The American left’s favorite jihadist?

At least in terms of turning herself into a household name, Linda Sarsour has come a long way in a very short time.

Linda Sarsour

She first came to the attention of most of us on January 21, the day after the presidential inauguration, when she was one of the major speakers at the Women’s March in Washington. As executive director of the Arab American Association of New York and a spokesperson for the National Network for Arab American Communities, she was one of the event’s four co-sponsors.

Sarsour (right) with Gloria Steinem

Sarsour might have come and gone without making much of an impression on viewers around the country except for a couple of things. She wore a hijab. She began her speech with the words “as-salāmu ʿalaykum.” She said she would not respect Donald Trump. And she charged that Americans Muslims had been “suffering in silence for the past fifteen years” – in other words, 9/11. While omitting to mention any of the countless acts of jihadist terror that have taken place during those fifteen years, she painted a picture of post-9/11 America as a nightmare of Islamophobia.

Bernie Sanders

Sarsour presented herself as a progressive feminist. But it soon emerged that she is a champion of Hamas, of the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia, and, not least, of the introduction of sharia law into the United States. That didn’t keep her from being praised by Bernie Sanders, being named a “Champion of Change” by the Obama Administration, and being cheered on by a wide range of major figures and organizations on the left.

Tony Kushner

In response to criticism of Sarsour, much of it coming from the right, a group of 100 prominent Jewish figures, including Angels in America playwright Tony Kushner, signed a letter defending her. A gay Israeli actually felt obliged to pen an article for the Forward headlined “On LGBTQ rights, Linda Sarsour Is No Ally,” while Judea Pearl, the father of Daniel Pearl, wrote a similar piece for the same publication entitled “Why Linda Sarsour Is a Fake Feminist.”

Siraj Wajjah

Amid all the chaos and controversy, Sarsour has since moved from triumph to triumph. In June she delivered the commencement speech at the City University of New York School of Public Health. And in early July, she made headlines with a speech given at the convention of the Islamic Society of North America. She began the speech by thanking an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center – one Siraj Wajjah. She went on to savage the Trump administration, whose members she described as “fascists and white supremacists and Islamophobes,” and spoke darkly of “the potential chaos that they will ensue [sic] on our community.” She then suggested that she and her audience – and, presumably, Muslim-Americans generally – would “stand up to those who oppress our communities” and expressed the hope that “Allah” would accept that resistance “as a form of jihad.” Rejecting the idea of assimilation, she affirmed that Muslim-Americans’ “top priority” is “to please Allah, and only Allah.”

Matt Duss

Matt Duss, a foreign policy adviser to Sanders and contributor to The Tablet, actually defended Sarsour’s appalling remarks, specifically her use of the word “jihad.” He tweeted: “If you’re a journalist shaming @lsarsour’s choice of words instead of helping readers better understand them, you’re bad at your job.”

Kathy Griffin

Lee Smith, writing in The Tablet, compared Sarsour with comedienne Kathy Griffin, who had recently received extensive media atttention by posing with a bloody Trump mask. Like Griffin, suggested Smith, “Sarsour wanted to have it both ways – get lots of attention for having done something sensational, and then play the role of victim when some of the attention invariably turned critical.” In short, Sarsour “has become a very adept self-promoter.”

Yet again, the Rosenbergs

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Julius and Ethel Rosenberg

Just over a year ago we revisited the case of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were executed as spies in 1953. Back then, their case attracted worldwide attention, both because of the seriousness of the charge – they had played a key role in delivering the secrets of the atom bomb to the Soviet Union, an action that entirely altered the balance of power on planet Earth – and because they were a married couple with two children. More than a few Americans were eager to see them pay the ultimate price for what was, unquestionably, treason; others opposed their execution, either because of a defensible opposition to the death penalty, or to the idea of making orphans of two small boys, or, less justifiably, because they actually viewed the Rosenbergs’ crimes as insignificant, or believed them (despite all the evidence to the contrary) to be innocent, or even, in a great many cases, because they regarded Julius and Ethel as heroes precisely because they were secret agents for Stalin.

