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 Linda Sarsour speaks at a Black Lives Matter rally in Washington Square Park on June 6, 2020 in New York City. (Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images)

'Big Mistake': Progressives Slam Biden Campaign for Dismissal of Muslim-American Advocate Linda Sarsour

"Weaponizing the charge of 'anti-Semitism' to silence criticism of Israel is despicable," said activist Ady Barkan.

Lisa Newcomb

As the Democratic National Convention enters its final day, the campaign of the party's presidential nominee, Joe Biden, is under fire for dismissing progressive Muslim-American activist Linda Sarsour after her appearance on a panel of Muslim delegates during the convention.

"I am so sick and tired of folks going after Linda Sarsour and other Palestinian activists for speaking the truth about oppression and injustice."
—Rep. Rashida Tlaib

"She has no role in the campaign whatsoever," Biden campaign spokesperson Andrew Bates said in a statement Tuesday night. "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 referred to language in the party's 2020 platform (pdf), which reads in part, "We oppose any effort to unfairly single out and delegitimize Israel, including at the United Nations or through the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions [BDS] Movement."

Progressive leaders have panned the Democratic Party over its convention speaker lineup, which has featured a coalition of prominent GOP figures including former Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and the Biden campaign's remarks about Sarsour only served to deepen the wound and exacerbate frustrations of the party's left.

"I am so sick and tired of folks going after Linda Sarsour and other Palestinian activists for speaking the truth about oppression and injustice," Rep. Rashia Tlaib (D-Minn.) tweeted Wednesday. "You don't get it yet. We don't stop until everyone is free. We will always outwork the hate."

Jewish Medicare for All activist and featured Democratic Convention speaker Ady Barkan tweeted his disdain for the party's apparent embrace of anti-Semitic allegations against Sarsour.

"Advocacy of a boycott or sanctions against Israel is not anti-Semitism," Barkan wrote. "Weaponizing the charge of 'anti-Semitism' to silence criticism of Israel is despicable."

Sarsour, who has advocated for ending the Israeli occupation of Palestine and for the related BDS movement, has faced criticism for her activism from Republicans and centrist Democrats. Following Sarsour's appearance on the panel, Republicans immediately attacked Democrats for allowing the former Women's March co-chair to speak.

Sarsour on Wednesday accused the party of hypocrisy when it used footage of a Women's March she helped organize during that evening's convention events, and she expressed gratitude for those who have come to her defense.

"To my dear Arab American and Muslim American communities," she tweeted, " I am humbled by your support. I am proud to be your daughter. I am honored to fight for you every single day. I will never cower. I will always stand by my beliefs. I will never be afraid. I am because of you."

In a thread calling attention Sarsour's activism work to unite Muslim and Jewish Americans around progressive causes, Bend The Arc: Jewish Action tweeted, "Linda, we have your back and we're grateful you've had ours."

Progressive leaders and activists continue to criticize Democratic party's embrace of more centrist policies, including its continued refusal to support Medicare for All amid the Covid-19 pandemic. On Wednesday climate advocates fumed at the party's removal of platform language pledging to end support for fossil fuel subsidies, and some worry that if the party leans too far right it will jeopardize Biden's chances to defeat President Donald Trump in November.

"If Joe Biden ignores, demoralizes, or actively alienates his progressive base," Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan wrote for Democracy Now! Thursday, "he could pave the way for another Donald Trump victory, in what public intellectual Noam Chomsky has called 'the most crucial election in human history.'"


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