This is good news. The Massachusetts Democratic Party is getting involved in the Israel/Palestine issue, with rival resolutions that are already dividing the state committee.
Writes Shira Schoenberg at Mass Live:
Democratic State Committeewoman Carol Coakley, of Millis, introduced a resolution, which will be voted on by the State Committee later this month, condemning Israeli settlements as “obstacles to peace” and urging Massachusetts’ members of Congress to oppose the settlements.
James Segel, a former aide to Congressman Barney Frank, at a public hearing on Wednesday introduced an alternative resolution urging support for a two-state solution and acknowledging that there are many impediments to peace — including both Israeli settlement expansion and Palestinian incitement and terrorism.
Longtime Democratic Party boss/treasurer Steve Grossman, who also headed the Israel lobby group AIPAC, is upset that anyone would take a stance against settlements:
“I think passage of the Coakley resolution would be deeply divisive at a time when Democrats should be working on common shared principles and values, and I think it would harm the Democratic Party,” warned Steve Grossman, a former state Democratic Party chairman and a lifetime member of the Democratic State Committee who previously led the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a national pro-Israel lobby.
Here’s the Globe’s panicky report, which gives Grossman paragraph after paragraph to sound off:
State Democratic Party heavyweights are sounding a red alert against a provocative proposal for their state committee to declare opposition to Israeli settlements in the West Bank without specifically mentioning Palestinian violence, a step some top leaders fear would lead to an exodus of Democratic voters…
Grossman… said it feeds a “one-sided blame game,” which is playing out across college campuses and in pockets of the “progressive wing of the Democratic Party,” and would send a disturbing message to many Democratic activists.
“A lot of people would read about it and would read the language and say: ‘Frankly, that’s the last straw. This is not a place I feel comfortable any longer,’ ” Grossman said.
“Many would see it as an attempt to drive a rhetorical stake through Israel’s heart and lay the blame — not part of the blame, but virtually the exclusive blame — for the failure of the peace process at Israel’s door, to the exclusion of any responsibility by Palestinians,” he said.
Here’s that resolution. Very mild! We affirm our support for longstanding US policy, from Johnson to Obama, that settlements “are an obstacle to peace.”
The proposition ought to be a no-brainer. Settlements are against the law, and the defeat of Palestinian aspirations is a major source of instability in the Middle East. Coakley is eloquent, telling the Globe: “It’s pretty obvious nobody in this country would put up with those living conditions.. I don’t find many opponents of the resolution among people who are active on [the issue] because they just think [settlement policy] is an embarrassment.”
Her resolution first came up last summer and was put off. It calls for a negotiated solution in Israel and Palestine but as Mass Live says:
Most of the resolution focuses on condemning the Israeli settlements as obstacles to peace, citing a statement by the U.S. State Department under former Democratic President Barack Obama that called settlements “corrosive to the cause of peace.”
Grossman’s panic is a reminder of where the political power is in blue states over this issue– with the donors of the Israel lobby — and of what former Congressman Barney Frank told human-rights activist Jeff Halper after Halper had given him a tour of the sprawling settlements gobbling up the West Bank:
[Frank said] he is against the settlement project but that he can’t go public against it unless “you bring me the names of 5000 Jews in my district that support you… If you can’t do that…. I’m not going to commit political suicide for the sake of the Palestinians… “
This issue ought to divide the Democratic Party because it is a fundamental values issue and an antiwar one, too. The young want the Dems to take a stand. So does Bernie Sanders, judging from his speech to J Street. One activist tells the Globe that the resolution is aimed directly at the hypocrisy of the Hillary Clinton wing of the party.
Here’s testimony in favor of the Coakley bill from Jeff Klein, a regular contributor to our site, from two nights back:
Supporting the resolution on Israeli Settlements
Over the years there have been hundreds of resolutions and letters from Congress unreservedly supporting Israeli government positions or condemning the Palestinians – but not a single action to support the established US policy regarding the Israeli settlements as obstacles to peace. This has undermined any possibility that the US will be perceived as an advocate for a just and peaceful negotiated outcome to the Israel-Palestine conflict – or an end to the 50-year Israeli Occupation.
How can members of Congress, who almost unanimously say they support a two-state solution, justify their silence on the Israeli settlement project that is making two states increasingly impossible? The settlement population in the West Bank has increased three times since the signing of the Oslo agreement and the beginning of the supposed “Peace Process” since 1993. Recently, the Israeli government has moved to “legalize” dozens of so-called settlement outposts that were regarded as illegal even under Israeli law. Is this negotiating in good faith?
The fact is that ALL Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank (and also the Syrian Golan heights) are universally regarded as contrary to international law.
Who says so? The International Court of Justice, the UN General Assembly and Security Council (with the US concurring), the signatories to the International Red Cross and the Geneva Convention and nearly every expert on international law – including the legal counsel to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The proposed resolution quotes a 2016 statement from President Obama’s State Department that declared settlement activity as “corrosive to the cause of peace … which raises serious questions about Israel’s ultimate commitment to a peaceful, negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.”
However, when the UN Security recently reaffirmed the illegality of the Israeli settlements – and the US refrained from using its veto to block the resolution — the House of Representatives was quick to pass a resolution condemning the UN action. Shamefully, the majority of House Democrats – including four members of our Massachusetts delegation — supported the mostly Republican-sponsored bill to condemn the action of a Democratic administration.
But the times are changing. Opinion polls show that Democratic voters are demanding a more even-handed policy with regard to Israel and Palestine. Democrats supported the recent UN Security Council resolution 47-16% even as many of their elected House representatives were voting to condemn it. Democrats also regard the Israeli settlements as illegal by 38-19% — with self-identified Liberals even more lopsided at 42-17%.
There is clearly a growing partisan divide on this issue. Republicans unwaveringly support Israel’s increasingly rightwing policies. Democrats are growing more skeptical. Polls indicate that Clinton voters opposed Israeli settlements by 49-14%, while Trump voters supported them by 46-23%.
But this new reality is not yet reflected in Democratic Party policy at the state or national level – nor, especially, in Congress. Our proposed resolution is a gesture for more balance in Democratic policy and a message to our Congressional delegation that they should speak up about the obstacles to peace that Israeli settlements represent.
We think it’s time for the Party leadership to recognize the opinion of its voters and supporters on this issue. We urge that you support the resolution.
Thanks to Annie Robbins.