When Linda Sarsour Kicked Me Out Of An Event, And I Went Silent
My friend called me: “Dress up as modestly as you can.”
“I am always modest, Alek!”
“Like Muslim modest. Get a hijab.”
“No way, I am getting a hijab. You are right; I am not that modest.”
I sure should have put on a hijab.
I was modest. I asked my Muslim friend: “Do I look like one of you?”
“You are a bit too pale, but yeah, you are good.”
We went to the event venue.
“It’s not here”, I say.
“What do you mean it’s not here?”
“They moved the venue at the last moment.”
“How do you know?”
“I mingled with those Muslim girls there, and they said, apparently the venue was owned by a Jew, so when he got to know the event was about to be held at his place, he stepped back.”
We ran to the other venue.
Yes, I should have worn a hijab.
Not because others did, but because I am just not the camouflage type.
The whole place freaked me out from the first moment:
Two giant black cars with darkened windows in front of the building. And then those black suit security guys everywhere. But those types that you see in the movie and you do not want to talk with.
I enter. Four people jump on me: who am I, what am I looking for…
I said I am a big fan of Linda and I came all the way from Long Island (sic) to hear her finally in person.
They asked for ID.
As usual, but not on purpose, I left my ID at home.
Mistake and luck.
“You cannot go in without an ID.”
“Here is my name, check my bank cards, I can show you my passport online…I am so sorry, I am European and still not getting used to carrying my ID all the time with me.”
They let me pass. But I felt something was off.
I enter and there she is: Linda Sarsour. Preaching with her voice that already makes me look for my Xanax. She is not talking, she is yelling.
I look around the room, and I sure feel neither comfortable nor safe.
I felt that if anyone would know that under my full neck-covering blouse I have a Star of David, or that my phone cover image is me with an Israeli flag, I’d be lynched. Literally.
I do not get scared too often. But this was not pleasant.
“Are pictures and videos allowed?”
She says: “yes.”
I go to the corner. I try to be just one of them. Linda is still screaming and yelling.
I start to take a video.
Five minutes later three people close me around and whisper: “Get out.”
I am slightly puzzled.
They escort me out to the former room.
They say nothing more.
“Why?” I ask. At this point, I start to figure out what’s going on, so I get pretty calm. Calmness is my best weapon.
“You did not have ID.”
“You are right but we discussed this, and you let me in. So what changed within 5 minutes? I traveled over an hour to hear my hero, can I please just go back?”
They nod to the security guy who was three times bigger than I am and without a word they left me there.
“Okay, but can someone explain to me why am I being kicked out? After all, she was just talking about accepting all when you guys drag me out?!”
“You don’t belong here!”
At this point, I do not argue. I leave.
The giant door shuts behind me and then I catch how two security men give the sign to each other. You know the sign you see in the movies again: pointing at me and then imitating cutting a neck.
I decoded it as: “Do not let her return.”
I pretty much went numb after that event.
And I was thinking: during the over 1,000 Israel or Jewish related events I have attended through the last six years, have I ever seen a Muslim or a non-Jew being treated this way?
And boy, I was at high-level events where Muslims opposed the speaker. Or when a Palestinian Arab, yelled, you all will die now! And yet, we let them come and speak.
But Linda, who is still yelling about all-inclusiveness, kicks me out of her event.
I know they got my name.
They got my name, and that was enough.
I did not go there to revolt. I went there to listen.
But it seems if you are not a registered Sarsour supporter even your quiet presence is a danger.
Sure, sounds “open to all and we cherish diversity.”
With each experience like this, I am just getting firmer in my belief.
I know I could have made a big mess out of this, but I actually could not, for many reasons I can’t disclose here. But frankly, I also got scared. These guys are everything but peaceful and lawful.
And then just imagine how it might be to enter to Gaza City…to enter as someone, who “doesn’t belong there.”
Unless you start proving to me otherwise, I cannot help but believe that nothing about the sugar-coated human rights activism labelled as a pro-Palestinian movement, is actually peaceful or for peace.