DNC Quiet on Vice Chair's Full-Throated Defense of Anti-Israel Activist

Democratic vice chair warns critics to 'fall back' in fight against Linda Sarsour

Democratic National Committee vice-chair Michael Blake / Getty Images
May 2, 2017

The Democratic National Committee has yet to comment on a statement from its recently elected vice chairman that he would "respond directly, consistently, and with all heart and soul" to any criticism of anti-Israel activist Linda Sarsour.

Michael Blake, a New York state assemblyman who was elected DNC vice chair in February, spoke out in defense of Sarsour amid growing concern about the taxpayer-funded City University of New York's (CUNY) decision to invite her to deliver its commencement speech later this month. Sarsour is a leading voice in the anti-Israel movement and has been accused of anti-Semitism.

"Making it real clear," Blake warned on Twitter. "If you keep coming after @lsarsour, we're going to respond directly, consistently, with all heart and soul. Fall back!"

It is unclear whether Blake's intention was to make a statement of support for Sarsour on behalf of the DNC. Blake and representatives of the DNC did not respond to numerous requests for comment.

Sarsour has emerged as a leading activist for the party in recent months despite applauding violence against the Jewish state. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) celebrated her as one of the "suffragists of our time" in Time magazine last month.

Not mentioned by Gillibrand was that weeks earlier Sarsour had shared a stage with Rasmea Odeh, a fellow anti-Israel activist and convicted terrorist who is responsible for a bombing in Israel that killed two young students. Sarsour said she was "honored to be on the stage with Rasmea."

Also unmentioned by Gillibrand was that Sarsour once said she felt "hurt" when Iraqi war criminal Saddam Hussein was captured by the United States, that Sarsour has called children throwing rocks at Jews "the definition of courage," or that she recently said Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a victim of female genital mutilation as a child, doesn't deserve to be a woman and should have her vagina taken away.

Sarsour also said this year that it is impossible to be both pro-Israel and a feminist.

New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, a Democrat who serves alongside Blake in Albany, says he thinks his party is "committing suicide" by turning a blind eye to the radicalism of figures like Sarsour.

"Linda Sarsour has a soft spot for terrorists; it's plain and simple," Hikind said. "Her remark recently that you can't be a feminist if you support Israel, why isn't everybody yelling about this? That's outrageous."

"The Democratic Party, to a great extent, is committing suicide," he said. "When you don't do the right thing in reaction to the Linda Sarsours of the world, then you are no better than Linda Sarsour."

Hikind blamed Democrats such as Gillibrand and Blake for embracing Sarsour, and said he hopes it is because they are ignorant about her anti-Israel track record.

"I would like to believe that a lot of people are just not aware of what she has advocated for and said," Hikind said. "She's been very smart in getting away with being two people—I take her for the things she has said publicly, none of which she has apologized for."

Abraham Foxman, the former national director of the Anti-Defamation League, recently called Sarsour a "bigot" and criticized her double-talk.

"She's a champion of equal rights, except when it comes to Jewish rights," Foxman said.

Sarsour actively campaigned in Georgia for Democrat Jon Ossoff, who previously worked for a congressman who compared Jews to termites.