Muslim Democrats Not Happy About Platform Flap

Keith Ellison to WFB: 'I don't like your attitude'

Rep. Keith Ellison / AP
September 6, 2012

CHARLOTTE — Arab American leader James Zogby called the Democratic Party’s contested platform regarding Israel meaningless and bashed the party for "doing something so dumb" as to reinsert language declaring Jerusalem the Jewish state’s capital after a noisy and contested floor vote.

"You don’t try to ram [an amendment] through on the floor and when you lose" proceed anyway, Zogby told a group of Muslim delegates Thursday during a "Gala Reception/Luncheon for Muslim Delegates" held on the sidelines of the Democratic National Convention.

Zogby slammed Obama and the Democratic Party for reconsidering its exclusion of language in the party platform that specifically referred to Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a policy declaration that appeared in both the 2004 and 2008 iterations of their platform.

The omission of several pro-Israel passages from the Democratic Party’s official platform led to widespread criticism this week, forcing party leaders to offer an amendment explicitly referring to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel—a routine action that devolved into a floor fight among many delegates who opposed the pro-Israel measure.

Zogby, cofounder of the Arab American Institute, also dubbed the Republican Party as "the guys who want to blow up the earth and bring Jesus back."

During his speech to Muslim leaders at the lunch, which was hosted by Rep. Keith Ellison (D., Minn.), Zogby went on to chastise the Democratic Party for capitulating to pro-Israel interests.

"When you read the language of the platform [regarding Israel] it’s inconsequential," he said. "This is language that means almost nothing if you look at it up close."

Referring to reports that Obama viewed the disputed platform prior to the convention, Zogby was indignant.

"When they tell us the president did it, … this guy is way to smart to do something so dumb," Zogby said.

Zogby referred to the contentious floor fight over Israel as a net positive for Muslim Democrats.

"We got so much attention," he said, dubbing the incident, "this Jerusalem thing."

"When I hear all the boos, … [it] means we’re not isolated on the margins of American politics anymore," said Zogby, who also praised the liberal fringe group J Street as his organization’s partner.

"Barack Obama shouldn’t pay the price for the blunder" of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who led the contested floor vote.

As the event drew to a close, Ellison erupted at a Free Beacon reporter who had stepped towards the podium to ask a question.

"Step off, man," Ellison said when he spotted a reporter taking notes and attempting to pose a question. "I don’t like your attitude."

Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee (D., Texas), who also gave remarks to Muslim delegates at the event, attempted to sidestep the issue of Israel and the Democratic platform when approached by the Free Beacon.

"I want to focus on reelection the president of the United States," Jackson Lee said. "Let’s focus on the positive, not the negative."

Asked how she felt about a portion of delegates booing the pro-Israel amendment, Jackson Lee demurred.

"I have no comment," she said.

Democracy Now reporter Amy Goodman was singled out for praise by Ellison earlier at the lunch.

"Of course I’m here in a non-partisan way," Goodman told attendees when she took to the podium.

Goodman went on to urge the crowd to "come to Democracy Now with your stories."

Meanwhile, Sen. Carl Levin (D., Mich.) was more forthcoming when asked about the floor dispute.

"It’s not a flap," he told the Free Beacon. "It reinforces the position the Democratic Party already holds."

Free Beacon reporter CJ Ciaramella contributed to this report.