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California Democrats buck national party– opposing bills to penalize boycotts of Israel

On Sunday, February 25, at their annual convention in San Diego, California, Democrats approved a set of positions on pending legislation that includes opposition to S 720/HR 1697, the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, a federal bill that would impose draconian penalties for boycotts regarding Israel under certain circumstances; and S 170/HR 2856, the Combatting BDS Act, which purports to permit and encourage states to enact similar laws–as many have. (The full platform as approved is available here.)

The ACLU, among others, has sounded the alarm about such laws, saying they are unconstitutional because they seek to “punish individuals for no reason other than their political beliefs.” The Anti-Boycott Act could impose fines of up to $1 million and 20 years in prison against any U.S. individuals or entities that support, or whose actions “have the effect of furthering or supporting,” a boycott of Israel or its illegal settlements called for by “international governmental organizations” such as the United Nations or European Union.

In the first judicial test of such laws, brought by the ACLU, a federal court last month blocked enforcement of Kansas’ anti-boycott statute after a teacher was denied a state contract when she observed her church’s decision to boycott products from illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. In a detailed decision, the judge explained that it is clearly illegal for government to force someone to waive a constitutional right (here, political speech, including boycott) to obtain a benefit to which she is otherwise entitled (here, the right to compete for a contract).

In a parallel move, California Democrats Sunday approved a platform that excised a section from the Platform Committee’s first draft that would have had them “join the national Democratic Party in opposing any effort to delegitimize Israel, including at the United Nations or through the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement.”

“We hope and believe that with the Kansas ruling and now our state party’s opposition to such unconstitutional laws and removal of the platform clause, the tide is starting to turn against this concerted effort to stigmatize and suppress a form of nonviolent protest against Israeli government policies that is taking hold around the country,” said Iyad Alfalqa, chair of the Arab American Caucus.

The party also approved a recommendation from the Legislation Committee to support HR 4391, the Promoting Human Rights by Ending Israeli Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act, introduced recently by Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., that would prevent the use of U.S. tax dollars for the Israeli military’s ongoing detention and mistreatment of Palestinian children. Its 21 co-sponsors to date include four California Democrats.

Sections regarding Israel-Palestine were the most contentious to come up during the five-hour Platform Committee hearing Feb. 23, said David L. Mandel, lead sponsor of an entire alternative plank on “World Peace and International Relations” submitted with backing from leaders of the party’s Progressive, Arab-American and Veterans caucuses. On another section, he said, “we couldn’t get the committee to oppose Trump’s moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, but it added support for a possible capital in East Jerusalem for a Palestinian state.”

The Jerusalem clause and other wording that remains left the amendments’ proponents less than fully satisfied, said Progressive Caucus chair Karen Bernal. “But the state party is becoming more progressive on many levels, and it’s time to adopt a human rights/international law-based approach supporting equality for Palestinians and Israeli Jews, no matter what political solution is eventually worked out.”

At its previous convention in May 2017, the state party adopted a resolution that did exactly that, the activists noted.

Other items adopted from the progressives’ proposed international plank included a demand to “end support for indiscriminate bombing of civilians in Yemen;” “oppose the use of military drones for ‘targeted killings’ in countries with which the United States is not at war;” “oppose regime change strategies as a pretext for war and occupation;” and support for the recently concluded United Nations Treaty Prohibiting Nuclear Weapons, which the United States has not signed. The full platform as approved is available here.

Progressive, Arab American, and Veterans Caucuses of the California Democratic Party

The Progressive, Arab American, and Veterans Caucuses of the California Democratic Party are recognized statewide caucuses formed to foster participation in the policy decisions and the outreach programs of the Democratic Party.

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7 Responses

  1. jaspeace2day on February 28, 2018, 3:51 pm

    Excellent ! One step at a time and the momentum is growing. Does anyone know the status of S720? Think we need to watch very carefully and make sure there is a an immense and concerted effort to remove from office anyone voting for S720 as it certainly isn’t something the majority of Americans want and, as shown in the Kansas court, in violation of OUR First Amendment.
    Keep up the good journalism Mondoweiss!

  2. JimMichie on March 1, 2018, 11:17 am

    Mondoweiss: It would have been much more accurate for the headline to read:

    California Democrats buck national party– opposing bills to CRIMINALIZE boycotts of Israel

  3. genesto on March 1, 2018, 12:10 pm

    Excellent news! Those in Congress who slavishly follow Israel’s agenda to the detriment of US policy and individual citizen’s rights must be held accountable. They need to be confronted and even threatened with removal from office for their betrayal, just as they have been threatened for decades by the Israel lobby if they didn’t toe the ‘Israel first’ line.

    If we do this, there’s no doubt we will ultimately win back our Congress.

  4. Citizen on March 1, 2018, 4:14 pm

    One step forward for mankind, Humanism values, US best values. I sure hope this becomes a hot issue when the mainstream media covers the next electoral campaign cycle, coming up fairly soon. Would be amazing if said media felt they needed to actually discuss the Israeli-Palestine Conflict & US role in it up to the present, including endless billions to Israel, 0 strings attached, while Americans get increasingly impoverished at home.

  5. Misterioso on March 1, 2018, 5:45 pm

    “California Democrats Stand Behind Palestinian-Descended Candidate Despite Israeli Press Coverage of Ancestor’s Terror Links”

    Maryam Saleh February 26, 2018, The Intercept


    “Ammar Campa-Najjar, a candidate for office in California’s 50th Congressional District, won an overwhelming endorsement on Sunday from the California Democratic Party, which brushed aside a potentially inflammatory report in the Israeli press about his paternal grandfather, who was a mastermind of the terrorist attack at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

    “Campa-Najjar is running a progressive, grassroots campaign that relies on small donors and an army of volunteers. He had earlier won what’s called a pre-endorsement, which requires at least 70 percent of the local delegates to win. He won the statewide endorsement easily, pulling 97 percent, despite the presence of a well-funded challenger, veteran Josh Butner, who has the backing of the New Democratic Coalition, the pro-Wall Street wing of the party.”

  6. James Canning on March 1, 2018, 6:02 pm

    Elements of the Israel lobby are doing their best to suppress free speech in the US, to facilitate further oppression of the Palestinians by Israel in the occupied West Bank. This dangerous program is actually not in Israel’s own true best Interests.

  7. Susie Kneedler on March 2, 2018, 8:59 am

    OT: Washington Report on Middle East Affairs’s 2018 day-long conference on “The Israel Lobby & American Policy” will begin at 9:00 AM (now).

    We can watch :

    C-SPAN2 is showing it live, too:

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