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Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Is She an Inspiration to Arab Americans?

posted on: Sep 21, 2020

Ruth Bader Ginsburgh, Supreme Court of the United States, Photographer: Steve Petteway

By: Alena Khan/Arab America Contributing Writer 

On Friday, September 18, 2020, our nation lost a true trailblazer in the fight for women’s rights, justice, and equality. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second woman to serve on the Supreme court, died, surrounded by her family in her Washington home.

While we mourn the death of a legal icon, a political battle inevitably sets in motion as the question of who will succeed her hangs over us during an ongoing presidential campaign. However, we cannot forget all that she has accomplished. A justice of historic stature, Ginsburg dedicated her life to her work, serving 27 years on the highest court. “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.” A quote that represents Ginsburg’s immense impact on generations of women.

She fought tirelessly to eliminate gender-based stereotyping and discrimination in legislation and regulations. As co-founder of the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, she worked to remove the barriers around women in the workplace and open up opportunities for them. Her work brought upon a revolution concerning the legal status of women. She was simply a champion of women’s rights.

Ginsburg’s work has influenced an uprising of women in government, specifically, Arab American women. There is a wide range of proud Arab American women in our government who work to create change in our system, just as Justice Ginsburg did. From Representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib to Rosemary Barkett, former US Circuit Judge of the Court of Appeals, and Honorable Charlene Elder, serving as a judge for the Wayne County Third Circuit Court, the list goes on.

That being said, when it came to the issue of Palestine and the human rights violations against Palestinians, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was silent. In fact, she went to Israel and accepted awards although Israel has been an aggressor, occupier, and in violation of many UN resolutions. One award, Israel’s Lifetime Achievement Award, had been turned down by a previous nominee specifically because of Israel’s actions against human rights. Her silence and inaction inherently supported the Israeli oppression of Palestinians. In addition, she donated money to schools operated by Hand in Hand, an organization that normalizes the Israeli occupation of Palestine. For that reason, her actions (and lack thereof) earned her the label of “progressive except Palestine”, or PEP.

Unfortunately, the PEP label is added to many politicians and public figures who are progressive in all areas except when it comes to Palestine. This shows us that U.S. politics continue to be dominated by those who support Israel, even in its occupation of Palestinian land and human rights violations against Palestinians.

Her work to create equal rights for women in the U.S. isn’t diminished by this fact. Instead, we all should work to take her beliefs one step further and create equal rights for every woman, not just American women, and demand justice for everyone, especially for the Palestinians who have been fighting for it for more than 70 years.

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