As Dems vote against Palestine, Cornel West warns it is the ‘Vietnam War’ of our time

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In the continuing saga of the presence of Palestine in the Democratic Party platform, Clintonites on the platform committee yesterday voted down any reference to settlements and occupation and the misery of Gaza in the draft document. Progressives booed and shouted about the influence of AIPAC, the Israel lobby group, and a dozen stormed out of the hall in Orlando, FL, CNN reports.

Cornel West and Maya Berry of the Arab American Institute made inspiring speeches, to naught. West said that Palestine has become the “Vietnam War” issue for young Americans, to raucous applause. And said that the Democratic Party’s indifference to Palestinian rights recalled the party’s indifference to “these Negroes” in the Jim Crow era.

Here is video of yesterday’s meeting. Consideration of Israel/Palestine planks begins at 7:38:30.

The proposed language, “an end to occupation and illegal settlements,” draws strong applause from the gallery. Maya Berry of the Arab American Institute speaks for the resolution.

“This does not have to be a controversial, contentious amendment. We are simply stating a matter of fact. There is an occupation. More than 4 million people live under occupation.”

Berry quotes Hillary Clinton’s own words on the humiliations of occupation, also Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai. She says this amendment is easy: “This is not something that warrants us taking each other apart on.”

Cornel West speaks inspiringly at 7:44, and explains that this is a “moral issue.” And that the party has been in denial too long about Palestinian rights.

Both groups have been terrorized and traumatized and stigmatized. But when you talk about occupation. If there was a Palestinian occupation of Jewish brothers and sisters, we ought to be morally outraged. If there is an Israeli occupation of Palestinian brothers and sisters we ought to be morally outraged. This is a moral issue. It’s an issue of our time, and it has spiritual and moral implications. It’s not just about politics. Not just about the next election. And for the younger generation it is becoming more and more what Vietnam was to the 60s or what South Africa was for the 80s. [Rousing cheers]

Democratic Party, you’ve been in denial too long, Palestinians ought to be free.

Former ambassador Nancy Soderbergh speaks against the amendment at 7:47. She says the amendment “undermines the ability” of the United States president to lead negotiations toward an end to the conflict.

The resolution was then voted down, 95-73.

Debate over Maya Berry’s resolution calling for the rebuilding of Gaza, because the U.N. reports that it is becoming uninhabitable, begins at 7:52.

“This is a territory twice the size of D.C. This is a humanitarian plea to do the right thing. It does not impact the other language… It merely suggests that we have a heart and compassion and we’re capable of applying it to both Palestinians and Israelis.”

West then gives a speech that will be watched down through the ages. You can start now, at 7:55. He begins by quoting Rabbi Abraham Heschel saying that indifference to evil is more evil than evil itself. He describes the repeated assaults on Gaza:

Over 2000 were killed and over 500 babies killed and not a word from our political elite.

What is going on in this country What is going on among our elite, are we so paralyzed? Are we so debilitated by either the money flowing or indifference in our hearts, I would hope not. That’s what the legacy of Martin Luther King and Dorothy Day and so many others was all about….

If we are not able to deal with that then we’re in the same condition this party was in 80 years ago when it didn’t want to deal with Jim Crow, didn’t want to deal with lynching, locked in a state of denial and saying, Somehow these Negroes are going to make it through with this misery. We refuse. I refuse to reach that conclusion.

Phyllis Bennis quotes Cornel West saying the vote reflects racism.

The occupation is now nearly 50 years old, but the Democrats cannot come out against it. This is surely about fundraising for the Democrats. Note two liberal Dems saying this spring that the role of Jewish pro-Israel money in Democratic fundraising is “gigantic” and “shocking.”

CNN’s Eric Bradner reports that when the Clinton team brought down the hammer, there were the loudest boos of the day.

Clinton’s backers argued that the current language in the party’s platform, calling for negotiations for a two-state solution in Israel to give Palestinians a homeland, are enough and that going further would inflame tensions and undercut U.S. diplomats’ ability to lead future negotiations.

 But Bernie Sanders’ supporters — as well as dozens of young people in the crowd in an Orlando hotel ballroom for the Democratic National Committee’s platform drafting committee’s two-day meeting — said the language they’d proposed simply repeated a position Clinton herself has taken in the past…
The amendment was voted down, 73-95. Its rejection led to the loudest boos of the day, with one man being escorted out after he stood up and declared that Democrats had “sold out to (American Israel Public Affairs Committee).”
A furious group of more than a dozen young people who’d been in the audience stormed out of the room, some shouting at the delegates.

In a longer analysis at the Nation, Bennis says the party platform includes some “significant progressive positions,” but it folded on antiwar issues. On Palestine, this defeat is actually a movement victory, she reasons, inasmuch as the left has managed to get reference Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions into the Democratic Party platform because it is a powerful movement that the establishment needs to attack.

The US wars were hardly mentioned, but Israel-Palestine, for so long excluded from any mainstream debate, was a major focus of the committee’s public hearings.

