The Women’s March has had a rough month.
First, the Tablet published an article that confirmed the leaders of the group are anti-Semites. This caused a serious backlash against the organization, with the Washington state chapter dissolving in the wake of the news. Next, a New York Times article giving some of the Women’s March organizers a chance to defend themselves and deny the Tablet article managed to again prove that leaders of the group are anti-Semitic, with one claiming “white Jews, as white people, uphold white supremacy,” which targets “ALL Jews.” The internal turmoil caused by these statements led the Chicago Women’s March to cancel their march. A march scheduled in California also cancelled — because those planning to attend the rally were “overwhelmingly white.”
But don’t worry, supporters of the March, because there’s a new defender of the group: Karen Fleshman. The founder of Racy Conversations — an antiracist organization — wrote on December 28 that she had interacted with some of the Women’s March leaders who have made anti-Semitic statements, including Tamika Mallory and Linda Sarsour. Fleshman said she didn’t witness “a single act of anti-Semitism or exclusionary behavior the entire time” she was with these members or at protests organized by the group.
Fleshman then submitted an “analysis” of who is really “behind the campaign to fracture the Women’s March,” because, as Fleshman wrote, “powerful interests seek to splinter us.”
What — or who — is really causing the group to fall apart? It’s apparently not the rampant anti-Semitism, but actually Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“I firmly believe Vladimir Putin is behind the campaign to tear apart the Women’s March,” Fleshman wrote, linking to an opinion article from The Washington Post claiming Russians targeted black voters in 2016.
She claimed this tactic must be getting used against the Women’s March.
“Right now, we see messaging to white women seeking to divert our political energy away from feeling angry at Republicans and towards feeling angry about anti-Semitism, but not the anti-Semitism expressed in Charlottesville, Pittsburg, and the countless other anti-Semitic attacks by white nationalists,” Fleshman wrote. “Instead, we are directed to feel angry about the anti-Semitic views expressed by Minister Louis Farrakhan, and allegedly by Women’s March leaders Tamika Mallory and Linda Sarsour.”
Fleshman’s post predictably received a backlash, so she added an “addendum” that didn’t make things any better.
“It was never my intent to portray Jewish critics of the Women’s March leaders as Russian agents, and in so doing, play into the canard that Jewish people are foreign agents who are disloyal to America, but that was clearly my impact, and I am sorry. I hear you that my theory is particularly unwelcome at a time of rising anti-Semitism. As you point out, I have a lot to learn about anti-Semitism, and it’s hard to accurately capture what is happening in this situation without an understanding of anti-Semitism,” Fleshman wrote.
But she then doubles down on her Russia theory, though she admits she has no evidence.
“My theory is that, following the patterns above, Russians are fomenting anti-Semitic violence through social media, while simultaneously trying to fracture the Women’s March along perhaps the biggest fault line in our society, between women of color and white women, to shore up support for Trump and Republicans and break up our coalition,” she wrote.
But don’t worry, she wrote she’s not saying Jewish women’s “claims of anti-Semitism among Women’s March leaders lack legitimacy.”
Too bad that’s exactly what her theory does.