director of the first Muslim online organizing platform, MPower Change, and co-founder of the Muslim Democratic Club of New York.
homeland security expert who has advised the U.S. government on counterterrorism and countering violent extremism issues. He also identifies as a "proud Texas Muslim Republican" who has been involved with the GOP for over 20 years.
At the Republican debate in Miami, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and John Kasich all came out opposing any negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians. "Maybe we can have an Israel-Palestine peace deal in 30 years," said Rubio, who referred to the occupied West Bank as Judea and Samaria. Trump was the only candidate to support negotiations.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to the issue of Israel-Palestine that came up in Thursday night’s Republican debate in the line of questioning by moderator Hugh Hewitt. This exchange begins with Marco Rubio, who referred to the occupied West Bank as Judea and Samaria.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO: The Palestinian Authority is not interested in a serious deal, and they are now in union with Hamas, an organization whose specific purpose is the destruction of the Jewish state. Every time that Israel has turned over territory of any kind, be it Gaza or now in Judea and Samaria, it is used as a launching pad to attack Israel. And that’s what will happen again. These groups are not interested in a deal with Israel. What they are interested in is ultimately removing the Jewish state and occupying its entire territory. So maybe in 30 years the conditions will exist, but they do not exist now.
HUGH HEWITT: So, Mr. Trump? And then I’ll come to you, Governor Kasich.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO: And to have a president forcing the Israelis to the table is harmful to Israel—
HUGH HEWITT: Thank you, Senator.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO: —and emboldens Israel’s enemies.
HUGH HEWITT: Mr. Trump, a response? Then we’ll go to Governor Kasich.
DONALD TRUMP: If—if I become president of the United States, one of the things that will be an absolute priority is, number one, protection of Israel, but also seeing if a deal can be made, the toughest deal, the toughest negotiation there probably is of any kind, no matter where you look, no matter how hard you look. But I would like to give it a shot. Very, very pro-Israel, nobody more pro-Israel. But I would love to give it a shot. And I have to tell you this, Hugh. I have friends, Israelis, non-Israelis, people from New York City that happen to be Jewish and love Israel. Every single—and some are very tough people. Every single one of them, they know it’s tough, but every single one of them wants to see if we could ever have peace in Israel. And some believe it’s possible. It may not be, in which case we’ll find out. But it would be a priority, if I become president, to see if I could do it.
HUGH HEWITT: Governor Kasich, do you agree with the Israeli government that the Palestinian Authority is inciting this violence?
GOV. JOHN KASICH: Well, there’s no question. They were saying that the Israelis intended to go to the Dome of the Rock. And, I mean, when you think about this, thank goodness we work with the Israelis to give them the Iron Dome and—you know, where they can protect themselves against all the missiles that were flying in. Could you imagine living in—like in Miami here and have people shooting missiles in? ...
And I just have to tell you this: I don’t believe there is any long-term, permanent peace solution. And I think pursuing that’s the wrong thing to do. I believe that every day that we can have stability in that region, by supporting the Israelis and making sure they have the weapons and the security—
HUGH HEWITT: Thank you.
GOV. JOHN KASICH: —that they need, with our 100 percent backing, is the way to proceed in the Middle East in regard to Israel.
HUGH HEWITT: Thank you, Governor.
AMY GOODMAN: That was John Kasich, Donald Trump and Marco Rubio. Linda Sarsour, your response? And they were particularly attacking Donald Trump for saying he would want to be a kind of neutral broker when he brokered the deal. He said, "But I am very pro-Israel." It’s sort of like, "Don’t tell them, but that’s what’s going on behind the scenes," he said.
LINDA SARSOUR: The irony of the exchanges in the Republican debate about Palestine-Israel is that Donald Trump comes off the most reasonable. That’s the really interesting part. As a Palestinian American myself, Amy, I wish for the day that I live in a country where pledging allegiance to Israel is not the litmus test to running for political office. This was absolute pandering. And there was a time where Rubio talked about Palestinians being terrorists, you know, that they train their children to bomb Jews—I mean, anti-Arab, anti-Palestinian, absolutely no inclination that anyone in the Republican Party would ever help—and, I mean, no one has been able to—broker any deals. I mean, I want a president that says end military occupation, that sees the opportunity for Palestinian sovereignty to bring peace to the region. These are warmongers. They’re people who support torture. So I wasn’t very impressed by any of them.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think Bernie Sanders, who you support, has laid out his position on Israel-Palestine?
LINDA SARSOUR: I think Bernie Sanders hasn’t been super clear. I think Bernie Sanders is a realist. He understands the challenges that come with it. But I do think that he is open to the conversation and at least understands that Palestinians are human beings, that we must end military occupation in Palestine. And I think that there’s an opportunity for us to continue that discussion with him as the next president of the United States.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Mohamed Elibiary, your response to the exchange between the candidates over Israel and Palestine?
MOHAMED ELIBIARY: Well, I would disagree a little bit with Linda, that I don’t see it as anti-Arab or anti-Muslim. I see it as pandering, that’s for sure. She’s right on that. But I don’t think it’s so much pandering to our base voter. Me being in the party for more than 20 years, the base is not really voting on this issue. But the base does have a bias on the issue, culturally, just like most Americans. I see it as pandering to a certain donor segment in the GOP. You know, this is the kind of rhetoric that a Sheldon Adelson and that wing of our donor community has been demanding as a litmus test for a long time in order to throw a lot of money at these campaigns. And as proof that it’s not really anti-Muslim or anti-Arab in whole is because the same people that you saw saying that same stuff about the Israeli-Palestinian issue were the same ones that were turning around, like Marco Rubio, and defending Muslims and Islam and challenging Donald Trump on that just a few seconds or a few minutes earlier.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’re going to leave it there, but I want to thank you both for being with us, Mohamed Elibiary, homeland security expert, speaking to us from Dallas, a "proud Texas Muslim Republican, and Linda Sarsour, director of the first Muslim online organizing platform, MPower Change, and head of the Muslim Democratic Club of New York.
This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we’re going to look at some other issues that were raised, particularly around Cuba, both the Republicans and the Democrats. Stay with us.