The Women’s March, the American non-profit organisation that grew out of the prolific march that took place in March 2017 after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, has removed Zahra Billoo, from its Board, which it announced on twitter:
Zahra Billoo has been removed from board membership effective immediately. We found some of her public statements incompatible with the values and mission of the organization. Women's March will continue to build an inclusive and effective movement that holds space for all women.
— Women's March (@womensmarch) September 19, 2019
Zahra Billoo is a lawyer and executive director of the San Francisco chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). Her removal was due to comments she made on Israel, including a tweet that said that “Zionism is the violent ideology responsible for the genocide and displacement of indigenous Palestinians and the destruction of Palestinian land,” comments that were picked up by right wing commentators and the Zionist Anti-Defamation League (ADL). Billoo has said that she stood by her words, but would have phrased the content differently today.
Since Billoo is both a woman of colour, visibly Muslim, and who has advocated on behalf of Muslims in America, among other issues, the decision to oust her has taken on special significance because it appears to fly in the face of the Women’s March emphasis upon inclusivity, describing itself as a federal policy platform “created by women and for all people.”
Billoo has also taken to twitter to describe her experience, stating that her removal followed an “Islamophobic smear campaign” against those “who dares speaks out in support of Palestinian human rights and the right to self-determination” and the other activism she is a part of, including challenging America’s foreign intervention and the law enforcement operations which target the American Muslim community. She expresses her disappointment to the seemingly knee jerk reaction of the Women’s march when it comes to criticism of Israel; “To see and experience its new leaders caving to right-wing pressure, and casting aside a woman of color, a Muslim woman, a long-time advocate within the organization, without the willingness to make any efforts to learn and grow, breaks my heart.”
Indeed, a number of people of who have spoken out in support of Billo have pointed out the what they see as an intentional blind spot American progressives have when it comes to Palestine, also suggesting that the optics of having a visible Muslim women, but without the political opinions that may come with it, is preferred by movements that pride themselves on being inclusive and diverse.
The Women's March is only for women who align themselves with the right kind of progressivism, women who fit the narrative that is Progressive Except Palestine.
— Jinan Deena (@j_deena) September 19, 2019
The Women’s March loved to have the hijabs out there in full force for the photo ops.
But apparently they’re too cowardly to support basic human rights for Palestinians.#IMarchWithZahra
— Imraan Siddiqi (@imraansiddiqi) September 19, 2019
Bye @womensmarch. I'll stick with intersectional feminist spaces that don't condone the Occupation of Palestine & don't kick out human rights warriors like @ZahraBilloo . #IMarchWithZahra https://t.co/4IK58mU3oF
— Dr. Shabana Mir (@ShabanaMir1) September 19, 2019