Last week the Democratic National Committee announced nominees to the platform committee ahead of this year’s convention; and the list is stacked with pro-Israel advocates, including several center-right supporters of Israel.
The list (below) shows that the Democratic National Committee is drawing a line in the sand: it is planning to battle against the progressive wing on Israel, with all its guns a-blazin. If you wonder why Buttigieg and Warren seem to have tempered their criticisms of Israel, this is why. The party establishment is four-square behind Israel. The platform was a battleground in 2016 and the DNC is saying, We’re not giving an inch.
The list shows that the old distinction that idealists used to make between the rightwing “Greater Israel lobby” that promoted the occupation and the good liberal Zionist community that opposed the occupation is now blurred.
Yes, you still have the gonzo neoconservative rightwing lobby that supports Likud/Trump/annexation. That’s the Sheldon Adelson lobby.
But the mainstream Israel lobby now has a right-liberal center of gravity: Chuck Schumer speaks at both the rightwing Israel lobby AIPAC and the leftleaning Israel lobby J Street in support of the two-state solution, but giving Israel tons of foreign aid as it destroys any hope of there actually being a Palestinian state.
The DNC list reflects that merger. The big enemy is the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS) on the left. This lobby will do nothing to take on the settlements and the occupation beside a little lip service, if that.
Let’s go to the names. The Israel supporters on the platform committee are Bakari Sellers, Ilyse Hogue, Randi Weingarten, Daniel Shapiro, Meghan Stabler, Jason Kander, and Wendy Sherman.
Sellers is a star political commentator who first went to AIPAC conferences as an undergraduate and later worked to remove the word “occupation” from the 2016 Democratic platform. Writes Kevin Gosztola:
In 2015, Sellers became a member of National Council of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). He led an effort [PDF] in 2016 to ensure the DNC’s platform did not adopt language that Sanders supported, which would have acknowledged the Democrats had a responsibility to confront the humanitarian crisis facing Palestinians in Gaza.
Meghan Stabler is on the board of Democratic Majority 4 Israel. This is the group that started up inside the Democratic Party a year ago, with lots of AIPAC veterans, to make sure that the party didn’t wobble on Israel, and to attack Bernie Sanders. DM4I crows of Stabler’s appointment:
“A truly inspired choice of an inspiring woman.”
Yet another AIPAC-er is Ilyse Hogue. Hogue is a good liberal: the head of NARAL and a contributor to the Nation. But Hogue was planning to take NARAL to AIPAC last year and when she “came out” as a liberal Zionist at J Street a few years ago, she said she was determined not to alienate her AIPAC-loyal parents.
My parents as well as most of our tightknit Jewish political community in Texas are also AIPAC supporters. They do lobby days in Dallas… Because I love my parents, I have made sure to avoid this topic at all costs in my progressive activism. I have not wanted to go there, to disappoint them, to make them sad, to make them want to reject me.
But I love Israel, I love Israel with all my heart.
Since then Hogue has obviously managed to square the circle between AIPAC and J Street.
Teachers union leader Randi Weingarten is another liberal who works just fine with rightwing Zionists. Weingarten is a regular at J Street, opposing the BDS campaign and vowing “to lift up democracy and civil rights in Israel.” She has argued that Israel under Netanyahu is in the same boat as the U.S. under Trump.
We believe in America, and we believe in Israel. But democratic norms and institutions are under fierce attack in both countries we love.
Dan Shapiro is Obama’s former ambassador to Israel who then stayed on in Tel Aviv, working for a quasi-official security thinktank. Lately he has become chair of the Israel Institute, a lobby group started by a former Israeli ambassador and a pro-Israel American foundation that seeks to teach U.S. college students to support Israel.
Shapiro personifies the merger of the liberal and rightwing Israel lobby. The foundation Shapiro is now supported by, the Schusterman Family Foundation, gives a lot of money to Democratic Majority for Israel, that AIPAC branch in the Democratic Party. The chair of the Schusterman Family Foundation is on the “national council” of AIPAC. A liberal Zionist hero who is critical of Trump’s policies, Dan Shapiro has also justified Israel’s slaughter of unarmed Palestinian protesters in Gaza, describing them as terrorists, and supported the move of the embassy to Jerusalem.
Wendy Sherman is an establishment foreign policy figure who doesn’t seem to have strong views on the Israel question. But she has opposed the boycott campaign and described Israel as a “beloved” country in remarks about her work to forge the Iran deal. Times of Israel.
“For me personally, one of the most difficult parts was the tension with this beloved country and its people,” said Wendy Sherman, who led the US team in the talks between Iran and six major powers leading to the sanctions relief for nuclear rollbacks deal.
So having the dissension and the difficulties that we had in this process — and with the American Jewish community of which I consider myself a part — was very, very painful,” she said Tuesday at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, according to Defense News.
Jason Kander, a veteran and former rising star in Missouri politics, would also appear to have no strong opinion of the conflict; though he took a stand against BDS when he sought federal office, per Wikipedia.
Progressives are very disturbed by the nominees. Stephen Miles of Win Without War says the hawkishness on foreign policy extends to the other committees:
Incredibly disheartening to see a near total lack (with a few notable exceptions) of actually progressive voices on foreign policy on these lists. The party apparatus remains tragically stuck in decades old foreign policy thinking.
Matt Duss of the Sanders campaign says the DNC has its head in the sand:
There’s a really important grassroots-driven progressive realignment taking place in foreign policy right now, and judging from this list the DNC is, and would like to remain, completely unaware of it.
Lastly, these lists are clearly a nod to the importance of raising funds from Israel supporters. The Democratic Party doesn’t want to alienate Haim Saban, Hillary Clinton’s big donor who likes the Trump annexation plan and hates Bernie Sanders and works with rightwingers to oppose BDS. Stephanie Schriock of the Credentials Committee explained this in 2016, how important AIPAC is in raising money for Democratic candidates, which she learned as a finance director of congressional campaigns:
Where [are you] going to go to raise the money that you needed to raise to win a race? And you went to labor, you went to the choice community, and you went to the Jewish community. But before you went to the Jewish community, you had a conversation with the lead AIPAC person in your state and they made it clear that you needed a paper on Israel. And so you called all of your friends who already had a paper on Israel – that was designed by AIPAC – and we made that your paper.