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Opinion: We Confronted Chelsea Clinton At The Christchurch Vigil. Here's Why.

The activists who confronted Chelsea Clinton at the vigil for victims of the Christchurch massacre explain their actions.

Posted on March 16, 2019, at 7:17 p.m. ET

Rose Asaf / Leen Dweik

Yesterday we posted a video of Leen confronting Chelsea Clinton at a vigil for the victims of the white supremacist New Zealand mosque massacre. Today, we woke up to over 100,000 people talking about it on Twitter. Needless to say, this is not what we expected.

We went to the vigil for one reason: to grieve the loss of innocent lives that were stolen from this world by vile hatred. We wanted to join our friends and colleagues in a time of heartbreak and agony, to remember the 49 Muslims who were murdered for being Muslim. As a Jewish American-Israeli and a Palestinian Muslim, we understand far too well the consequences of anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim bigotry, and white supremacy. And as activists who are unafraid to speak the truth, we know we have a duty to call out any bigotry wherever it exists.

We did a double take when we first noticed Chelsea Clinton was at the vigil. Just weeks before this tragedy, we bore witness to a bigoted, anti-Muslim mob coming after Rep. Ilhan Omar for speaking the truth about the massive influence of the Israel lobby in this country. As people in unwavering solidarity with Palestinians in their struggle for freedom and human rights, we were profoundly disappointed when Chelsea Clinton used her platform to fan those flames. We believe that Ilhan Omar did nothing wrong except challenge the status quo, but the way many people chose to criticize Omar made her vulnerable to anti-Muslim hatred and death threats.

We were shocked when Clinton arrived at the vigil, given that she had not yet apologized to Rep. Omar for the public vilification against her. We thought it was inappropriate for her to show up to a vigil for a community she had so recently stoked hatred against. We were not alone in feeling uncomfortable β€” many students were dismayed to see her there.

So when we saw Chelsea, we saw an opportunity to have her ear and confront her on her false charge of anti-Semitism against our only Black, Muslim, Somali, and refugee member of Congress. We took our chance to speak truth to power. Chelsea hurt our fight against white supremacy when she stood by the petty weaponizers of antisemitism, showing no regard for Rep. Omar and the hatred being directed at her.

We know that our only safety is through solidarity. The fight against anti-Muslim bigotry is the fight against anti-Semitism is the fight against racism is the fight against white supremacy. When someone attacks one of us, they attack all of us. We know that our struggles are intertwined, and for any of us to be safe, all of us must be safe.

Provided to BuzzFeed News

Rose (left) and Leen (right) at a previous protest.

Many have said it was unfair to connect Chelsea’s words to the massacre in Christchurch. To them, we say that anti-Muslim bigotry must be addressed wherever it exists. This is not about left and right. This is about people who do and do not have power, and how those with power use it. A global environment of hatred and vilification against Muslims created this killer. Spurred on by professional bigots, anti-Muslim hate now permeates our culture and politics, and everyone, as a matter of urgency, should consider the role they play in enabling it. That includes Chelsea Clinton.

The reality is that many people aren’t doing enough to fight anti-Muslim bigotry. We need people to understand that you cannot be racist against Palestinians, and vilify people who promote their cause, while also being in solidarity with Muslims. You cannot contribute to the anti-Muslim, anti-Black, and misogynistic abuse of Rep. Omar while also being in solidarity with Muslims.

To Chelsea Clinton: We hope that our intentions in confronting you are now clear. We believe that you still owe an apology: not only to Rep. Omar, but also to Palestinians for using your platform to defame their cause. As an Israeli national and a Palestinian, we want you to know that it is dangerous to label valid criticisms of Israel and its lobby as anti-Semitic. We know that this is a tactic to silence us and deny us our free speech.

Unfortunately, people have cynically seized on this confrontation to divert attention from the conversation we need to be having about anti-Muslim bigotry and white supremacy. People have subjected us to a relentless bullying campaign, death threats, and threats of sexual violence. In their haste to defend Chelsea Clinton, people continue to vilify a Muslim woman for speaking her truth.

But we are not deterred. This is a turning point, and white supremacy and anti-Muslim bigotry must be defeated. It begins with keeping our own accountable. Our hearts are with the Muslim community and the victims’ families. We will continue to fight for justice for everyone.


Rose Asaf is a senior at New York University where she studies comparative politics and American studies. She is an Israeli American Jewish woman, and she cofounded the Jewish Voice for Peace chapter at NYU.

Leen Dweik is a senior at New York University studying international relations and Middle Eastern and Islamic studies. She is a Muslim Palestinian whose main organizing centers on Palestine solidarity efforts.

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