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Right of return amendment doesn’t make it into California Democratic Party platform, but it’s finally being debated

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At the California Democratic Party’s fall convention on November 17, activists pushed a resolution that would have recognized the Palestinian right of return. Although the amendment ultimately failed to be voted into the platform, supporters point to the fact that no vote tally was actually taken and that the results could have been too close to call.

Members of Jewish Voice for Peace Action, the party’s Arab Caucus, and other pro-Palestine advocates collected petition signatures on the convention floor throughout the previous evening and ended up getting over 400 delegates to back the amendment. Prior to the vote, Palestine American League co-founder Yassar Dahbour and Jewish Voice for Peace Action supporter David Mandel called on the  3,300 California delegates to include the amendment in the platform. The amendment read:

Proactively seek a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflicted negotiated by the parties that guarantees equality, security and democracy for all, no matter what the final settlement regarding states and borders. Israeli Jews and Palestinians alike deserve peace, dignity, self-determination, security and a normal life free from occupation, terror and incitement. Oppose any unilateral annexation of territory, and support the right of all those who were forced from their homes to return to their homelands and receive compensation for their losses.

Although other outlets have reported that roughly 65% of the delegates ultimately rejected the resolution, there was no actual vote tally and activists point to the fact that the chair quickly assessed a voice vote. A photo taken during the vote suggests that 65% could be a severe misinterpretation of the actual results. (My earlier account of this too; see endnote.)

“I consider it a victory that our amendment calling for equal rights for all in Israel Palestine made it to the floor for debate,” said Marcy Winograd, who co-founded the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party. “This is the first time in party history that the voices of a Jew and Palestinian, standing together for the right of return, for the right of exiled Palestinians to exist in their homeland, for the right of Palestinians and Jews to live free from occupation and terror, were amplified across the convention hall to be heard by thousands of delegates, many of them waving placards ‘Palestinians should be free’ and standing in line behind our speakers to demonstrate solidarity. The voice vote was inconclusive, so the Party Chair called for delegates in support of the amendment to waive their delegate cards. There was never an actual count of the vote, so any reporting that quotes a percentage is inaccurate.”
Winograd also points out that additional victories were secured during the convention. The platform committee agreed to defend the right to engage in speech critical of any government by opposing all efforts to criminalize such speech. There was anti-BDS amendment in an earlier draft of the platform, which was removed after pressure from activists.
The inconclusiveness of the final vote has certainly not stopped pro-Israel groups from celebrating the event as a victory. Mark Mellman is the CEO of Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI). DMFI was created earlier this year to quash growing pro-Palestine sentiment within the Democratic party. “We’re tired of sitting back and letting a few vocal outliers hijack the Democratic Party’s Israel policy, so we’re thrilled an overwhelming majority of California Democratic Party leaders and delegates rejected attempts to incorporate extreme and one-sided, anti-Israel planks into their platform,” said Mellman in a statement. “Instead, the platform continues the Party’s proud history of supporting both Israel and the peace process.”

Similar sentiments were expressed by Progressive Zionists of California (PZC)  founding member Susan George. “We are pleased the party has once again rejected extremism, and decided to focus on unifying issues. 2020 is the election of a lifetime, and we must focus on keeping the tremendous gains California Democrats made in 2018, not get derailed by a divisive conversation,” said George.

Just one day after the convention, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Trump administration now rejects a 1978 State Department legal opinion that classified Israeli settlements as illegal.

Correction: An earlier version of this article relied on inaccurate reporting from Jewish Telegraphic Agency on the platform battle. We cited incorrect vote totals and asserted that an anti-BDS amendment was included in the final version of the platform. That amendment was included in an earlier draft of the platform, but was removed as a result of effective activist pressure. We apologize for our report. 

Michael Arria

Michael Arria is the U.S. correspondent for Mondoweiss.

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15 Responses

  1. eljay on November 19, 2019, 12:49 pm

    … Mark Mellman is the CEO of Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI). DMFI was created earlier this year to quash growing pro-Palestine sentiment within the Democratic party. “We’re tired of sitting back and letting a few vocal outliers hijack the Democratic Party’s Israel policy, so we’re thrilled an overwhelming majority of California Democratic Party leaders and delegates rejected attempts to incorporate extreme and one-sided, anti-Israel planks into their platform,” said Mellman in a statement …

    We’re immeasurably joyful, he added, that the Democratic Party’s Israel policy is overwhelmingly pro-Jewish / “Jewish State” supremacism and anti-justice, -accountability and -equality. We have no problem with extreme and one-sided, pro-Israel planks.

    • just on November 19, 2019, 3:42 pm

      Exactly, eljay! I am gobsmacked yet again. Shame, shame, shame on the 65% of delegates and CA by extension.

      Just goes to prove that the majority of democrats haven’t really changed their anti- Palestinian, pro-apartheid spots. Sad and immoral.

  2. Boomer on November 19, 2019, 3:23 pm

    So Zionists dominate the full spectrum of U.S. politics: from the right wing of the GOP to the left wing of the Democrats. (At least, I’ve always perceived CA dems as among the most progressive.)

  3. mondonut on November 19, 2019, 6:41 pm

    Someone is telling obvious lies. Proposed Amendment #41 states “and support the right of all those who were forced from their homes to return to their homelands and receive compensation for their losses”.

    This is not the Palestinian RoR, which does not limit itself to “those who were forced”.

    • bcg on November 20, 2019, 3:35 pm

      @Mondonut: Could you please tell us what you think the future looks like? And while you’re at it, could you state simply and directly what it is you want?

