Linda Sarsour will be the keynote speaker on March 31 in Hillsborough, North Carolina at an event sponsored by Orange County’s Department of Human Rights & Relations and The Orange County Human Relations Commission (HRC) of NC “in honor of women’s history month.” The event will be a part of the “Courageous Conversations” series.
Orange County Commissioner Earl McKee told me, “The Human Relations Commission extended the invitation and she [Sarsour] will be paid $5000 plus expenses.” McKee continued, “I only know that I had no part of any of this and am sure that many other well-qualified women could have been asked to speak. Perhaps a question to the Chair at the meeting on April 2nd would be appropriate although I doubt you would get an answer…This type of conduct will continue until folks rise up and put a stop to it, either through public pressure or at the polls.”
McKee’s comments come in the wake of Sarsour’s keynote speech at the Minority Health Conference held at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s (UNC-CH) Gillings School of Public Health. Rather than addressing major health issues, Sarsour used this prestigious platform, as she often does, to promote the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. Sarsour is an American-Palestinian activist known for her hostility towards Israel, who said “nothing is creepier than Zionism” and has advised Muslims not to “humanize” Israelis.
A former HRC chair told me that Sarsour is being paid an “extreme amount of money” to be a guest speaker at the Hillsborough event.
In a press release, Orange County announced it suggested that Sarsour speak on the topic of “Intersectional Feminism.” Sarsour’s intersectional feminism is obsessed with demonizing and delegitimizing Israel – the only Jewish majority country on the planet and the only democracy in the Middle East. For example, Sarsour has declared that Zionists cannot be feminists, alienating many Jewish women. Having gained fame and power as a Women’s March organizer, Sarsour uses this position to promote boycotting Israel as an intersectional feminist cause.
At the minority health conference, Sarsour promoted the boycott of only one country – Israel. She did not mention boycotting any other country, including so many with known abuses of their own populations. This is why so many view Sarsour as anti-Semitic – she demonizes and delegitimizes Israel and holds Israel to a vastly different and much higher standard than any other country.
Mayor Tom Stevens told me, “The Town of Hillsborough has not played any role in the event.” However, Stevens added, “My personal opinion is she [Sarsour] is a particularly appropriate speaker for the event for which she was invited.” I reached out via phone and email to Annette Moore, Orange County’s Director of Human Rights & Relations with questions for this column. She did not respond. In a press release published a day after I contacted her, Moore said, “We are thrilled” to feature Linda Sarsour.
Orange County resident Beth Goldstein told me, “The choice of Linda Sarsour promotes discrimination against women who oppose her views, gay women who support Israel, and Jews of all colors in Israel as she selectively demonizes the only true democracy in the Middle East. It is shameful that the Orange County Human Relations Commission has chosen to spend such high amounts of taxpayer’s money on someone who has promoted anti-LGBT and anti-Israel rhetoric under the pretenses of ‘courageous conversations.’ It is time that we bring people together with positive energy and cohesive messages rather than a platform to promote half-truths and discord.”
The Orange County HRC appears to lack strong leadership. Several recent HRC meetings were not even able to achieve a quorum of members. For example, on October 8, only three of 10 members were present. I can find no accessible public records — such as minutes posted on a website — explaining who specifically suggested Sarsour, who approved Sarsour, and who ultimately authorized paying Sarsour.
Sources tell me that even the Orange Community Commissioners were not informed of Sarsour’s invitation until the public began voicing strong concerns.
The event announcement and registration page for the March 31 event states, “The Orange County Department of Human Rights & Relations is dedicated to fostering positive human relations.” It is hard to see how inviting Sarsour, a speaker who divides and alienates communities fosters this goal.
The Jewish community feels betrayed, unwelcomed, targeted, and attacked. Resident Maxine Ershler Carr wrote to Director Moore, Mayor Stevens, and a Commissioner, “I am a Jew and it frightens me to think that she [Sarsour] will be speaking at a state-sponsored event, stirring up anti-Semitism within driving distance of my home.”
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