As Democratic Party leaders struggle to end their increasingly vitriolic presidential primary campaign, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is winning concessions in hopes he’ll tone down the rhetoric.
Last month, we focused on Sanders’ reliance on Linda Sarsouras a campaign surrogate. Sarsour also is a Palestinian activist with a history of vitriolic anti-Israel statements. “Nothing is creepier than Zionism,” she wrote on Twitter about the idea that Jews can return to their ancestral homeland as a refuge from global anti-Semitism. To Sarsour, that ideal is racist.
Memorial Day weekend’s approach brings to mind another prominent Sanders supporter, Zahra Billoo, who has repeatedly expressed discomfort with the holiday. “Many of our troops are engaged in terrorism,” she wrote in June 2012.
Billoo heads the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ (CAIR) San Francisco office. CAIR has roots in a Hamas-support network created by the Muslim Brotherhood in American, internal documents and eyewitness accounts show.
Two weeks ago, Billoo made it clear her views about American troops have not changed, questioning the holiday’s value: “You think we should honor people who commit war crimes?” she asked an incredulous questioner. She “proudly stands by” her opinion, she also wrote.
Despite these extreme views, or perhaps because of them, Billoo appears to be playing a significant role in the Sanders campaign. Her social media accounts are filled with pro-Sanders messages – including repeated reminders about the registration deadline to be eligible for June 7 California primary. She was granted backstage access to a Sanders rally last week in San Jose where she was photographed with the candidate.
Billoo also has argued that American citizens who move to Israel and join the army are no different from those who join ISIS. “Is one genocidal group different than the other?” she asked last year.
Billoo’s extremism applies to domestic policy, too. She casts FBI counter-terror investigations as illegitimate and even corrupt. She blasted the conviction of five former officials from the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation after records showed they illegally routed millions of dollars to Hamas. And, in the wake of a Portland man’s arrest for plotting to blow up a Christmas tree lighting ceremony crowded with children, she suggested to a reporter that the FBI hyped the threat.
“The question is, are we looking to stop radicalization and stop extremism before it becomes a problem or do we want a sensational story?” Billoo asked. “And I’d really argue here that the FBI was looking for a sensational story.”
The suspect, Mohamed Mohamud, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Among the evidence against him was a recording in which he said, “I want whoever is attending that event to be, to leave either dead or injured.”
Billoo’s opinions hold steady regardless of the facts. Maybe that’s why she’s comfortable being involved in campaign politics.