Linda Sarsour is inspirational. She is a Muslim woman struggling peacefully for human rights in the United States, where an anti-Muslim misogynist warmonger who advocates the use of torture and wants to fill Guantanamo with ‘bad dudes’ has just ascended to the Presidency.
In such deplorable conditions, speaking truth to power is an act of considerable moral courage, especially if the speaker is a Muslim woman.
That is precisely what Linda Sarsour did: she spoke truth to power at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., the day after the Bigot-in-Chief was inaugurated. And for this, she was immediately subjected to the most scurrilous attacks.
Exhibit 1: a venomous smear-job that appeared in The Daily Caller on January 21, the very day on which hundred of thousands rallied around the world to denounce The Donald and all that he represents.
Those of you who have never heard of The Daily Caller are not missing much. It was founded with much fanfare by right-wing talking head Tucker Carlson, but contrary to Carlson’s stated ambition, The Daily Caller has embraced rather than rejected the worst tendencies of the corporate media. As stated by Joel Meares in the Columbia Journalism Review:
[W]hen The Daily Caller has reached for the big scoop, the results have been less impressive. Headline-grabbing exclusives—mostly intercepted e-mails and tweets and attacks on media rivals—have exploded across the web before fizzling under scrutiny. Sexed-up headlines burned above stories too twisted or bland to support them. Quotes were ripped out of context, corrections buried, and important disclosures dismissed. It’s a picture that sits uncomfortably alongside the vision laid out by Carlson at CPAC, one that has drummed up clicks but little respect.
With its attack on Linda Sarsour, The Daily Caller might well have sunk to a new low.
Entitled “Women’s March Organizer Recently Met Ex-Hamas Operative, Has Family Ties To Terror Group”, The Daily Caller article does not identify a single instance in which Linda Sarsour has been accused – let alone convicted – of any crime.
Nowhere is the intellectual dishonesty of The Daily Caller article more apparent than in its commentary on the allegation that Linda Sarsour has family members who are associated with Hamas. The Daily Caller article states “Though she avoids discussing it now, Sarsour has acknowledged in past interviews that she has cousins serving prison time in Israel because of their work for Hamas.”
In an apparent attempt to substantiate this claim, The Daily Caller article provides a link to an August 7, 2012 article in the New York Times in which Sarsour is quoted. According to that New York Times article:
Linda Sarsour, a community worker from Brooklyn, a borough of New York City, has also been the focus of a recent debate after she was appointed to a neighborhood advisory panel. The main reason for the controversy: Members of her family had been arrested on accusations of supporting Hamas, the Islamist group that governs the Gaza Strip. One member of the Tea Party and other community workers asked that she be removed.
For “Michele Bachmann and some people of the Tea Party movement — the fact that we are Muslim means we are disloyal to our country and have hidden agendas,” Ms. Sarsour said.
She denies having any contact with Hamas or other radical Muslim groups. Otherwise she never would have received a ‘Champion of Change’ award from President Barack Obama some months ago, she said.
Nowhere in the New York Times article does Linda Sarsour ‘acknowledge’ that “she has cousins serving prison time in Israel because of their work for Hamas.” On the contrary, Mr. Sarsour is quoted in the New York Times article as denying having any contact with Hamas or other radical Muslim groups. Thus, The Daily Caller’s suggestion that the New York Times article contains such an acknowledgement from Ms. Sarsour is blatantly false.
But let us imagine for the sake of argument that Ms. Sarsour does have cousins serving prison time in Israel based on an allegation by Israeli authorities that those cousins support Hamas. That does not remotely mean that her cousins are in fact supporters of Hamas, because when it comes to the due process rights of Palestinians, Israel’s ‘justice’ system is a travesty.
Consider the following findings in Amnesty International’s 2015/2016 report on the Occupied Palestinian Territories:
The [Israeli] authorities detained thousands of Palestinians from the OPT; most were held in prisons inside Israel, in violation of international law. Hundreds were held without charge or trial under renewable administrative detention orders, based on information withheld from them and their lawyers; some engaged in prolonged hunger strikes in protest. Mohammed Allan, a lawyer, went on hunger strike for 65 days to protest against his administrative detention; he was released in November without charge.
The Israeli authorities launched a new clampdown on protests by Palestinians in the OPT amid the escalation in violence from October, arresting more than 2,500 Palestinians, including hundreds of children, and significantly increasing their use of administrative detention. More than 580 Palestinian administrative detainees were held by the end of the year, including at least five children. In addition, several Israeli Jews suspected of planning attacks on Palestinians were held in administrative detention.
Palestinians from the OPT who were charged faced unfair trials in military courts. In December, Palestinian parliamentarian Khalida Jarrar was sentenced to 15 months’ imprisonment and a fine following a plea bargain made after months of unfair military court proceedings.
Human rights organizations have long documented that many Palestinians who are held in Israeli jails are non-violent dissenters against whom the Israeli authorities have made false or unsubstantiated accusations of terrorism. Thus, the mere fact that a Palestinian is accused by Israel of being a supporter of Hamas does not mean that the accused is in fact a supporter of Hamas.
Let us assume further that Linda Sarsour does in fact have cousins who are supporters of Hamas. So what? Although Canada, the United States and certain of their allies regard Hamas as a terrorist organization, many countries do not, including Norway, Switzerland, Brazil and China. More to the point, the mere fact that some of Linda Sarsour’s cousins or other acquaintances may be supporters of Hamas does not make Linda Sarsour a supporter of Hamas.
In fact, that does not make Linda Sarsour guilty of anything – other than the ‘crime’ of having spoken truth to power.