Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour, who infamously contended that it is wrong to “humanize” Israel, that the country was “built on the idea that Jews are supreme,” who has repeatedly and vocally promoted the BDS movement and tweeted in 2012 that “Nothing is creepier than Zionism,” appeared on screen during the Democratic National Convention last Tuesday.
Ms. Sarsour, who was forced out of the Women’s March organization last year due to concerns of anti-Semitism, had been recruited by an entity called the Muslim Delegates Assembly to speak at its meeting, which, while not controlled by the Democratic National Committee or the Biden campaign, was nevertheless featured on the official convention schedule and was streamed live on the convention’s website.
Ms. Sarsour’s odiousness can’t be overstated. She spoke alongside Rasmea Odeh, who was convicted by an Israeli court for taking part in a 1969 bombing that killed two civilians and deported from the U.S. for hiding that fact, and somehow neglected to mention Jews in her International Holocaust Remembrance Day statement. She has voiced her support for the intifada and praised an Arab boy holding rocks in order to throw them at Israelis as “the definition of courage.”&
The appearance of so divisive and offensive a figure at a convention meeting rightly drew much criticism. And it was heartening that Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates immediately released a statement disavowing her views and disassociating the campaign from her.
“Joe Biden has been a strong supporter of Israel and a vehement opponent of anti-Semitism his entire life,” the statement read, “and he obviously condemns [Sarsour’s] views and opposes BDS, as does the Democratic platform. She has no role in the Biden campaign whatsoever.”&
Indeed, it has been reported that coded language in the party platform that anti-Israel elements wanted to have included was nixed by Mr. Biden himself.
Heartening, too, in its own way, was the reaction to the Biden campaign’s official disassociation from Sarsour.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), for instance, spoke out in defense of “our sister,” asserting that “smearing her and other American Muslims as anti-Semitic for supporting Palestinian human rights is predictable, despicable and unacceptable. Our political leaders must stop doing it.”
The group’s executive director, Nihad Awad, declared that “We don’t stand for these attempts to repress us from the right, and we will not stand for it from the presidential campaign of Joe Biden.”
Muslim-American activist Zahra Billoo lamented, “With the 2020 convention, we have no Muslim speakers and the Muslims who are organizing in side events are being condemned by the campaign.”
And Beth Miller, government affairs manager at JVP Action, a political advocacy group linked to the radical organization Jewish Voice for Peace, demanded that the Biden campaign “retract this attack on Linda Sarsour and apologize immediately.”
Activist anger was aimed as well at the DNC for giving former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who oversaw a post-9/11 surveillance program focused on Muslim institutions, a prime spot on the convention’s main program.
Nadia Ahmad, a Muslim-American Democratic delegate, said that the prominent featuring of Mr. Bloomberg, who earlier this year called his surveillance program “the right thing to do,” was “a total slap in the face.”
Rewarding the former mayor with a prime-time spot at the convention, despite his “negative attitudes” towards Muslims, she said, calls into question the Democratic Party’s commitment to support Muslim-Americans.&
“There’s no reason,” she continued, “why Keith Ellison, the attorney general of Minnesota, could not speak. There’s no reason why Representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib could not speak [on the main virtual stage]. They’ve earned their position in this country…”
Tamika Mallory, another former leader of the Women’s March who, like Sarsour, was ousted for anti-Semitic comments, including praise of Louis Farrakhan, also spoke at a DNC virtual meeting, this one convened by the Democratic Black Caucus.
The fact that the DNC and the Biden campaign are not afraid of alienating the Democratic Party’s “progressive” wing by clearly stating a pro-Israel stance and denouncing the views of people like Linda Sarsour is worth noting.
So, though, unfortunately, is the fact that such was necessary, that the party has been embraced not only by “social progressive” elements but by radical anti-Israel, anti-Semitic individuals who, for now, may be just stewing in their rejection but will surely seek to assert their views more forcefully in the future.
The party, at present, has distanced itself from those elements, and deserves credit for that. What will count most, though, will be whether that distance will be maintained in the future.