Guard Change

Incoming Women’s March board member’s history of controversial statements

CAIR regional leader Zahra Billoo installed at activist group as Sarsour, Mallory, Bland exit

Photo credit: Katie Bordner

Within hours of the announcement that Women’s March cofounders Tamika Mallory, Bob Bland and Linda Sarsour had left the organization’s board of directors, concerns were raised about a new incoming board member with a history of contentious tweets. The leadership change at the Women’s March was first reported Monday afternoon by The Washington Post, which listed the incoming board members.

Zahra Billoo, the executive director of the San Francisco chapter of Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR), has taken to Twitter dozens of times in recent years to attack “Apartheid Israel,” the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and the Jewish Community Relations Council. 

Avi Mayer, AJC’s managing director of global communications, told Jewish Insider that “the Women’s March leadership’s obsession with Jews is as strange as it is disturbing. Replacing one set of bigots with a slate that includes other ones will do little to rehabilitate the March’s image.”

In a 2015 tweet, Billoo wrote: “I’m more afraid of racist Zionists who support Apartheid Israel than of the mentally ill young people the #FBI recruits to join ISIS.”

The Women’s March has been plagued with accusations of antisemitism within its leadership since its inception. Co-founder Mallory repeatedly showered praise on Nation of Islam head Louis Farrakhan, a virulent antisemite who has been condemned by groups ranging from the ADL to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Mallory, Sarsour and Bland faced repeated calls to step down over the antisemitism scandal.

Concerns about the ideological bend of the Women’s March leadership ballooned in the months following the first Washington march, held a day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration in 2017.

The New York Times’s Bari Weiss told JI: “When I wrote this column in August 2017 [titled ‘When Progressives Embrace Hate’], Women’s March co-president Bob Bland called the article ‘a distraction’ and smeared me as an ‘apologist for the status quo, racist ideology and the white nationalist patriarchy.’ I look forward to her apology. Meantime, from the little bit I’ve read so far about some of the new organizers, I fear I’ll have to write a reprise column.” 

Conservative writer Bethany Mandel echoed Mayer and Weiss. “By all appearances they have replaced one problematic set of women with another,” Mandel said. “It comes to a certain point where they have to start wondering if they are able to find friends who aren’t antisemitic and what that says about their ideology. It is encouraging that the Women’s March finally took a strong stand about a clear antisemite.” Referencing Linda Sarsour, who last week was named a surrogate for presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Mandel added, “It would be nice if the Bernie Sanders campaign would now do the same.”

Many of Billoo’s heated tweets about Israel were posted during military conflicts between Israel and its neighbors. 

During Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009, Billoo shared an Al Jazeera article on Lebanon firing on Israel and praised Hezbollah for “having the courage to do what the Arab governments won’t!”

In a 2012 tweet, posted during Operation Pillar of Defense, Billoo expressed disgust at “the blatant support of murder and apartheid coming from the Jewish Community Relations Council.” During the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, Billoo plainly stated: “Long live the intifada.”

On several occasions, she took to social media to tweet about Hamas. Billoo defended the group’s use of rockets during the summer of 2014, likening the State Department-designated terror organization’s actions to those of victims of sexual assault: “Blaming Hamas for firing rockets at [Apartheid] Israel is like blaming a woman for punching her rapist.” 

In 2010, Billoo retweeted a now-defunct account “@beatsnotbombs,” that alleged that “Israel has taken it upon itself to recreate” the Holocaust. In a tweet four years later, Billoo said that “Israel ‘defending’ itself from Palestinians is analogous to Nazi Germany defending itself from Jewish uprising.”

The day after the 2017 release of “Wonder Woman,” starring Israeli actress and IDF veteran Gal Gadot, Billoo took to Twitter to announce that she would not be seeing the film “because I refuse to spend any of my money supporting a murderer.” Billoo followed up her first “Wonder Woman” tweet with another saying that support for Israel “is commonplace in parts of Hollywood.” 

Last year, a Bay Area interfaith organization planning to honor Billoo rescinded the award following an outcry from local Jewish groups over Billoo’s social media activity. The decision was later reversed.

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