intersectional concern. In fact, attacks against Jews in 2017s urged, and in 2016 anti-Semitic hate crimes accounted for a majority of those reported against all groups. Attacks on Jews on campus increased by 89 percent between 2016-2017. As a tiny minority who has enjoyed great success and yet remains vulnerable to hostility on both the right and left, Jews confuse the static categories of “oppressors” and “victims” that define the intersectional sensibility.
The same confusion that marks the left’s attitudes towards individual Jews defines its hostility towards the Jewish State. In fact, antipathy towards Israel is a defining feature of the intersectional left. Predictably, this often spills over into outright anti-Semitism, but more commonly it requires lockstep opposition to any support for Israel’s basic interests or legitimacy. Thus, Woman’s March leader Tamika Mallory is a stalwart defender of bigoted preacher Louis Farrakhan, and none other than Linda Sarsour has called for noted civil rights organization Anti-Defamation League to be banned from working with Starbucks on anti-diversity training because of its engagement with Israel, of which it is often critical.
The premise of “mutuality” is that what is good for the goose is good for the gander and that respect and solidarity are good for everyone. Welcoming Linda Sarsour makes a mockery of that principle. Instead, it reaffirms that some are more intersectionally favored than others, and that mutuality is a one-way street where not all are welcome.
Ari Hoffman J.D. ‘19