The New York Times has published a lengthy account of how in 2017, Russian troll factories and its military intelligence service undertook a significant effort to discredit the Women’s March, a mobilization against then US President Donald J. Trump. According to the NYT report. the Russian effort centered on discrediting March co-chair Linda Sarsour, a well-known Palestinian American activist:
Over the 18 months that followed, Russia’s troll factories and its military intelligence service put a sustained effort into discrediting the movement by circulating damning, often fabricated narratives around Ms. Sarsour, whose activism made her a lightning rod for Mr. Trump’s base and also for some of his most ardent opposition. One hundred and fifty-two different Russian accounts produced material about her. Public archives of Twitter accounts known to be Russian contain 2,642 tweets about Ms. Sarsour, many of which found large audiences, according to an analysis by Advance Democracy Inc., a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that conducts public-interest research and investigations. Many people know the story about how the Women’s March movement fractured, leaving lasting scars on the American left. A fragile coalition to begin with, it headed into crisis over its co-chairs’ association with Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam leader, who is widely condemned for his antisemitic statements. When this surfaced, progressive groups distanced themselves from Ms. Sarsour and her fellow march co-chairs, Carmen Perez, Tamika Mallory and Bob Bland, and some called for them to step down. But there is also a story that has not been told, one that only emerged years later in academic research, of how Russia inserted itself into this moment.
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In September 2019, The Washington Post reported that Sarsour had resigned as co-chair of the Women’s March movement following accusations of anti-Semitism and financial mismanagement.
Despite the involvement of a Russian influence operation, it should be pointed out that in 2012, our predecessor publication was the first to report Sarsour’s family ties to Hamas, information not reported by the NYT. Sarsour is known for her harsh criticism of Israel, including saying that Israel was “built on the idea that Jews are supreme to everyone else. In February 2022, the Global Influence Operations Report (GIOR) reported that Sarsour participated in an “American Muslim Public Servant of 2021 Award” event hosted by the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), a leading part of the US Muslim Brotherhood. On 8 April 2022, a coalition of US Muslim Brotherhood groups released a joint statement condemning US insurance company GEICO for abruptly canceling an employee diversity event to have been headlined by Sarsour, Leaders of Jewish advocacy groups had criticized the company for hosting Sarsour, pointing to her history of making anti-Semitic statements.