By Susan George
Today, the Democratic Party is expected to finalize its draft platform: the guiding document that espouses what Democrats believe and stand for across the country. Much has been written about how Democrats aligned with Vice President Joe Biden and those aligned with Senator Bernie Sanders have negotiated between centrist and leftist policy. But some of Bernie’s California delegates are submitting foreign policy recommendations that Bernie himself has condemned.
Several California Sanders Delegates, led by Marcy Winograd, are organizing policy ideas that would effectively embolden the leadership of war criminals including Bashar Al-Assad and help to institutionalize antisemitism within the Democratic Party by supporting a boycott against Israel.
To be clear, some of the proposals that they support are largely accepted and endorsed by Democrats and even moderate Republicans: condemnation of America’s treatment of undocumented immigrants, repealing the discriminatory “Muslim Ban,” and action to condemn China’s genocidal treatment of Uyghurs. But others would do much more harm than good and reveal that some people should not be representing Senator Sanders at the DNC.
One harmful policy recommendation that Winograd and others endorse is to rescind Obama-era funding that empowers nonprofits that counter violent hate and bigotry. White nationalism is on the rise even in California, where just last year a gunman opened fire in a San Diego synagogue over Passover. The federal funds have been used to support a variety of noble causes: training teachers in San Bernardino to understand behavior associated with violent extremism, offering counselling services for refugees and immigrants with PTSD in Sacramento, funding anti-hate programs in conservative Orange County, supporting the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, and offering stigma-free community, health, and support services to those at risk of violent extremism in San Diego.
Some of the most troubling planks include double-speak that would effectively disempower Jews living in Israel, which is home to half of the world’s Jewish population and the majority of Jews who have faced ethnic cleansing in Middle Eastern and North African countries. Winograd herself supports a one-state solution—an idea that has only gained traction among extremists on the far right (who believe in disempowering Palestinians) and extremists on the far left (who believe in disempowering Jews in their ancestral homeland).
One of these peculiar points in the plank submission asks the DNC to support boycotting, divesting, and sanctioning (BDS) Israel. To casual observers of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it might even seem innocuous, even though Sanders himself has condemned BDS consistently throughout his career. That’s because the global BDS Movement does not recognize Israel as a legitimate country and openly advocates for a one-state solution, where a Jewish minority would be governed by a majority that has yet to demonstrate respect for Jewish lives. In July, 95% of U.S. House members voted to condemn BDS precisely because it does not promote coexistence, civil rights, or political reconciliation — it just questions Israel’s legitimacy.
In a distorted mirror of Trump’s disastrous peace plan that would effectively create a one-state solution to disenfranchise Palestinians, the extremists backing Winograd’s measures are pushing for a one-state solution to disenfranchise Israelis. The Democratic Party should not support any movement that explicitly seeks to harm Jews around the world, much less one that rebukes a pathway to peace that endorses two states for two peoples — which the vast majority of Israelis and Palestinians (and Americans) support.
The list also includes a call for an “immediate cease-fire by all parties in Syria and a comprehensive international arms embargo,” which anyone with a cursory understanding of the Syrian Civil War knows would not be followed, and would actually advantage Bashar Al-Assad, a man who used chemical weapons on his own people. It’s not surprising to see this, as Winograd has a record of sitting by while other extremists deny Assad’s human rights violations.
The tenuous claims between Black American experiences and Palestinian can also be found in a separate criminal justice recomendation. It calls to end “military training of police,” which bizarrely singles out the Israel Defence Forces. This policy plank doesn’t even refer to an existing practice, but simply serves to perpetuate a thoroughly debunked antisemitic libel so vicious that a British Labour politician was stripped of a leadership for tweeting an article that contained the libel. To be clear: the U.S. Military coordinates with the IDF (and the armed forces of other American allies); some specialized U.S. police work with Israeli police for counter-terrorism training, and American police engage in over 25 programs to train with other law enforcement around the world — singling out Israel is antisemitic.
We also find it not only offensive, but deeply dangerous to blame any foreign country for America’s brutal treatment of Black Americans, which stems from systemic racism that has never been effectively purged since the first enslaved African came to Jamestown in 1619. Linking the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with the state-sponsored oppression of Black American citizens is intellectually dishonest by giving American racism a pass to “blame it on the Jews.”
These are not serious policy plank proposals and the Sanders campaign, which includes a number of principled progressive leaders, would do well to condemn these dangerous proposals and prevent those who support them from representing the Senator from Vermont. The country is profoundly broken after four years of Donald Trump, and we must unite to repair it. Policy steeped in bigotry cannot and will not help us restore the soul of our country.
About the Author:
Susan is the Executive Director of Progressive Zionists of California. As someone who always considered herself a progressive, Susan was alarmed to discover when she was a delegate for a Democratic presidential candidate that the disproportionate focus on Israel often crossed the line into expressed antisemitism. As she continued her political work at the state level as a district delegate, Susan learned that her concerns were shared by colleagues and activists with whom she worked; and in 2017 they joined forces to launch the work of Progressive Zionists of California, which continues to have a positive impact as it grows. Susan remains a proud Democrat and progressive.