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Tony Kushner

The notion that the Rosenbergs were heroes – or, at least, that Ethel, the junior partner in the spy operation, could somehow be regarded as a heroine – was a major animating tenet of the American far left for many decades after the couple’s execution, and endures to this day. (In Angels in America, Tony Kushner turns Ethel into a veritable saint.) The notion has even survived the opening of archives that have provided absolute proof of the Rosenbergs’ activities on behalf of the Kremlin. In 2011, faced with this mounting evidence, one of the Rosenbergs’ sons, Robert Meeropol, broke down and acknowledged his father’s guilt, while reasserting his mother’s innocence; but at the same time he expressed pride in both of them, saying that they had “acted with integrity, courage and in furtherance of righteous ideals.” Needless to say, those ideals, as Rosenberg expert Ronald Radosh pointed out at the time, included “forced collectivization of the land, the murder of hundreds of thousands, [and] the establishment of the Gulag.”

9/28/15 Robert Meeropol (pictured, pink shirt) and his brohter, Michael Meeropol, (pictured, blue shirt) received a proclamation from City Council member Daniel Dromm today. The proclamation recognized the contributions to the labor movement of Ethel Rosenberg, the mother of Robert and Michael. She was convicted of espionage along with her husband Julius in 1953 and was sentenced to death. Today would have marked her 100th birthday. Pictured, left to right: City Council member Mark Levine, City Council member Daniel Dromm, Robert Meeropol, Michael Meeropol and Gail Brewer. On the steps of City Hall, NY, NY . Please credit Gregory P. Mango.
The Meeropol brothers holding copies of the New York City Council proclamation lauding their mother

In October of last year, in yet another example of the continuing far-left compulsion to idealize one or both of the Rosenbergs, the New York City Council issued a proclamation honoring Ethel on what would have been her hundredth birthday, praising her “bravery,” and identifying her as a victim of “anti-Communist hysteria.” As we observed at the time, such actions are the work of people who “still speak of anti-Communism almost as if there was no such thing as Communism itself. In their rhetoric, the terror of life under Stalin dissolves; the Gulag disappears; the Iron Curtain evaporates. And all that is left is Americans’ apparently baseless ‘hysteria.’”

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E. L. Doctorow

Unsurprisingly, the same people on the far left who have persisted in viewing the Rosenbergs as heroes have also depicted the Rosenbergs’ sons as victims. And, yes, they were victims – of their parents’ fanatical devotion to an evil ideology. But the aim on the far left has always been to paint them as victims of a vengeful, heartless America, of “anti-Communist hysteria,” of anti-Semitism, and of other systematic societal ills purportedly afflicting the West. The most notable instance of this effort has been E. L. Doctorow‘s 1971 novel, The Book of Daniel, whose memory-haunted title character is based on the Meeropol boys; the novel’s manifest objective is to blame the young protagonist’s woes not on the boy’s Communist parents but on their capitalist executioners.

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The Meeropol brothers

The spin continues. On October 16, 60 Minutes broadcast a segment featuring both Rosenberg sons. The title, “Finding Refuge,” suited the segment’s angle: it was less an objective report on the facts of the Rosenberg case than yet another effort to whip up public sympathy for Michael and Robert Meeropol. The boys (who are now elderly men) admitted that after decades of insisting on their parents’ innocence, they finally came to accept that their father, at least, was a full-fledged spy. But this doesn’t bother them: as one of the sons said, he finds it “more palatable” to see his parents not as victims but as politically committed people who acted on their beliefs.

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Anderson Cooper

Now, pause for a moment and reflect on that statement. If the son of a couple of long-dead Nazis had spoken in this admiring way about their “commitment,” you can bet that Anderson Cooper would have responded on-camera by sharply challenging the idea that there could be anything “palatable” whatsoever about Nazism. But Cooper let that one pass by without a challenge, reminding us that while (of course) admiring Hitler is universally recognized as utterly appalling, in the corridors of Western media power it’s still considered acceptable to admire people for their unwavering dedication to Stalin.

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Ronald Radosh

During his interview with the Meeropol brothers, Cooper reminded them of what the judge in their parents’ case had said: “The Rosenbergs loved their cause more than their children.” Cooper characterized this as “a very cruel thing to say.” No; it was a plain and simple fact. As Radosh, who was also interviewed on the program, underscored, the U.S. government did not want to have to electrocute the Rosenbergs: it was trying to use the threat of execution to pressure them to provide information about their spy network. But they wouldn’t talk. Their loyalty to their comrades – to their fellow acolytes of Stalinist totalitarianism, and, of course, to Stalin himself – was greater than their loyalty to their children. That, not the judge’s statement, was the cruel element in this story. Plainly – and, perhaps, understandably – the Meeropol brothers are still unable to accept the terrible reality that their parents loved Stalin more than them. They still insist on seeing themselves as the victims of their parents’ executioners; in fact they are the victims of nothing other than the breathtaking power of useful stoogery.