Dear Senator Warren:
On July 15, 2019 Progressive Zionists of California (PZC) wrote an Open Letter to you highly critical of your hiring of Max Berger as Director of Progressive Partnerships. PZC believes that your campaign erred greatly in this choice. We believe the best decision is to ask Mr. Berger to step down from this influential position. To date PZC has not received a response.
On September 7, 2017, Max Berger tweeted, “I agree with BDS, but it’s not a mistake to consider it largely anti-Zionist. For Zionists, it’s an existential question.”
It is clear that Berger fully supports the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. With these sentiments, he has positioned himself firmly against even the most progressive Zionism, the liberation movement that helps to ensure a safe and secure homeland for the Jewish people while also standing for Palestinian sovereignty and self-determination.
We must stress that Berger is not merely criticizing Israel’s policies he deems unfair or unjust–progressive and liberal Zionists do that regularly—Berger is opposing the very existence of Israel as a Jewish state. According to 2018 Mellman and J Street polls, 92% of American Jews support Israel–critically or otherwise–and most of them are Democrats.
House Resolution 246:
Last week’s overwhelming vote in support of House Resolution 246 opposing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) targeting Israel—where 398 House members voted Yes and only 16 voted No—spoke volumes. Of the 398 bipartisan Yes votes, 209 were cast by Democrats. Progressive champions Ro Khanna, Ayanna Pressley, Katie Hill, Katie Porter and John Lewis all voted Yes on 246.
After his Yes vote, Rep. Lewis remarked:
I want to make it very clear that I disagree strongly with the BDS movement. Economic, educational, and cultural interaction with Israel, America’s democratic ally, is not only in the best interest of Israelis and Americans, but it improves the climate for peace with Palestinians, which is in everyone’s interest to encourage. For these reasons, I was proud to be one of 398 members of the House of Representatives – an overwhelming bipartisan majority – who voted to pass H. Res. 246 on July 23, 2019.
The message is clear. Democrats at large stand in solidarity against the existential threat to constructive engagement and peace that is BDS; and BDS is still an extreme and fringe position within the Democratic Party, exactly where Max Berger sits due to his unflinching support.
Why would your campaign enable such an extreme position by keeping Berger in an influential, leadership role as Director of Progressive Partnerships?
Matthew Finkelstein of PZC comments:
“Berger no more speaks for the majority of Jews than does Stephen Miller, and he is every bit as divisive. The idea that progressive Jews are narrowly constrained to creating partnerships with your campaign through Berger is a deeply alienating prospect that damages your standing with the Jewish community. For progressive Zionists like ourselves, this boycotts us from your campaign by default, divests us of our role in the progressive alliances you intend to form, and by your silence sanctions BDS–a destructive campaign whose ultimate goal is the end of the world’s only Jewish state.”
Some people have remarked that Mr. Berger’s position has no bearing on policy or your platform. In our experience personnel is policy. As progressive Zionists, we have been consistently excluded from progressive spaces by BDS supporters. We are concerned that having Max in this role would lead to a similar dynamic within your campaign and administration. Director of Progressive Partnerships will focus very much on the left side of the political spectrum. It is the progressive left–particularly new and younger voters–that are most susceptible to a demonizing, one-sided anti-Israel framing of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. In addition, this campaign position could lead to Berger’s assuming a more influential position.
It is not acceptable for a Democratic presidential candidate to platform representatives who promote movements which pose an “existential question” to the Jewish people.
Senator Warren, many of our supporters are fans of yours. We ask that you please take the time to consider and address our concerns.
Andrea Beth Damsky
Steering Committee Members
Progressive Zionists of California
Progressive Zionists of California is a coalition of California Democrats that stands for the fundamental right to self-determination of the Jewish people in their indigenous homeland. We affirm Israel’s right to exist as a secure and democratic Jewish state; the need for a sovereign and independent Palestinian state living in peace and mutual recognition with the Jewish state of Israel; and the need to maintain a strong bipartisan United States relationship with Israel.