The highly competitive race for Queens District Attorney is regarded as an indicator of nationwide discussions on criminal justice reform. Last week, high-profile activist Linda Sarsour gave her endorsement to Tiffany Caban, the public defender running on a decidedly leftist platform in the seven-person contest.
“I have dedicated the last two decades of my life specifically to criminal justice reform and police accountability,” Sarsour said at a rally last Thursday in Jackson Heights. “People know me from many other things, but I’m here because I’m committed to a justice system that fights for all people, a system that is restorative in its justice and not penalizing.”
Among the “other things” she is known for is BDS, the movement to isolate Israel from political and social discourse by connecting the Palestinian cause to other politically progressive items and marginalizing Israel supporters in such political circles. One such example is her assertion in 2017 that feminism and Zionism are incompatible.
Shortly after Sarsour’s endorsement of Caban, one of her opponents in the race asked the Queens Jewish Link to comment on the matter, contrasting Sarsour’s implacable hostility towards Israel with the candidate’s consistent record of support that includes security funding for yeshivos and synagogues, attendance at anti-hate rallies, and vows to prosecute anti-Semitic incidents as hate crimes. We should be alarmed that any candidate takes Sarsour seriously as an influencer in delivering votes. “I’m talking to the Muslims, this is our candidate. I’m going to make sure that Tiffany Cabán wins,” Sarsour said.
Perhaps in some districts Sarsour has pull, but overall the Queens Muslim electorate is diverse, comprising many nationalities and approaches towards religious observance. Across the borough, mosques have welcomed visits by Councilman Rory Lancman and former judge Greg Lasak, Borough President Melinda Katz, army veteran Jose Nieves, and former Nassau County prosecutor Betty Lugo.
There is also a Muslim candidate in the race, Mina Malik, the former director of the Civilian Complaint Review Board, prosecutor, Special Counsel to the Brooklyn DA, and Deputy Attorney General for Public Safety in Washington, DC. She has the support of APPAC – the Pakistani-American Public Affairs Committee that has a sizable following in Queens.
For the record, Caban has not made any statements in favor of BDS, but her supporters also include the Democratic Socialists of America, the group that attempted to hold a lecture at an Episcopal church in Astoria last week featuring speakers who support violence against Israel. The Queens Jewish community should be concerned not only about Caban’s support from such groups but also her radical platform that seeks to decriminalize “sex workers,” and incarcerate “as few people as possible.”
Most of us do not think of Queens as a bastion of leftist activism, but as last year’s election upset victory of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez proved, when a candidate has a motivated base of supporters, turnout is key. Registered Democratic voters in the Jewish community should mark their calendars for the June 25 primary. This election represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to shape the policies of the borough’s top law enforcement office.
By Sergey Kadinsky