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Juan Mendez wearing a keffiyeh that depicts a Palestinian State covering the entirety of modern-day Israel.

Palestine Partisanship Surfaces to Haunt Juan Mendez

Support for BDS hangs over senator as war rages in Middle East

By Ken Kurson, October 12, 2023 9:06 am

From the moment Hamas terrorists attacked civilians in Israel this weekend, it was obvious that Middle East news would find its way into Arizona races. The Arizona Globe has already run a story detailing where various elected official stand, but now a top race for 2024 has a more intimate connection with the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Senator Juan Mendez (D-8) has a long history of supporting the usual suspects in progressive causes. Now, with at least 22 Americans among those murdered by Hamas and several thought to be among the 100-plus hostages they’ve taken to the Gaza Strip, Mendez faces serious questions about which side he’s on. Conservative activist Ari Daniel Bradshaw resurfaced some of that in a tweet on Monday that hit harder than the D-backs off Lance Lynn.

One photo shows Juan Mendez, wearing a keffiyah, the traditional Palestinian shawl that’s highly associated with figures such as Yasser Arafat. More strikingly, the keffiyah Mendez is wearing depicts a Palestinian State that stretches from the Mediterranean to the Jordan. In other words, Israel no longer exists. In case you missed the point, the image is shown next to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh wearing the exact same keffiyah.

A photo of Sen. Mendez with Rep. Ilhan Omar and others at a CAIR event.

Then there’s a resurfaced tweet Mendez sent in December 2018. It begins with an article about Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), a member of “the Squad,” officially announcing her support for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement meant to single out and isolate Israel.

A left-leaning Arizonan named Collin Yourbs notes that the war between Saudi Arabia and Yemen has “killed more kids in Yemen in a year than have died in the entire Israel/Palestinian conflict” but no one’s calling to boycott or divest from Saudi Arabia. “Makes you wonder what the real motivation is for BDS.”

Mendez replies, “No BDS is pretty legit. It’s your whataboutism that should be suspect.”

Caden Darrow first ran for state assembly in 2022 against State Representative Athena Salman (D-Tempe), who happens to be married to Mendez. The duo were named “Best Power Couple” by the New Times in 2017, and part of what earned them the honor was “this openly atheist duo have taken turns pissing off their conservative colleagues.” Darrow and his running mate Bill Loughrige lost to Salman and top vote-getter Melody Hernandez in 2022. Darrow is now preparing to face Mendez in 2024.

The Globe reached out to Mendez for comment but after 24 hours has not heard back. This story will be updated if he replies.

The Globe did reach Darrow, by both phone and email. He thanked us for reaching out on this issue and told the Arizona Globe, “It’s deeply concerning to have a state representative who has been in office since 2013 refusing to denounce the terror Hamas released on Israel. Juan Mendez has supported various organizations that have shown solidarity with certain Hamas leaders. Mendez has advocated for the eradication of Israel, opposed legislation focused on Holocaust education here in Arizona, and even endorsed the ‘Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctioning’ (BDS) of Israel. I fully support Israel and stand with all Israelis in Arizona and across the globe.”

Mendez doesn’t appear to be sweating the challenge by upstart Darrow. In addition to not responding to inquiries from the media, the senator allowed his campaign website to lapse (below).

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