Activist Linda Sarsour: 'Donald Trump has no idea what a deal is'
“Through Her Eyes” is a weekly show hosted by human rights activist Zainab Salbi that explores contemporary news issues from a female perspective. You can watch the full episode of “Through Her Eyes” every Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET on Roku, or at the bottom of this article.
Palestinian-American activist and Women’s March co-founder Linda Sarsour is taking issue with President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, over his approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“Jared Kushner’s the last person that should be trying to bring peace to the Palestinian and Israeli conflict,” Sarsour told Yahoo News host Zainab Salbi in response to Kushner’s remarks on Palestinian self-governance in a recent interview with Axios.
“I know that we can get back to a day where we can live in coexistence, where we can live in peace. And it’s not going to be at the hands of a fascist like Trump, nor is it going to be at the hands of his son-in-law,” Sarsour said.
She shared her thoughts on Kushner during a wide-ranging interview with the Yahoo News show “Through Her Eyes” that touched on everything from the political to the personal. The Muslim American activist was highly critical of Trump when it came to the president’s pursuit of an elusive Middle East deal between the Israelis and Palestinians.
“Donald Trump has no idea what a deal is,” Sarsour said. “I mean, he’s a man who has filed for bankruptcy many times, so he doesn’t understand how to make any deals. And he’s not going to be able to bring peace to that part of the world.
“I reject any deals coming from a fascist administration that is anti-Arab, anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian in the policies that have already been put forward by this administration,” she continued.
Sarsour describes herself as a “very unapologetic” critic of the state of Israel. She recognizes that her rhetoric opens her up to more criticism from both Republican and Democratic opponents, including allegations that she is anti-Semitic. Among Sarsour’s detractors is the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., who retweeted a video claiming that “Linda Sarsour refuses to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist.”
“This idea of me being anti-Semitic is the most ludicrous of them all,” Sarsour said of the attacks leveled against her. “I believe in the liberation of the Palestinian people. I believe in a nonviolent movement of boycott divestment sanctions. And those positions, those positions that I just put forth are what critics will say makes me anti-Semitic.”
But Sarsour isn’t deterred by her adversaries.
“I understand my history in the United States of America,” Sarsour said. “There has never been an effective leader or organizer that has not been vilified. And these tactics are used to discredit me because I’m so effective in the way in which I’m able to mobilize people of all different backgrounds.
“I have positions that I hold, and I’m not going to hide my positions to make anybody else feel comfortable,” she continued.
This unapologetic approach to politics is a trait Sarsour shares with many members of the congressional freshman class, including the first Muslim women elected to Congress, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. In the six months since they were sworn into office, Tlaib and Omar have been inundated with criticism, particularly for their views on the Palestinian and Israeli conflict. Sarsour told “Through Her Eyes” that although the onslaught has discouraged some Muslim women from pursuing elected positions, for many others it has only fueled their desire to be politically active.
“I think the majority of us, particularly younger women, are doubling down,” Sarsour said. “I am so fired up every time I see Rashida and Ilhan get attacked, and I’ve actually been helping to organize progressives around supporting them.
“They’re being attacked, but you know what? There’s a shift in the conversation,” Sarsour added.
This shift, Sarsour said, has transformed not only how progressive issues are seen on the political stage, but also how Muslim women are perceived. When Omar was elected, she became the first person to wear a hijab on the House floor — prompting a change allowing head coverings for the first time in 181 years. Sarsour explained that by wearing a hijab, people like herself and Omar are “shattering propaganda” and dispelling stereotypes that women in religious headdress can’t be strong leaders.
While speaking with “Through Her Eyes,” Sarsour recounted the breadth of experiences that had contributed to finding her identity as a Muslim woman, including the journey that led to her decision to wear a hijab.
“I grew up, you know, very fair-skinned with dark hair, very ambiguous. People thought I was Puerto Rican,” Sarsour recalled. “They really thought I was everything but what I really was, which was a Palestinian Arab American Muslim.
“And so the hijab gave me an identity that I didn’t have.”
Sarsour also described growing up in a Muslim community in Brooklyn, where she entered into an arranged marriage when she was 17.
“I actually grew up in a community where arranged marriage was something that was very common,” Sarsour said. “I didn’t see it as an impediment.”
Now, Sarsour is looking forward. With 2020 on the horizon, she is taking a back seat in the Women’s March she helped to create and shifting her focus toward organizing Muslim voters to unseat Trump.
“I will stay on, almost like ‘honorary,’” Sarsour said. “I will continue to advise the Women’s March. I’ll be part of their electoral programs. But really, for me, 2020 is about winning this election.”
Sarsour has several favorites on the crowded Democratic ticket, most notably Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who was the runner-up for the Democratic nomination in 2016.
“I love Sen. Bernie Sanders. I have a long relationship with him, and he’s done a lot of great things for the Muslim community,” Sarsour said.
Her second choice is Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who is one of six candidates attempting to become the first female president of the United States.
“I’m in love with her,” Sarsour said. “I think that she has a great opportunity to really do very well in this election. So I love Bernie Sanders — he’s my first love — and then I also support Elizabeth Warren.”
But apart from electoral politics, Sarsour insists that her vision extends well beyond who sits in the Oval Office.
“We have to stand up as a nation, in front of the whole world, and say, ‘We are not a nation of bigotry, of hatred, of fascism,’ and potentially set an example for the rest of the world,” Sarsour said. “I believe in the American people. I believe that we’re going to win in 2020.”
Listen to the full episode of the “Through Her Eyes” podcast, and listen to past interviews with Queen Latifah, Aly Raisman and more from Season 1.