Women’s March co-leader Linda Sarsour has come out swinging against the newly formed Congressional Black-Jewish Caucus, citing the involvement of a Jewish GOP congressman.
Ms. Sarsour, a Palestinian-American progressive activist, called the caucus a “joke” over the role of co-founder Rep. Lee Zeldin, New York Republican, whom she blasted as a “notorious anti-Arab, anti-Palestinian, anti-Muslim bigot.”
She also took a swipe at Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Florida Democrat, a Women’s March critic who joined Mr. Zeldin as a co-founder of the caucus unveiledJune 3 at the American Jewish Committee Global Forum in Washington, D.C.
“We know the truth. This is a joke,” tweeted Ms. Sarsour.
Avi Mayer, AJC managing director of global communications, said Ms. Sarsour’s opposition underscored the need for such a caucus.
“If ever there were proof that that this new caucus is good and necessary, it’s that Linda Sarsour is terrified of it,” tweeted Mr. Mayer. “Blacks and Jews in America share a long and proud history of standing with one another and fighting for each other’s rights. It is time to return to our roots.”
The other co-founders include a second Republican—Rep. Will Hurd of Texas—and Democratic Reps. Brenda Lawrence and John Lewis of Georgia.
“The African-American and Jewish communities have a history of standing together for the promotion of social justice and civil rights,” said Ms. Lawrence at the forum. “There are very few segments of America that have invested themselves in these struggles as much as these communities.”
Mr. Zeldin cited the history of cooperation between black and Jewish Americans “helping each other overcome their greatest challenges.”
“It is clear our communities are still the target of hate and discrimination, and we will not stand idly by,” he said. “It’s an honor to join my colleagues to further defend and promote this profound relationship through the formation of the Black-Jewish Caucus.”
Following the announcement, Ms. Sarsour accused Mr. Zeldin of targeting “a Black Muslim Congresswoman,” referring to Rep. Ilhan Omar, Minnesota Democrat.
Two days later, however, Ms. Omar came out in support of the caucus, saying she was “[g]lad to see colleagues follow through on working on the things that unite us and not divide us,” prompting Mr. Mayer to ask Ms. Sarsour if she had changed her mind.
“Absolutely not,” she tweeted. “Anything that has Lee Zeldin in [its] leadership will never get my endorsement. I don’t base my support on someone else’s support. I base my support on facts and my analysis. Lee Zeldin is a bigot and you can’t convince me otherwise.”
Ms. Omar followed up by tweeting that endorsement “isn’t an endorsement of Zeldin’s bigotry! Linda’s point still remains valid but my hope here is that Zeldin can learn and grow.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Zeldin responded by calling the caucus “a positive, bipartisan push to build bridges between 2 groups. Be helpful, accurate & better. Unite; don’t divide or try to poison like this latest personal attack. This is bigger than us & we have to be better than this.”
Ms. Wasserman Schultz drew the ire of Ms. Sarsour in January by refusing to participate in the third annual Women’s March, citing the links between the group’s leadership and Nation of Islam head Louis Farrakhan.
“It’s clear that the leadership of the march has yet to cut ties with those who promulgate hate and anti-Semitic rhetoric,” said Ms. Wasserman Schultz in a Jan. 18 op-ed in USA Today. “Until it does, I cannot stand alongside it.”
Ms. Sarsour accused her of hypocrisy, saying the Florida Democrat “didn’t want to march with the Women’s March citing ‘bigotry’ but has no problem aligning & partnering with @leezeldin.”
Congress also has a Latino-Jewish Caucus, Latino-Jewish Leadership Council, and Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council.
Neil Strauss, spokesman for the Republican Jewish Coalition, said his group was “very encouraged” by the caucus’s formation and praised Mr. Zeldin’s leadership.
“In contrast, we can see that Zeldin, not Linda Sarsour, is the one committed to working to move minority communities forward, and help combat anti-Semitism and racism,” Mr. Strauss said in an email. “We see Linda Sarsour for what she really is, a person whose entire existence depends on making people believe that Jews and Republicans are the cause of all of their problems.”