The following open letter, undersigned by four Winnipeg-based human rights and peace organizations, was hand-delivered to Mayor Brian Bowman on Wednesday, April 24, 2019.
MAKING SPACE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS: WINNIPEG GROUPS SUPPORT FREE SPEECH, RESPECT FOR PALESTINIAN RIGHTS, AND ANTI-RACIST APPROACH
To Mayor Brian Bowman,
The undersigned human rights and peace organizations are concerned that your statements about Linda Sarsour have done a disservice to human rights in Winnipeg.
Linda Sarsour has important ideas to share, and we are looking forward to listening to and discussing with her at the April 26th “Sorry Not Sorry” event hosted by the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg and the Canadian Muslim Women’s Institute. While she is not billed to speak about Palestinian rights, we believe that she has been unfairly attacked by critics who seek to silence her voice in support of those rights.
Linda Sarsour is a courageous community activist, and we do not think it is right that you have taken sides with those who do not believe that Palestinians should enjoy the same human rights as others. We caution you against accepting the view that criticism and analysis of the history and actions of the Israeli government are the same thing as antisemitism. In the case of Linda Sarsour, as is often the case when it comes to those who speak up for Palestinians’ rights, it is a purposeful misrepresentation. No government, including the government of Israel, is beyond reproach. We are concerned that your unfounded allegations against her are being used to silence groups with serious grievances. This makes vulnerable groups like Arabs, Muslims and Palestinians unsafe here, as well as in Israel. We cannot build respect for human rights by silencing those who speak for the oppressed and dispossessed. We have a duty to support women such as Linda Sarsour when they expose institutional power, at great personal risk to themselves.
We support Linda Sarsour’s right to speak up. We support her because she rejects the Zionist political movement and its regressive views, while at the same time fighting Islamophobia, antisemitism, xenophobia, racism, and discrimination with her words and actions. She inspires compassion and generosity of spirit. We hope her words resonate with you as they have touched us:
“I know and recognize that our Jewish family is experiencing real pain, hurt and trauma. I know this stems from generational trauma and history of genocide and that these past few weeks have triggered insecurity, fear and anxiety. This is a difficult time and it requires us to be clear-eyed and also recognize the real threats so we can protect each other.”
(Quote from Linda Sarsour’s open letter responding to critics and discussing her vision for her work.)
We invite you to join us on Friday evening, and to take part in the discussions hosted by the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg, with Linda Sarsour and co-panelists. They are bold and intelligent women with important ideas to share. Ideas that Winnipeg would do well to hear and consider.
We also invite you to meet with us, to find common ground and work together.
Canadian Arab Association of Manitoba
Canada Palestine Association of Manitoba
Canada-Palestine Support Network Winnipeg
Independent Jewish Voices Winnipeg
Peace Alliance Winnipeg
Winnipeg Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid
Please contact Bassam at firstname.lastname@example.org for any response and discussion.
We acknowledge that we live in Winnipeg on Indigenous land, part of Treaty 1 Territory and the heart of the Métis nation. We support the land rights and human rights of Indigenous peoples in Canada and worldwide. We work against Islamophobia, antisemitism, xenophobia, discrimination, colonialism and racism. We are committed to building a just and lasting peace in Israel-Palestine. This must include: ending Israel’s illegal, military occupation; dismantling Israel’s Apartheid regime, including the Wall; recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and engaging in a genuine decolonization process that includes the right of return for Palestinian refugees.