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Est. April 5, 2002
July 07, 2016 - Issue 661

Democratic National Committee
Gets Advice From 60
Black Democratic Pols
Question Is: What Were They Thinking?


"The Democratic Party for too long has not
taken seriously the humanity of the Palestinian
brothers and sisters.  After a half-century, in
which government after government in the U.S.
and the U.K. have failed to achieve any settlement
of the conflict, which has effectively cut off
hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from
their homes and lands.  They have been refugees
in their own land for the past three generations."

Once again, the “Palestinian question” arises in the highest level of U.S. politics, namely in one of the two major parties, this time from black Democrats, urging the Democratic National Committee to maintain the same language in the party platform as in 2012, regarding U.S.-Israel relations.

The letter, generated by Bakari Sellers, a 31-year-old South Carolina lawyer and occasional CNN commentator, is a direct refutation to Senator Bernie Sanders’ call for a more even-handed approach to the relations between Israel and the occupied Palestinians.

Sellers, in the letter, stated that he believed that the Democratic Party platform of four years ago was “carefully crafted” and should remain the policy of the party for any dealings with Israel or the Palestinians.

The letter writers, for example, vehemently opposed the use of the term “occupation” to describe the conditions under which Palestinians live out their days, both in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. And that does not take into account the conditions under which Israeli Palestinians live. In this aspect, there is a second class in Israel and the Palestinians and others are in it, even the ones who serve in the Knesset. If one chooses to ignore these aspects of the governance of Israel, it is indeed the most democratic society in the Middle East, but the democratic rights are only enjoyed by those who are of the Jewish faith.

The signatories of the letter apparently also believe that the “settlements” in the West Bank do not constitute occupation, even though that region has been acknowledged as Palestinian land and, if there ever were a chance for a two-state settlement, that is the land that Palestinians would occupy. The settlements, however, have chopped up the West Bank over the years in such a way that there never would be a contiguous landmass that would be considered Palestine. They also do not consider Gaza to be occupied, even though entry and exit are controlled in every way by Israel, through the Israel Defense Force. Everything in and out of the Strip is controlled by Israel, including people, food, medicines, and construction materials. It has been described as gigantic open-air prison that contains 1.5 million people. That could be considered occupation, as well.

Cornel West, academic, philosopher, social activist, champion of human rights, and a member of the Democratic platform drafting committee, declared that the Democratic Party for too long has not “take(n) seriously the humanity of the Palestinian brothers and sisters.” After a half-century, in which government after government in the U.S. and the U.K. have failed to achieve any settlement of the conflict, which has effectively cut off hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes and lands. They have been refugees in their own land for the past three generations.

The Sellers letter also declares that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, without consideration of the millennia-old traditions that it is the Holy City for the three oldest monotheistic religions: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. Together, they make up some 54 percent of the world’s religious believers. That’s a declaration that most groups of 60 politicians would be hesitant to make on behalf of that many people, but the signatories did it, adhering strictly to the philosophy of Hillary Clinton and her representatives on the platform drafting committee.

Failure over generations by U.S. negotiators to provide any relief for the Palestinians has given rise to the BDS movement: Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions. The goal of the movement is to bring Israel, especially its Right Wing government, to the table to resolve the humanitarian debacle that exists in the region. It is doing so by urging rank-and-file citizens of various countries (the U.S., in particular) not to buy Israeli products that are made in the occupied territories. For some, it included other Israeli products, but overall, it is a citizens’ movement that is meant to encourage Israel to come to terms with its most important social, economic, and political problem.

That, however, has brought the wrath of the powers that be in both the U.S. and Israel on to the heads of BDS supporters. Probably the most powerful condemnation of the BDS movement has come as an accusation of anti-Semitism: If you are critical of Israel in any way, you are an anti-Semite. And, the Sellers letter again raises the specter of anti-Semitism. In the letter, the signatories declare that anti-Semitism “has taken a new form,” the BDS movement. In stating that, they have taken the side of Clinton, who told a meeting of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) earlier this year that she would do everything in her power to defeat the BDS movement. That is, she, if elected president, (along with other politicians across the country) would do everything in her power to silence the citizens right to free speech, assembly, and association in defeating BDS.

Senator Bernie Sanders simply had suggested in his Democratic primary campaigning that the U.S. have a more even-handed approach to the problem, certainly the biggest issue in Israel. He never said a word about “delegitimizing” Israel or undermining Israel’s right to exist, but that is the assertion of those who are bound to destroy the BDS movement. There are plenty of voices inside Israel that want the situation resolved, but the government in power right now has said it will not countenance a two-state solution, which it sees as just as bad or worse than a one-state solution. Where is there to go?

The surprise here is that 60 black Democratic politicians have taken such a position, unless they do not believe that the Palestinians’ situation is a human rights violation of monumental proportions. After all, the signers are the beneficiaries of centuries of struggle to be free. They know that in the U.S., and they have seen the effectiveness of the boycott movement of apartheid South Africa. Why is it that they can’t see the similarities in the BDS movement? It may be because they don’t see Palestinians as entitled to basic human and civil rights. We may hope not, but that’s the way the Democratic Party seems to be headed. Columnist, John Funiciello, is a long-time former newspaper reporter and labor organizer, who lives in the Mohawk Valley of New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Contact Mr. Funiciello and BC.




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