Democratic Socialists of America must recommit to its work in support of Palestinian liberation

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Editor’s Note: The following is a statement from the DSA BDS and Palestine Solidarity Working Group. Mondoweiss occasionally publishes press releases and statements from organizations in an effort to draw attention to overlooked issues.

At the DSA National Convention in 2017, our national body expressed our support for an international call for justice and voted to endorse the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) as a global strategy of solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom.

The vote was a historic turning point for the DSA.  For many years, we had been silent on Israel’s long-standing occupation of Palestinian territories, its colonization and annexation in violation of international law and its imposition of apartheid throughout the country.

Our 2017 BDS resolution called for more than just an affirmation of the Palestinian right to self-determination. It called for us to stand in solidarity with Palestinian civil society, alongside a wide range of social justice and labor groups who had already endorsed the BDS call — the United Electrical Workers, the Connecticut AFL-CIO, UAW Locals 2865, 2110, 2322, AFT Local 3220, the National Lawyers Guild, the American Studies Association, the African Literature Association, the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, the Association for Asian American Studies, Jewish Voice for Peace, among others.

The resolution also connected BDS with other movements for justice internationally, from DSA’s opposition to South African apartheid to our other current political work against U.S. imperialism in the Middle East  (where our financial support and military invervention are used to violate human rights in Palestine and beyond). By supporting BDS, DSA opposes “on principle … all forms of discrimination, including antisemitism and Islamophobia.”

Finally, the resolution noted that “socialists have a responsibility to side with the oppressed and are committed to their unconditional liberation.”

More, then, than just an argument for DSA’s opposition to Israeli apartheid, the vote was a broad statement of principles to guide DSA work, and a mandate to place the role of Israel in U.S. foreign policy, and U.S. imperialism, more at the center of that work.

Since 2017, reasons for DSA to more publicly and visibly articulate its support for BDS and Palestinian liberation have only been redoubled by world events.

For example, the Trump Administration moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, an egregious insult to Palestinian claims to Jerusalem as indigenous land.

Conditions in Palestine for Palestinians, especially in Gaza, continue to deteriorate. We have now reached 2020, the year by which the United Nations predicted two years ago that Gaza would become “uninhabitable.”

Meanwhile, authoritarian states around the world — from the Bolsonaro regime in Brazil, to the Duterte regime in the Philippines, to the Trump Administration — continue to point to Israel as a positive model of a militarized and ethnonationalist state.

Trump also recently launched a drone strike that killed Iranian General Qasem Suleimani, an action that ratcheted up regional and global tensions while affirming U.S. support for Israel, chief among those calling for aggression against Iran.

And most recently, Trump released his vaunted “peace plan,” which legitimates Israel’s  annexation of the Jordan Valley and territories elsewhere in the West Bank. The plan also calls for Palestinians to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.  The plan offers a “two-state solution” that would involve a demilitarized collection of Palestinian bantustans amid de facto approval of Israel’s apartheid settler-colonial state, with nothing approaching Palestinian sovereignty. Unsurprisingly, Palestinians and Palestinian leadership have already rejected the plan.

For these reasons, we urge DSA to recommit to its work affirming BDS strategies in support of Palestinian liberation. We offer these specific suggestions to the DSA national leadership, DSA chapters and YDSA chapters, and to individual members:

  • YDSA chapters can make an intentional effort to integrate their work with college-based Students for Justice in Palestine and Palestine Solidarity Committee chapters. In the past five years, there have been more than 200 examples of boycott, divestment, sanctions resolutions passing, many of them authored by SJP chapters in combination with campus student governments. There are now also more than 250 SJP chapters on college campuses across the United States. Linking DSA closely to campus BDS work will “reaffirm” Palestine solidarity as a priority for the national organization.
  • DSA can participate in and actively take the lead in organizing newly rekindled anti-war protests and speak directly to U.S. support for Israel within those protests. Israel remains the primary recipient of U.S. military aid and a symbol of U.S. efforts to maintain planetary hegemony. The road to war in the U.S. invariably passed through this alliance.
  • DSA can forcefully pressure political candidates running for office, especially those who seek DSA endorsement, to oppose all efforts to pass legislation that would ban, penalize and even criminalize boycotts of Israel and its enablers, and to fully and openly endorse the demands of the BDS call. The open support for BDS from recently elected representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib should give further incentive to DSA to push elected officials to backthe demands of the BDS call. This includes presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
  • DSA can forcefully pressure elected officials to eliminate military aid to Israel. This idea, already floated by New York representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, is critical to weakening U.S. imperialism in the Middle East, the architecture of Israel’s apartheid state and the U.S. war-making machine.
  • DSA can work within existing labor organizations, political associations and community groups to educate and agitate for solidarity with Palestine. The example of trade unions like the United Electrical Workers supporting BDS shows the huge, untapped potential of a labor-Palestine solidarity alliance.  It is a reminder of the critical role trade unions within and without South Africa (like the Coalition of South African Trade Unions) played in supporting and implementing the South African anti-apartheid campaign. Memories of U.S. dockworkers refusing to offload cargo from South African ships attempting to enter U.S. ports should kindle efforts to urge teachers unions, service workers unions and trade unions especially in industries like logistics to throw their support — and labor — behind freedom for Palestine.
  • Finally, DSA can be vigilant in defending BDS organizers — especially Muslim, Palestinian and Arab students — from attack by the forces of the U.S. state. The Trump administration’s Department of Education’s  recent decision to open an investigation into allegations of “antisemitism” at New York University because of Students for Justice in Palestine activism against Zionism puts wide swaths of people at risk for standing up to Israeli apartheid. DSA can work in concert with academic groups like the Middle East Studies Association, which recently criticized the investigation as an attempt to silence criticism of Israel at NYU.

DSA has made important leaps forward since 2017 in bringing attention to Israel’s occupation and the fight for Palestinian self-determination led by Palestinians. The next step is a commitment at all levels of the organization to make both a priority. DSA members are encouraged to join the DSA Palestine Solidarity Working Group by writing to