Actress and activist Alyssa Milano declared that she is no longer participating in the Women’s March until the movement distances itself from anti-Semitism. It’s a principled stance we can all learn from.

When it was formed in 2017, the Women’s March touched millions of American women who wanted to demonstrate for women’s rights and to take a stand against the misogyny that’s increasingly heard in discourse around the country. It seemed to be a chance for women to march for decency – or so many of us thought.

Tragically, the organization from the beginning was dominated by activists with their own, anti-Israel and anti-Semitic agendas. As time has passed, the hatred of some of the organizers, particularly outspoken activists Tamika Mallory and Linda Sarsour, has become evident. And too many women and men have ignored or justified their hatred – until now.

Alyssa Milano

A proponent of the radical BDS movement, Sarsour has a long history of virulent anti-Israel statements. She’s defended and glorified Hamas terrorists and as recently as September 2018 said that American Muslims shouldn’t “humanize” Israelis and have an obligation to actively work to oppose Israel. Mallory has called the creation of the state of Israel a “human rights crime” and called for boycotts of the Jewish state. Both women have a close relationship with Nation of Islam leader and virulent anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan, who calls Jews “satanic” and blames them for many of humanity’s ills.

In February 2018, Mallory was present at a speech where Farrakhan said “the powerful Jews are my enemy”, accused Jews of controlling the United States Government, and said of Jews “your time is up”. He gave a shout-out to Mallory, who failed to oppose his hateful words. After footage of the speech went viral, the Women’s March gave a tepid apology, saying these outrageous slanders didn’t reflect the movement’s “values”. But the attitudes, words and actions of some of the Women’s March leaders speak loud and clear: within this movement, Israel and Jews seem to be second class citizens, slandered and despised.

Alyssa Milano isn’t the first celebrity to criticize Sarsour and Mallory. In 2017 singer Courtney Love Tweeted “I won’t follow anything that’s being led by an anti-Semitic terrorist that’s using feminism as a tool to promote her radicalism”. In 2018, an Australian charity cancelled a speech by Tamika Mallory after her Jew-hating comments came to light. Alyssa Milano’s criticism is making waves. She is active in the #MeToo movement and her stand is finally directing attention to some corners of the movement’s problem with Jews.

In the week after the massacre in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, the Israeli writer Yossi Klein Halevi visited America. There he observed something new that he couldn’t recall having seen before in Jewish communities: Jews willing to embrace anti-Semites who happen to agree with their political views.

Whether it is subtle appeals to white supremacists or overt praise for terrorists who target the Jewish state, we’ve reached a nadir in American discourse with some people acting willfully blind to anti-Semitism when it suits them.  This is intolerable. Throughout our history we Jews have stood united against anti-Semitism in all its forms, and it’s essential we do so again today.

We should heed Alyssa Milano’s principled call to stay away from the Women’s March until they jettison their current Jew and Israel-hating leadership. That doesn’t mean turning our backs on women’s rights. For me, it means taking up the difficult task of building a women’s movement – and other movements, on both right and left, that say no to hatred and unfair smears of Israel and Jews.

We can forge our own paths. In 2017, when the first Women’s March was called, a synagogue in my community arranged its own women’s march in order not to be associated with Linda Sarsour and her like. We all need to reject hatred and the movements and organizations who slander Jews. This does not necessitate rejecting the causes and political views we hold dear.

May we find the courage like Alyssa Milano to go against the pieties of our friends and political fellow-travelers when necessary, especially when it means taking a stand against the hatred of Jews.