Updated: Nov 25, 2019
Last weekend at the California Democratic Party Convention in Long Beach, legislators, activists, friends, allies, and organizations throughout California came together to speak up about antisemitism, and to listen. Fortunately, the anti-Israel amendments referenced in some of the speeches were soundly defeated on the floor of the convention on Sunday.
“We are here to say that we are proudly Jewish and we are proudly progressive and we are going to stand up and fight for the values that our community holds dear [and] no amount of antisemitism is going to push us out of any space. We are proud to be Democrats and proud to be part of this movement!” -Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel
“We were raised in a proud Jewish home where we learned about the values that this country holds and the values…of caring for one another…We are proud to stand with Israel and its right to exist, and we can have many conversations about everything within that but fundamentally that is important to us as Jews and to me as a Democrat.” -Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan
“When we look at what’s happening in this country, the rise of antisemitism when antisemitic hate crimes are near the top….when we look at the rise of White nationalism and neo-Nazism in this country, we can’t take anything for granted, we need the state of Israel to continue to exist, and the last thing we need is for the largest Democratic Party in this country to go on record advocating against the existence of the state of Israel.” -Senator Scott Weiner
“We come together as one to stand up against antisemitism, to stand up against anti-Zionism, to stand up against those who believe that you cannot express your Jewish values and be progressive at the same time….Together we will raise awareness of this issue and we will hopefully put it to rest once and for all.” -Ron Galperin
“When I was a child growing up in Milwaukee and I was being asked where my horns were because I was Jewish…when in 1992 when people…tried to pass anti-Israel resolutions saying that Israel is somehow a colonial project…and even going back into the 1950s and 1940s where we were being kicked out of country after country with no safe place to go. Now we see this rearing its head again. We are not going back to the previous century.…We stand together as a party for everyone!” -Andrew Lachman
Eran Hazary and Siamak Kordestani both from AJC spoke informatively and eloquently, Eran about AJC’s groundbreaking and sobering survey of U.S. Jews and antisemitism.
“[N]ine out of ten American Jews believe that antisemitism today is a problem. A plurality believe it has increased a massive amount over the past year. This is an epidemic and it calls for each of us to be vigilant in rooting out antisemitism where we see it…. It’s not enough to just call out antisemitism when it happens. We have to change the culture, we have to change the climate that feeds it…. The vast majority of Jews believe that the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement is antisemitic. Statements such a “Zionism is evil” or “Israel has no right to exist” have no place in a pluralistic society.” -Eran Hazary
Siamak, a Persian Jew, spoke on behalf of JIMENA, Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa, where he is a board member:
“During the 40s and 50s hundreds of thousands of Jews throughout the Arab world were ethnically cleansed and their assets were expropriated and taken away and our voices have not been heard. We’re the forgotten refugees. Most of these refugees had nowhere to go except for the state of Israel. So when we hear about activists calling Israel a white colonialist European ethno-state, that erases our narrative, that erases our story and our history…. So I just want to ask everyone today to help us to elevate our voices…and to continue to spread our message. We can’t do this without you….but we have a long way to go.” -Siamak Kordestani
I’m here to talk about what it takes to be a good ally, because an ally is recognizing the significance that you guys drive into our community…I’m not going to lie, the Israel/Palestine stuff…it doesn’t come natural to me, it’s very nuanced, but it’s important that when we see these tropes, these antisemitic rhetoric that’s rising, we all have to stand up against it. So friends like me, ask for help, we’ll have your back, we’ll speak up against what’s rising…please teach us, we want to be there for you.” -Amy Wiwuga
Michael Harris, pediatrician, Israel advocate, and activist spoke the truth about what the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions global campaign really is:
“Remember, not one single organization that endorses BDS supports peace between two states for two peoples. And not one single organization that endorses two states for two peoples supports BDS….And if you ask why we can call BDS antisemitic if it’s “only against Israel”, let’s remember what Bernie Sanders wrote just this past week: “some criticism of Israel can cross the line into antisemitism, especially when it denies the right of self-determination to Jews.” When it came to a vote in Congress this year, 42 California Democrats out of 45 voting supported H Res 246, which opposed BDS, noting
“Whereas the Global BDS Movement does not recognize, and many of its supporters explicitly deny, the right of the Jewish people to national self-determination;” That’s exactly what BDS does. It’s not about peace, it’s not about coexistence, it’s just the same old BS about eliminating the Jewish people’s rights to national self-determination, hidden behind fake human rights language. Let’s continue to keep it out of our California Democratic Party.” -Dr. Mike Harris
Lisa Armony of the Jewish Federation and Family Services and Rabbi Stephen Einstein, CDP Delegate and ADL Regional Board Member both spoke about the threat to Israel’s very existence the anti-Israel amendments represent:
“Please spread the word, these…amendments are dangerous. They are dangerous to the Palestinian people as well as to the Israelis. They are disguised as human rights issues… but these amendments are not about Palestinian human rights… and they need to be exposed for what they are. They are anti-Israel, they are antisemitic, they are anti-peace…they are pro-destruction….this is dangerous rhetoric and it has no place in the Democratic Party.” -Lisa Armony
“Right now there is a direct attack on Israel’s right to exist…they may say otherwise but we know that an attack on Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state is an attack on the Jewish people. Because if we’re not supposed to be living here because we don’t belong here, and we’re not supposed to be living there because we don’t belong there, then there’s only one place that they want us to live and it’s called Auschwitz and we say “Never Again.” -Rabbi Stephen Einstein
Andrea Beth Damsky, CDP Delegate, PZC Founding Member, Board Member of Democrats for Peace and Justice in the Middle East, and Rachel Bracker, Chair of the California Young Democrats Jewish Caucus and PZC Member each spoke personally about their own experiences with antisemitism:
“I am a Jewish lesbian, and in our current lingo where we have intersectional spaces, I am welcome to speak as a lesbian, I am not welcome to speak as a Jew. This is a problem. Jews are not welcome in intersectional spaces, it’s not safe for us. This is one of the reasons we do the work that we do. And I love this “Antisemitism Isn’t Bread” sign. It should not be rising, and it is! – Andrea Beth Damsky
“[A]s a young person, where I see antisemitism a lot…that’s online….When you’re just chatting with friends, sometimes you will get memes…that will say something like “Israel is not a legitimate state” and, boy, could that take you back a notch. It’s very, very important that in every single space that we encounter antisemitism, that we encounter the delegitimization of Israel, that we rebuke that. We don’t have to come out fighting…We can explain things in a dialogue. But it is very important that any space that we’re in…that we are defending ourselves, that we are defending the one country that has been a refuge to Jews all over the world…that this rich history is something we communicate.” – Rachel Bracker
Our host for the rally, Matthew Finkelstein, PZC Founding Member, wrapped the afternoon up with a call to action:
“With antisemitism on the rise we have to remember that the enemies of the Jewish people are fearlessly outspoken. They are outspoken on committees in the Democratic Party, and if we are not equally outspoken and standing for the values that we believe in, we will have ceded the conflict to them. I call on every one of you, PZC calls on every one of you to open up your mouth when you hear antisemitism and to not allow people to run roughshod over the names of our people and our accomplishments.”
Special thanks to our rally partners AJC, California Legislative Jewish Caucus, Democratic Majority for Israel, JIMENA, Democrats for Peace in the Middle East, Democrats for Israel – LA, A Wider Bridge and Zioness.
An extra special thanks to David Bocarsly for all his support, to Jenny Berg and David Rosen. We couldn’t have done this without you!