Officials with Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s campaign reportedly offered private apologies to anti-Israel activist Linda Sarsour after labeling her an anti-Semite in a bid to distance the campaign from Israel critics. The apology comes after Sarsour touted her ability to push Biden and his team into embracing anti-Israel policies, telling a Facebook audience that she would "force Biden to change his views."
The Biden campaign criticized Sarsour last week after her appearance at the Democratic National Convention's Muslim Delegates Assembly.
Sarsour, an anti-Israel activist and supporter of boycotts against the Jewish state, previously served as a surrogate for Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders. Biden spokeswoman Ashley Allison apologized for the campaign's treatment of Sarsour in an off-the-record call held over the weekend.
"I am sorry that that happened," she told supporters, according to the Middle East Eye. "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."
Tony Blinken, a top Biden foreign policy adviser, also reportedly expressed "regret" during the call about how Sarsour was treated.
The Biden campaign said in a statement on Monday that, while it regretted any "hurt that was caused" by its original statement, it nonetheless rejects Sarsour's views.
Symone Sanders, a top Biden spokeswoman, characterized the call was intended 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," but insisted that the the campaign "reject[s] the the views that Linda Sarsour has expressed."
Sarsour has been a lightning rod in the Democratic Party due to her harsh criticism of Israel and support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which seeks to wage economic warfare on Israel. Sarsour was booted from the Women’s March last year over anti-Israel comments that many viewed as anti-Semitic. Biden has been a staunch Israel supporter over the years and his campaign has undertaken efforts to isolate itself from anti-Israel voices on the Democratic Party’s far left. The campaign’s subsequent apology highlights the sway these voices currently hold over the party.
In April, Sarsour discussed her behind-the-scenes effort to push Biden and his advisers into adopting more anti-Israel views.
Sarsour said in a Facebook discussion that she would "force [Biden] to change his views" on the issue of Israel and Palestine.
"We can move Biden on a lot more issues," she said, advocating a pressure campaign to force the presidential candidate into more openly criticizing the Jewish state. Pressure, she said, "is the way we're going to have to operate."
The comments from Allison and Blinken mark a reversal for the Biden campaign. Biden spokesman Andrew Bates initially sought to distance the campaign from Sarsour last week, saying, "she has no role in the Biden campaign whatsoever."
"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," Bates said.