Queens DSA Condemns Syed’s Change of Heart Over Israel

City council candidate for District 24 Soma Syed. Photo courtesy of the campaign

In response to a candidate’s reticence to release her answers to a controversial question in an endorsement questionnaire, the endorsing organization has gone ahead and done it for her.

The Organizing Committee for the Queens Democratic Socialists of America Electoral Working Group released a screenshot on Thursday afternoon of District 24 City Council Candidate Soma Syed’s response to a question about expenses-paid trips to Israel and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) from their endorsement questionnaire that raised hackles citywide over the summer.

They did so after Syed was questioned in a candidate forum earlier in the week about whether or not she sought their endorsement and if so, would she release her filled out questionnaire. 

Syed was the only candidate running to replace former City Councilmember Rory Lancman present at the forum held on Tuesday evening who had sought the endorsement of the New York City Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). Syed responded that she had sought their endorsement but was glad that she hadn’t received it. She said she disagreed with some of the organization’s policies, including BDS. When asked if she would release her responses to the DSA’s questionnaire, Syed said that she’d have to think about it. 

A screenshot of a portion of City Council Candidate Soma Syed’s DSA endorsement questionnaire.

On Thursday, the Organizing Committee for the Queens DSA Electoral Working Group released her answer to the question about Israel and BDS for her along with a statement. 

“The Organizing Committee for the Queens DSA Electoral Working Group is disappointed to hear that Syed has reversed her position on BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions),” they said. “DSA stands in full solidarity with the Palestinian people and expects candidates who apply for our endorsement to be honest with our members on their positions. Therefore, in the interest of transparency, we are releasing a screenshot from Syed’s questionnaire, submitted to the EWG OC on August 19, 2020.”

In the questionnaire that drew ire over the summer, city council candidates were asked if they would stand in solidarity with Palestinians by pledging to not participate in expenses-paid trips to Israel in their official capacity as city councilmembers if they are elected. They were also asked if they supported BDS and if not, why. 

According to the released screenshot, Syed responded, “Yes, I plan on not participating in any expense-paid trip to any country that functions primarily as a political junket to foster ties between local officials and the states.” 

She also responded “Yes” to the question about whether or not she supports BDS. 

However, on Tuesday evening, Syed said she did not believe in BDS or in some of the policies promoted by the DSA.

“I do not believe that boycotting or specifically pointing out a country is a good policy to promote democracy or human rights or anything,” she said. 

Syed did not respond to Queens County Politics multiple requests for an interview or for comment. 

The forum and the release of Syed’s questionnaire answer come in the wake of another controversy in the District 24 special election about Israel and Palestinian relations. 

On Sunday, City Council Candidate Moumita Ahmed became the center of attention over a tweet she sent in 2015 that some accused of being anti-Semitic. That controversy hung over Tuesday night’s forum which Ahmed did not participate in. Ahmed is not an endorsed DSA candidate but is aligned with them. 

Whether or not Syed’s change of heart was because of Ahmed’s Twitter controversy is unknown because she did not respond to Queens County Politics’ requests for an interview or comment for this story.

In the end of their statement about Syed, the Queens DSA Electoral Working Group sent a message to future candidates seeking their support. 

“We hope that going forward, candidates who apply for our endorsement do not waver on the issue of Palestinian liberation for political convenience.” they said.