Pro-Palestinian activist Linda Sarsour gave a short speech to a delegation of Muslim Democrats at the national convention. Her appearance elicited a bipartisan backlash from viewers concerned with her extremist past.
This article has been edited from its original version.
On August 18, the Joe Biden campaign distanced itself from New York Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegate Linda Sarsour after she gave a speech the previous day to a delegation of Muslim Democrats. A spokesman for Biden condemned Sarsour's history of anti-Semitism and her support for the extremist Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement aimed at Israel.
"She has no role in the Biden campaign whatsoever," said Andrew Bates, Director of Rapid Response for the campaign.
However commendable Biden's decision was to disavow a habitual anti-Semite such as Sarsour, the former vice president should clean up his own house first. He can start by denouncing a pro-BDS extremist on his own campaign staff, as well as several anti-Semitic Islamists who attended his party's national convention as part of the Muslim Delegates and Allies Coalition.
Indeed, Biden's Muslim outreach director, Farooq Mitha, supports the same BDS movement that prompted Sarsour's renunciation. In June 2018, Mitha shared a Facebook post opposing federal legislation to prohibit U.S. businesses from joining foreign boycotts such as BDS, a movement which Biden believes "singles out Israel and too often veers into anti-Semitism."
Joe Biden, pictured left with his Muslim outreach coordinator Farooq Mitha.
His concerns are warranted: the Ramallah-based BDS National Committee is composed of a coalition of Palestinian terrorist groups working with U.S. and European civil rights NGOs to destroy Israel through economic and diplomatic isolation.
In addition to supporting BDS, Mitha is a founding board member of Emgage, an umbrella of civic engagement projects consumed with electing pro-Islamist political candidates. Emgage holds many of its political literacy programs at terror-tied mosques, such as Florida's Darul Uloom Institute, former home to Al Qaeda "Dirty Bomber" Jose Padilla. In 2014, Emgage (formerly Emerge USA) hosted Sayed Ammar Nakshawani, a British-Iraqi Islamist who has questioned Holocaust casualty figures and referred to members of a historic Jewish tribe as "loan sharks" to justify their slaughter by early Muslims.
Moreover, Sarsour wasn't the only member of the Muslim delegation who should have provoked controversy among Democrats. The Muslim Delegates and Allies Coalition that Sarsour addressed includes Islamist clerics, activists, and community stakeholders who possess radical views. Some members of this delegation surpass Sarsour in terms of extremism, and their appearance at the national convention should have aroused dissent from party officials and the Biden campaign.
For instance, Asad Zaman is a delegate from Minnesota and the director of his state's Muslim American Society chapter, an Islamist nonprofit known as the "overt arm" of the Muslim Brotherhood in America. Zaman has shared neo-Nazi websites on his social media which deny the Holocaust. He even publicly mourned the execution of a war criminal belonging to Jamaat-e-Islami, a violent South Asian Islamist movement.
Khurrum Wahid wasn't only a Florida delegate to the DNC, but he also sat on the Democratic Party's Platform Committee. A founding member and former co-chair of Emgage, Wahid built his South Florida legal practice around representing some of America's most notorious terrorism offenders. His clients include Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, an al-Qaeda operative who received a life sentence for plotting to assassinate President George W. Bush.
Texas delegate Azhar Azeez is the former president of the Islamic Society of North America, an Islamist nonprofit listed in 2008 as an unindicted co-conspirator in the nation's largest terrorism finance trial for supporting the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. Azeez called Israel's right to defend itself "false propaganda," and he promoted a YouTube video claiming that support for Israel is predicated on a sinister Jewish lobby.
Huwaida Arraf participated in the 2010 "Gaza Freedom Flotilla," an attempt to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza City that resulted in the deaths of 9 Turkish protestors who attacked Israeli commandos who boarded their ship.
Michigan delegate Huwaida Arraf is a lawyer who represented Palestinian terrorist Rasmeah Odeh, the "principle architect" of a 1969 bombing that killed two Israelis. Arraf also helped organize the 2010 Gaza flotilla, a publicity stunt by international activists to break an Israeli naval blockade against Hamas.
Other delegates include BDS advocates Sameena Usman, Samia Assed, Faisal Qazi, and Sabina Mohammad. As part of the Muslim delegation, they convinced the DNC to adopt a recommendation discouraging "elected officials from authoring or sponsoring anti-First Amendment anti-BDS legislation that chills speech and infringes on rights guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution."
To be sure, Sarsour did not attend the Democratic convention on behalf of Biden; she was invited by Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT), who made a deal with the Biden campaign to drop out of the presidential race in April, so long as he could retain the delegates he won during the primaries. These delegates, including Sarsour and members of the Muslim Delegates and Allies Coalition, voted against the official Democratic Party platform on August 4 because it failed to deny military aid to Israel and lift sanctions against Iran.
Certainly, Sarsour is worthy of criticism. In 2018, she was ousted as a co-chair of the national Women's March for making anti-Semitic statements. In late 2019, the Palestinian American activist said that, "Israel is built on the idea that Jews are supreme to everyone else." She has also stated that "nothing is creepier than Zionism" and refused to denounce Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, a notorious Jew hater.
Linda Sarsour, pictured far right, with members of the Nation of Islam.
However, Sarsour is merely a symptom of a widespread problem within the Democratic Party. Progressives are finding themselves increasingly willing to partner with Islamists who possess documented ties to extremist Palestinian resistance groups, and whose criticism of Israel too often escalates into overt anti-Semitism.
This is precisely the reason that Biden's spokesman cited for distrusting Sarsour: "Joe Biden has been a strong supporter of Israel and a vehement opponent of anti-Semitism his entire life, and he obviously condemns her views and opposes BDS, as does the Democratic platform," Bates said.
Despite Bates's assurances, the DNC agenda merely expressed opposition to the BDS movement, while noting the importance of "protecting the constitutional right of our citizens to free speech." In other words, the Democratic Party will oppose anti-BDS legislation enacted in 31 states, despite acknowledging the boycott's inherent bigotry.
Unfortunately, the Biden campaign's brief moment of courage has already been negated. Just days after condemning Sarsour, the Democratic presidential nominee sent his top advisors to placate Islamist supporters upset over the controversy. They apologized profusely, calling Bates's statement an "egregious misstep" and pledging "to do better going forward."
After such a timid retraction, Democrats who are truly committed to equality have little hope of rooting out bigotry and anti-Semitism within the party — nevermind the country. How can they, when the delegates who write the rules are some of the most outspoken offenders?
Benjamin Baird is the Associate Director of the Islamism in Politics project at the Middle East Forum.