Calling the move an “egregious misstep,” Biden adviser Symone Sanders said it was a mistake of the entire campaign and not just Biden’s spokesperson Andrew Bates.
After Sarsour’s appearance on a panel at the convention hosted by the Muslim Delegates and Allies Assembly, Bates said, “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 [the Boycott, Sanction and Divest movement against Israel], as does the Democratic platform. She has no role in the Biden campaign whatsoever.”
Tony Blinken, Biden’s top foreign policy adviser echoed the apology, saying, “This should not be on our colleague who put it out… I dropped the ball on it, and I take responsibility for that, and I regret that.”
The statements by Biden’s advisers came in an off-the-record call (which did not include Sarsour) and was made public by the Middle East Eye who obtained a recording of it.
In the call, Ashley Allison, national coalitions director for Biden, expressed sorrow for the comments, empathized with “the pain” caused by them and vowed to regain the trust of the Arab and Muslim communities.
“I am sorry that that happened. And I hope that whatever trust was broken, that this conversation is one small step to help build back the trust, but that is not the last time we have this conversation,” Allison said.
While pundits debated whether or not the Biden campaign would make the apology public, Sanders cleared up that question and issued the following statement, according to CNN’s Jake Tapper:
“We met to affirm Vice President Biden’s unshakeable commitment to working with Arab, Palestinian, and Muslim Americans and to standing up against anti-Muslim prejudice, and to make clear that we regretted any hurt that was caused to these communities. We continue to reject the views that Linda Sarsour has expressed.”
That’s a statement that needs unpacking.
First, kudos to Sanders and the Biden campaign for standing their ground and rejecting Sarsour’s views.
Second, there is nothing wrong with the campaign expressing its commitment to working with Arab, Palestinian, and Muslim Americans and to standing up against anti-Muslim prejudice.
The next line is where it gets sticky: “We regretted any hurt that was caused to these communities.”
The only reason these communities would feel hurt by the comments directed against Sarsour’s antisemitic views and her support of the antisemitc BDS movement is if they shared these opinions with Sarsour.
And if they do share these opinions, then what does the Biden campaign have regrets about?
The Democrat platform explicitly expresses support for the U.S.-Israel relationship, U.S. funding for Israel’s security and maintaining Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state with recognized borders.”
The platform further states its opposition to “any effort to unfairly single out and delegitimize Israel, including at the United Nations or through the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions [BDS] movement, while protecting the constitutional right of our citizens to free speech.”
The problem is that the Islamist activists and their progressive allies to whom the Biden campaign apologized share Sarsour’s opinions.
These players disingenuously claim that the reason for Biden’s disavowal of Sarsour is simply because of her support for “Palestinian human rights,” conveniently ignoring Sarsour’s long history of making virulent antisemitic statements and supporting antisemitic hate preachers and Palestinian terrorists.
They fail to acknowledge that Sarsour has been a fan of Louis Farrakhan for years and has yet to condemn his endless antisemitism and other hatred — or the fact that she considers radical Islamist preacher Siraj Wahhaj her “mentor, motivator and encourager.”
They also conveniently fail to acknowledge that the reason the Democratic National Committee (along with many other prominent Left-wing groups) pulled its support from Sarsour’s Women’s March was precisely because of Sarsour’s antisemitism and the antisemitism of her co-chair Tamika Mallory.
In terms of Sarsour’s support for the BDS movement, these groups also fail to acknowledge that the BDS movement squarely falls under the U.S. State Department’s (and 34 other countries’) definition of antisemitism.
Yet the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and others would have you believe the reason the Biden campaign considers Sarsour to be antisemitic is because of her support for Palestinian rights.
“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,” CAIR said in a statement.
“[The Biden campaign is engaging in] a decades old tactic rooted in bigotry & racism,” tweeted the Arab American Institute.
“Biden can support Israel without implying that critique of Israeli gov’t policy is antisemitic or condemning advocates for Palestinian rights,” MoveOn.org tweeted. “Moving forward, it is critical for the Biden campaign to prioritize building a big tent that respects, represents, and welcomes progressives and Muslim and Arab Americans, even where policy disagreements exist.”
This last statement represents the crux of the issue: Antisemitism is not a “policy disagreement” that can be brought under “a big tent.”
If it is, we need to ask, just how big should that tent be for a political party aiming to win an election?
Notorious anti-Semite, neo-Nazi and white supremacist Richard Spencer just endorsed Joe Biden and the entire Democrat party. Biden’s campaign spokesperson Bates correctly condemned Spencer’s views as “absolutely repugnant” and stated that Spencer’s support is “10,000% percent unwelcome.”
When Joe Biden says we are in a battle for the soul of our nation against vile forces of hate who have come crawling out from under rocks, you are the epitome of what he means. What you stand for is absolutely repugnant. Your support is 10,000% percent unwelcome here. https://t.co/86reJEoTCd
— Andrew Bates (@AndrewBatesNC) August 24, 2020
The tent should obviously not be big enough to welcome the likes of Richard Spencer inside it. Yet how big should it be? Is any antisemtism acceptable? And does it depend on who it comes from?
As Linda Sarsour tweeted after the snub by the Biden campaign:
.@AndrewBatesNC, just came here to remind you that you need a coalition to defeat Donald Trump and that Muslim Americans are an important voter bloc in key states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Virginia, Texas, Pennsylvania & I know a little something about how to organize them.
— Linda Sarsour (@lsarsour) August 19, 2020
Politics is always a messy business full of cynical opportunism. It’s just a matter of how low to go.
The question here is: Should the Democrat party continue to “reject the views that Linda Sarsour has expressed” but welcome her and those like her into their “big tent?”