      Do you still think two states are possible? One state? The status quo indefinitely – slowly expanding settlements and the slow ghettoization of an entire population? Maybe the Palestinians will one day recognize Israel’s “right to exist”, and then we’ll have “negotiations” between the peasants and a nuclear state?

      • mondonut on November 20, 2019, 8:49 pm

        @bcg And while you’re at it, could you state simply and directly what it is you want? Do you still think two states are possible? One state?

        What I want is irrelevant, but for what its worth I want what most of the world wants and that is peace. Most of the world other than the Palestinians that is, as they have absolutely zero interest in living alongside the Jewish State of Israel.

  4. dudu440 on November 19, 2019, 7:05 pm

    Major errors here to the point of being seriously misleading. The Palestinian rights contingent and many allies agitated to delete the anti-BDS plank that was in the September draft, and it was removed. So was a paragraph on affirming Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. We may have lost the floor vote on a radical human rights framework that included right of return (and some thought it was too close to call without actually counting the votes (shades of Villaragosa at the 2012 DNC), but this was the first time the issue was ever debated on the floor of the convention before 3,300 delegates. It had a lot of support and would have had more but not for some egregious manipulations by the establishment — e.g. an unusual call for unity by the party chair before the floor debate (implying that the proposed amendment was disunifying); keeping many delegates from actually seeing the amendment language; and getting a state senator from the Legislative Jewish Caucus to pull out the scare stops in opposition, lying that the proposal called for the destruction of Israel.
    The struggle continues.

    • mondonut on November 20, 2019, 5:08 pm

      @dudu440 lying that the proposal called for the destruction of Israel.

      The lie is that the text in the proposal represents the Palestinian RoR, it does not. In reality an unfettered RoR, as defined by the Palestinians, would indeed result in eliminating the State of Israel.

      • bcg on November 20, 2019, 6:50 pm

        @Mondonut: IF a two state solution were still possible – it isn’t, but let’s pretend – the Palestinians would probably accept the right of return to the new state, with a token number – 10,000, 20,000 – returning to Israel “proper”.

        But the whole “eliminating the State of Israel” phrase is meaningless – of course the apartheid aspects of the arrangement should be eliminated, it doesn’t mean anyone needs to leave.

        The adult Mondonut replaced the 10 year old Mondonut. Was the 10 year old Mondonut “destroyed”?

      • eljay on November 20, 2019, 8:32 pm

        || mon donut: … In reality an unfettered RoR, as defined by the Palestinians, would indeed result in eliminating the State of Israel. ||

        donut, in reality an unfettered RoR is just another Zionist excuse not to stop being and doing evil.

        If the Palestinians were to offer fettered RoR in exchange for justice, accountability and equality in I-P, you Zionists would still wail and moan about the destruction or elimination of Israel and/or the “Jewish State” because when it comes to I-P what matters to you above all else is your hateful and immoral belief in and devotion to Jewish / “Jewish State” supremacism.

      • mondonut on November 20, 2019, 8:40 pm

        @bcg , But the whole “eliminating the State of Israel” phrase is meaningless

        It is not meaningless if the replacement state has a new name, new laws, new flag, new language, new currency and the majority becomes a minority. It is not meaningless if the Jewish State is replaced by the Islamic State. It is not meaningless if the entire power apparatus (IDF and police) are replaced in their entirety with new power structures. It is not meaningless if the end result is exactly the same as if their were a military conquest.

      • RoHa on November 22, 2019, 1:39 am

        ” if the end result is exactly the same as if their were a military conquest.”

        The end result of a military conquest is death and destruction. Israeli military conquest has brought enough of that to the region.

        The proposal for unlimited ROR is intended to avoid further death and destruction.

  5. Ossinev on November 21, 2019, 1:18 pm

    @Mondonut
    “@bcg And while you’re at it, could you state simply and directly what it is you want? Do you still think two states are possible? One state?

    What I want is irrelevant, but for what its worth I want what most of the world wants and that is peace”

    You have not answered the question which is 100% relevant if you want any credibility on this site. So I will ask again on behalf of BCG and myself:
    Could you state simply and directly what it is you want. Do you think that two states are possible ? One state ?

    The what I/we whoever classic way of dodging the question by producing the “want peace” card which is becoming as frayed and as tattered as the Holocaust card simply doesn`t wash any longer.

    Straight forward two states or one state between the Jordan and the Med – which ?

  6. Mayhem on November 26, 2019, 10:37 pm

    “support the right of all those who were forced from their homes to return to their homelands and receive compensation for their losses.”
    That can be readily interpreted as applying to the Jews who fled Arab lands in numbers that exceed those who left Palestine as a result of the 1948 war. For that reason Palestinian supporters would be well-advised to keep their mouths shut about right-of-return compensation. If a comprehensive, fair and just settlement was to be made then many of Israel’s Arab neighbours would go broke.

    • eljay on November 27, 2019, 7:39 am

      || Mayhem: That can be readily interpreted as applying to the Jews who fled Arab lands in numbers that exceed those who left Palestine as a result of the 1948 war. … ||

      It’s cute how Jews “flee” but non-Jews merely “leave”. But, yes, repatriation or compensation in lieu should be offered to all refugees.

      || … Palestinian supporters would be well-advised to keep their mouths shut about right-of-return compensation. If a comprehensive, fair and just settlement was to be made then many of Israel’s Arab neighbours would go broke. ||

      That’s a nice bit of deflection from the fact that the “moral beacon” and “light unto the nations” state of Israel will never do what is right because supremacists like you fear the influx of Israeli refugees – or, as you like to call them, the “demographic threat”.

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