Pro-Israel lobbies and Clinton’s support for Israeli occupation and apartheid stymied a progressive position on Palestine.

The reason is easy to see. The movement to end US support for Israeli occupation and apartheid and to support Palestinian rights is at this moment probably the only part of the broad anti-war/anti-militarism movement that is really on the rise. It’s energetic, empowered, creative, and grounded largely among young people, many of them people of color. It’s had enormous successes in recent years, resulting in massive shifts in public discourse on this issue. The strength of that movement is certainly a large part of the reason that Bernie Sanders chose Jim Zogby and Cornel West, longtime supporters of Palestinian rights, among his appointees to the platform committee. Their presence on the committee, reflecting the Palestinian rights movement outside, transformed the debate.

The success of the movement, and the presence of West and Zogby on the platform committee, resulted in a huge reversal of position, in which the issues of Palestinian rights, Israeli violations of international law, and the problems caused by US support for Israel were all central and mainstream discussion points. So even though plenty of people inside the DC bubble either ignore or are unaware of the shift in public discourse, and apparently still believe that criticizing Israel constitutes political suicide, Palestinian rights and the need to change US support for Israel, were in the platform debate—because there was a powerful movement demanding it.

Bennis notes that the platform parrots Netanyahu and AIPAC in its support for the “Jewish and democratic state,” thereby legitimizing apartheid. But it shows the power of the BDS movement.

The broad opposition to UN efforts to identify and condemn Israel’s violations of human rights and international law is an outrage for a party that claims, elsewhere in the platform, to “believe that global institutions and multilateral organizations have a powerful role to play” (even if they go on to define them narrowly as “an important amplifier of American strength and influence”).

The specific condemnation of BDS reflects, on the one hand, the growing influence of the global BDS movement in the United States. The movement, based on a call from Palestinian civil society in 2005, brings nonviolent economic, cultural, and academic pressure to bear on Israel until it ends three sets of violations of international law: the 1967 occupation, the discrimination against Palestinians inside Israel, and the denial of the Palestinian refugees’ right of return. The movement is growing around the world and is particularly strong in Europe, and the result has been recognition by many Israeli officials and analysts that it is this nonviolent movement, much more than the threat of military attack from Iran or anywhere else, that threatens Israel by undermining the legitimacy of its actions. But the rising power of BDS has led to a harsh backlash from Israel’s supporters, and the inclusion of a specific anti-BDS reference in the platform reflects the power of uncritically pro-Israel forces in the Democratic Party and points to the increasing repression facing BDS activists across the United States and around the world. As governments give in to pressure from pro-Israel forces to stamp out BDS, the result is a serious threat to First Amendment rights in places like New York and other states and on college campuses across the United States.

Despite the terrible language, though, it’s still an important victory that the issue of Palestine and Palestinian rights played such a central public role in the debate over platform language. It’s a lesson for those of us who work in the Palestine and broader anti-war movements for sure, but for all of our movements too. It shows us how the lack of our attention—movement attention—and reliance solely on elected officials’ own priority choices mean that way too many of our issues will continue to be ignored. But it also shows us how a powerful movement—even one that has not yet succeeded at changing actual policy—can have enormous influence on the debates at the highest levels of power. Bernie Sanders’s campaign certainly played a part in it—but it’s our movements that matter most.

This vote would seem to be reminiscent of the Gov. Andrew Cuomo rebuke of BDS last month: the establishment is transparently corrupted on this issue, and the movement is strong.

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I appreciate Phil’s positive take on this debacle but it’s still polishing a turd. The best thing that can happen actually is for the US to be booted out of the “peace process” business

Anyone care to tell me what exactly is the difference between the Dem,s and the GOP on the issue of Palestine. Even the highest court in Israel has ruled that Israel holds the Palestinians “Under Belligerent Occupation”. What we have here are a bunch of paid off political whores who some day will be vilified for their failure to support human rights for all and selling their dignity for a few shekels. The Democrats should… Read more »

Replace BDS with Nazi, and Phyllis Benni’s could have written the same article.

Big kisses are always cast as victories among radical, who needs to tell themselves these things to keep the charade going.

But their movement remains a moral outrage that most Americans view as antisemitic.

Not much difference between UK parties either! The Conservatives are electing a new leader – I was trying to find out what the candidates, May and Leadsome, those good Christians, had said about the ME. They both seem to be conventionally pro-Israel, though they don’t seem, as as far as I could see, to have made such a point of it as Gove or Johnson, who have assassinated each other.

I wrote an op-ed for the East Bay Times (the successor to the late, unlamented Oakland Tribune and several other local papers) calling out our Congressional Rep, Barbara Lee, for voting with the Clinton gang against the Sanders appointees on Palsestine and on TPP at the meeting last month of the 15-member committee that worked on the draft. I made it excruciatingly respectful of Ms. Lee, first of all in hopes of getting it into… Read more »