WASHINGTON—While Joe Biden received fairly good marks after the Democratic National Convention, one group of constituents remains unhappy—Muslim Democrats. The former vice president is facing a minor backlash after his campaign trashed the appearance of Women’s March co-founder, criminal justice reform, and Palestinian-rights activist Linda Sarsour at the convention’s Caucus of Muslim Democrats and Allies.
The rebuke was not because of anything Ms. Sarsour said—in her three-minute remarks, her most controversial comment was: “the Democrats are not perfect, but they are absolutely our party now.”
But the Biden campaign condemned her appearance, apparently for not getting prior approval from the Israel lobby for the invitation, or more precisely, over her support for the BDS movement, which seeks to boycott, divest and sanction Israel over its treatment of Palestinians and its illegal occupation of the West Bank.
“it underscores that the Biden campaign does not have the backbone to stand by people who have been mobilizing activists and voters nationwide for so many years on social justice issues.. She was attacked solely because of her outspoken advocacy on behalf of Palestinian rights. Their action is Islamophobic anti-Palestinian, and should be rejected by all Americans.”Nihad Awad, co-founder of CAIR
Campaign spokesperson Andrew Bates told CNN: “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. She has no role in the Biden campaign whatsoever.”
The Democratic Party platform, which was approved Aug. 18, the same day as Ms. Sarsour’s appearance before the Muslim Democratic Caucus, also condemns the BDS movement. “We oppose any effort to unfairly single out and delegitimize Israel, including at the United Nations or through the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement, while protecting the Constitutional right of our citizens to free speech,” the platform states.
A Democratic official even claimed that the meeting was not run by the DNC or the Biden campaign, but the event was on the official convention schedule and was streamed live on the convention’s website.
Officially, Muslim Democrats have been mostly silent about the condemnation of their invited speaker, others, outside the party protested the attack. Nihad Awad, co-founder of CAIR, the Council on American Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim Civil Rights organization did comment. “I spoke at the Democratic Muslim Caucus,” Mr. Awad told The Final Call in an interview, “and I called on Joe Biden and his campaign to apologize to American Muslims.”
The mainstream, corporate-owned media has paid little attention to the rebuke. It has been featured mostly in Israeli media outlets, and conservative platforms in the U.S., like Fox News, the Times of Israel, the Jerusalem Post, Yahoo Voices, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the Daily Beast, the Jewish Insider, and the Washington Times.
“The mainstream media recognizes that Linda Sarsour is a mainstream activist, but unfortunately it underscores that the Biden campaign does not have the backbone to stand by people who have been mobilizing activists and voters nationwide for so many years on social justice issues,” Mr. Awad continued. “She was attacked solely because of her outspoken advocacy on behalf of Palestinian rights. Their action is Islamophobic anti-Palestinian, and should be rejected by all Americans.”
In another insult, the day after Ms. Sarsour’s appearance, the DNC aired a video titled “America Rising: Women’s Suffrage to Women’s March” featuring footage of the movement that Linda Sarsour co-founded. She tweeted in response, “When the DNC uses footage of my labor at the Women’s March to make themselves seem relevant while throwing my communities under the bus. You can’t make this up.”
Meanwhile, Ady Barkan, the American Israeli lawyer who suffers from terminal ALS and who was a featured speaker in prime time at the convention, called the Biden campaign’s attack a “vile and dishonest statement.” Mr. Barkan tweeted, “Linda is a fierce advocate for justice and freedom, and a leading antiracist and organizer against antisemitism. The Biden campaign must retract and apologize.”
Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CODEPINK Women for Peace, also denounced the campaign’s decision to ostracize Ms. Sarsour. “That is atrocious the way that they came out, attacking Linda, Sarsour,” Ms. Benjamin told this writer in an interview on Pacifica Radio’s national DNC broadcast.
“I’m very glad to see how many groups and individuals have pushed back against that. And they’re demanding that they take those attacks back; that they recognize her as a great leader in the progressive movement; and that they recognize that criticizing Israel is definitely not antisemitic,” Ms. Benjamin continued.
And while Muslim Democrats have been complaining, mostly in private, there is a danger to Mr. Biden’s electability. Loyalty to the Biden ticket in several key battleground states, especially among immigrant Muslims may be shaken by the denunciation, according to Mr. Awad. “Absolutely. The Biden campaign has a long way to go to gain support from American Muslim voters.
“Not only on this issue, but on many other issues. The Obama administration has instituted many harmful domestic and foreign policies that the Muslim community and Muslims have been suffering ever since,” he continued.
“And Joe Biden has been part of it. And we have not seen in promises or commitments from the Joe Biden campaign to the commitment to inclusion leadership, and also progressive politics that look upon people equally at home and abroad.
“That is lacking and that is a challenge, to receive the support that he would like to get from the Muslim community. And I think it’s a clear message that American Muslim voters should not be taken for granted by any candidate.”
Muslims could be the swing voters in critical states including Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin, Mr. Awad said.
Ms. Sarsour endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) during the Democratic primary. “It’s no secret that I have disagreements with both VP Joe Biden & Senator Kamala Harris. But I know what I need to do—elect the Biden-Harris ticket and prepare to hold them accountable in the White House,” she wrote on Twitter after her condemnation.
“Our sister Linda Sarsour is an outspoken advocate of justice for all, including the Jewish community,” CAIR National Deputy Director Edward Ahmed Mitchell said in a statement. “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.”