Delegates to the annual convention of the country’s largest state Democratic Party Sunday approved a resolution (see page 4) decrying the failure of U.S administrations to back-up measured criticism of Israel’s occupation “with actual steps to change the status quo and bring about a real peace process.”
It calls on Washington to work through the United Nations and other international bodies to promote “a just peace based on full equality and security for Israeli Jews and Palestinians alike, human rights and international law.”
Quoting Sen. Bernie Sanders, the resolution says that peace “means achieving self-determination, civil rights and economic well-being for the Palestinian people.”
This resolution is evidence that increasing numbers of Americans, including American Jews, support equality and human rights rights for Palestinians and Israelis, and believe that accountability is an important step toward peace.
David L. Mandel, an elected convention delegate, said that diligent organizing by supporters in the weeks before the convention led to endorsement by more than 200 delegates, making it likely the resolution would have come to the floor by petition even if the Resolutions Committee had not prioritized it, which it did, unexpectedly Mandel was a primary author of the resolution, along with Karen Bernal, chair of the state party’s large Progressive Caucus, and Murad Sarama, outgoing chair of the state party’s Arab American Caucus.
In the end, the resolution was approved as part of the package of measures on the convention floor, without debate. “We think those who might have opposed it realized that our resolution would pass,” Mandel said. “So they met us more than halfway on language and preferred not to call more attention to the resolution.”
Moreover, added Estee Chandler, a delegate proxy who supported the resolution, “opinions are changing among American Jews and others who until recently recoiled at any serious criticism of Israeli policy. More and more Democrats of all stripes are alarmed by the extremist, anti-democratic and violent policies of the Netanyahu government and the Trump administration. The need to achieve Palestinian freedom and equality is pressing to prevent even greater catastrophe.”
A final paragraph in the resolution puts the party on record as rejecting “any effort to restrict or discourage full and open public discourse” on Israel-Palestine; “disavows conflation of criticism of a country’s policies with hatred of its people”; “opposes anti-Semitic or Islamophobic language brought into the debate and any attempt to restrict or penalize those who exercise their right to express their views through nonviolent action to effect change.” This clause, Mandel explained, was directed at widespread campus persecution of Palestinian rights advocacy and at the many resolutions and bills introduced recently in Congress and state legislatures, including California’s, that aim to stigmatize, suppress and penalize – even criminally in some cases – those who seek to use boycotts or divestment campaigns to pressure Israel.
“All these measures are unconstitutional violations of First Amendment protected speech,” Mandel said, adding that he hopes dissemination of the resolution will now help to dissuade legislators from supporting them and contribute to the “robust, constructive conversations we need to bring about real change.”
[via Jewish Voice for Peace]