Archive | January, 2020

California Democratic Party Debates Palestine, Israel; Continues to Call for a "Two-State Solution," Israel as "Democratic Jewish State"

6 Jan

The California Democratic Party finished its three-day convention in Long Beach on Sunday, Nov. 17 of 2019, which included endorsing candidates and adopting a platform only after an impassioned floor debate on a platform amendment regarding Israel and Palestine.

A convention rule states if an amendment garners at least 300 signatures, it qualifies for a debate on the convention floor. 

The amendment failed on the convention floor, after a six-minute debate with both sides getting equal time before the vote.  The amendment stated the party’s support for “a solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict negotiated by the parties that guarantees equality, security and democracy for all, no matter what the final settlement regarding states and borders.”  It also stated the party’s opposition to “any unilateral annexation of territory” and the party’s support for “right of all those who were forced from their homes to return to their homelands and receive compensation for their losses.”

Delegate David Mandel (center) confers with his colleagues, on Friday, Nov. 15, 2019, where the Platform Committee of the California Democratic Party had met and rejected the amendment on Israel and Palestine, which on Sunday came to the convention floor; photo by Barry Saks

The 2020 platform on Israel and Palestine, in part, continues to call Israel a “democratic Jewish state” and call for a “two-state solution,” meaning a separate state for Jews and a separate state for Palestinians.

Delegates David Mandel and Yassar Dahbour argued on the convention floor for the amendment.  Mandel, who wrote the amendment, said as an Israeli he fought against the occupation for ten years, while witnessing the acceleration of illegal settlements.  He added, “Our platform should not rule out any solution, but it should not attempt to dictate how many states or the nature of those states.  Instead, it should affirm the values of equality, human rights and international law which must be the foundation of any just peace.  Sadly, however, the democratic values we espouse…too often evaporate when it comes to the Palestinians.”

On Friday, Mandel acknowledged that a compromise was reached in which anti-BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions of Israel) language was removed from the platform.

Dahbour told his family’s history of forced migration in 1948 from Israel, first to a refugee camp in Lebanon, then to Syria.  He added because of the civil war in Syria, his extended family is spread among 16 countries on three continents.  In closing, Dahbour said, “When we defend the rights of our Jewish brother(s) and sisters against anti-Semitism, we (should) also stand by the Palestinians to end their oppression and occupation…Please vote yes…to support my right to exist.”

California State 43rd District Assemblywoman Laura Friedman argued against the amendment. The Assemblywoman said she sits on the board of the legislative progressive caucus.  Friedman, like Dahbour, told the audience some of her family’s history.  The Assemblywoman said she comes from a family with a long history progressive Jewish activism supporting civil and human rights.  She said, “My grandfather came to this country as a refugee between the wars, fleeing the deadly pogrom in Poland…His family, who stayed in Poland, were decimated during the Holocaust, with only about 5 percent of them surviving.  When they tried to flee, they were rejected from every nation on earth.  It wasn’t until the other countries of the world decided to send Jewish refugees to Israel did he have a place to call home.”  Friedman added she told her family’s story to explain “why the existence of the state of Israel is so important to so many American Jews.”  At the end, she said the amendment makes “Jews feel attacked and marginalized in the Democratic Party.”

California State District 11 Senator Scott Weiner also spoke against the amendment.  Weiner said, “This amendment….eliminates the two-state solution of Israel and Palestine co-existing and it advocates for a one-state solution of Palestine.  The State Senator, echoing Friedman, reminded the delegates six million Jews were exterminated during the Jewish holocaust.

California State District 11 Senator Scott Weiner, on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019, speaks at rally, organized by Progressive Zionists of California called “Facing Anti-Semitism, a Solidarity Rally” in a public space in front of the Long Beach Convention Center.

Before Sunday’s floor debate, Lisa Armony––Director of the Rose Project of the Jewish Federation and Family Services, Orange County––was passing out a flyer advocating against the amendment.  Armony said, “(F)undamentally at its core the BDS movement is anti-Semitic…because BDS calls for the elimination of the state of Israel.”

No verbiage on  the of the website of the BDS movement calls for the elimination of Israel.  However, it does characterize Israel as “a settler-colonial state” and makes an analogy with the apartheid of South Africa.  It does urge “nonviolent pressure on Israel until it complies with international law by meeting the three demands.”  The first is “(e)nding its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall (sic).”  The second is “(r)ecognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality.” And, the third is “(r)especting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.”

The day before, Progressive Zionists of California held a rally, called “Facing Anti-Semitism, a Solidarity Rally” outside in a public space in front of the convention center.

Mathew Finkelstein, who emceed, near the beginning of the rally, told the audience the circumstances that prompted him, Susan George and others to form PZC within the California Democratic Party.  Finkelstein said, “(In) 2017,….we attended the Progressive Caucus Rally…at the California Democratic Party and for a half an hour, the speakers spoke about why Israel is an evil, racist and apartheid state worthy of being singled out by the BDS movement as opposed to any other country on the planet.  As a Jewish person, I felt that my organic identity was not welcomed in many progressive spaces here in the California Democratic Party…We have since decided to organize with a group of our friends a truly progressive response to the problem of leftist anti-Semitism, one that is both progressive and Zionist.”    

The elected officials, who spoke at the rally were ­Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel, California State Senator Scott Weiner, Assemblywoman Rebecca Baur-Kahan and Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin­.

Hene Kelly, Region 6 Director of the California Democratic Party, holds her pro-Israel sign prior to the vote on the amendment on Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019