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Democrats try to bury Palestine in middle of the night

In the early morning hours of 25 June, while many Americans were asleep, Hillary Clinton allies on the Democratic Party’s platform drafting committee blocked a motion that called for an end to Israel’s military occupation and illegal settlement enterprise.

The vote came after several grueling hours of bickering between members named to the committee by Clinton and Democratic National Committee chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, on the one hand, and those appointed by Senator Bernie Sanders, on the other.

The video above shows highlights of the heated exchanges surrounding the vote.

Deeper struggles over Israel taking place within the party have been brought into the open since Sanders named prominent supporters of Palestinian rights to the committee that is writing the party’s general election platform.

Clinton, who appears likely to clinch the party’s presidential nomination after a hard-fought primary battle with Sanders, named members who back her staunch pro-Israel lin

Andrew Bossone shared this link

Despite the tragedy of the other guy winning, this is the platform of the presumptive democratic nominee:
“Clinton surrogates shot down motions endorsing universal health care, a carbon tax, stronger support for raising the minimum wage, forceful opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and a moratorium on fracking.”
That’s Not even addressing the debate among delegates on calling the occupation of Palestine what it is.
Cornel West abstains from voting to support the platform, and drops the mic with “That’s how I roll.”

Sanders reps make passionate pleas, but are outvoted by Clinton surrogates. 

Dark of night

Throughout the day, Clinton surrogates shot down motions endorsing universal health care, a carbon tax, stronger support for raising the minimum wage, forceful opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and a moratorium on fracking.

While these defeats took place during the day, committee organizers waited until the dead of night to deliberate on issues related to Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights.

The vote appeared to be deliberately timed to garner as little attention as possible.

It was the very last section raised and by then it was nearly 1am.

Ironically, holding votes in the middle of the night has been a Republican tactic for passing right-wing measures with as little public scrutiny as possible.

But if the purpose in this case was to suppress public debate over Israel, it doesn’t seem to be working.

End the occupation

Arab American Institute president James Zogby, a Sanders appointee, introduced an amendment to revise the language in the Israel/Palestine section of the platform.

Zogby proposed deleting a drafted pledge to oppose so-called delegitimization of Israel at the United Nations or by the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

He also proposed removing a reference to Jerusalem as Israel’s “undivided” capital.

Zogby pushed for wording that called for

1.  “an end to occupation and illegal settlements so that [Palestinians] may live in independence, sovereignty and dignity,”

2.  “an international effort to rebuild Gaza which the UN warns could be uninhabitable by 2020” and

3. recognition that Palestinians, like Israelis, “deserve security, recognition and a normal life free from violence, terror and incitement.”

Sanders “had direct input” in crafting the amendment, Zogby said, arguing, “the term occupation shouldn’t be controversial.”

Indeed, there was nothing radical about the amendment, which left the pledged US commitment to subsidizing Israel’s military machine and the reference to Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state” intact.

Even the supposedly liberal pro-Israel lobby group J Street did not object to the word occupation. Although the memo it circulated to members of the platform committee urged them to adopt language opposing BDS.

Champions of occupation

Clinton appointee Wendy Sherman, a lobbyist who effectively sells access to government officials, accused BDS and the UN of “creat[ing] anti-Semitism.”

Former congressman turned lobbyist Howard Berman framed opposition to Israel’s occupation as “one-sided” and suggested that Palestinians bear some responsibility for Israel’s illegal conduct.

Bonnie Schaefer, former joint-CEO of the jewelry chain Claire’s Stores, didn’t even bother addressing the issues raised in the amendment. Instead, she engaged in pinkwashing.

“As a gay Jewish Zionist, Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, as we all know, the only place in the Middle East that I can walk down the street with my wife hand in hand and not be afraid,” Schaefer said.

A Clinton supporter and major donor to the Democratic Party, Schaefer was named to the committee by the DNC.

“Tell the truth”

Zogby fired back, while “you can go and walk down the street of Tel Aviv holding the hand of your wife, I can’t get in the airport without 7 hours of harassment because I’m of Arab descent.”

“We have to be able to call it what it is. It’s an occupation that humiliates people, that breeds contempt, that breeds anger and despair and hopelessness, that leads to violence,” Zogby added.

Civil rights activist and celebrated public intellectual Cornel West, an outspoken supporter of BDS appointed by Sanders, expressed outrage.

“When the IDF [Israeli army] kills innocent people, over 500 babies in 51 days, no matter how many shields they say Hamas uses, it’s wrong,” said West, referring to Israel’s summer 2014 attack on Gaza.

The “Democratic Party must tell the truth,” West implored. “We can never fully respect the Palestinians unless we can name … the boot on their necks.”

“I come from a people who’ve been hated,” West added, drawing an analogy between the long history of denying the horrors inflicted on African Americans and the refusal to recognize the oppression of Palestinians.

The motion was nonetheless defeated in an 8-5 vote, with Sanders’ representatives being the only committee members to back it.

That vote, combined with other defeats throughout the day, prompted West to abstain from approving the platform altogether.

“[If] we can’t say a word about [Trans-Pacific Partnership], if we can’t talk about Medicare for all explicitly, if the greatest prophetic voice dealing with impending ecological catastrophe can hardly win a vote and if we can’t even acknowledge occupation as something that’s real in the lives of a slice of humanity … it just seems to me there’s no way in good conscience I can say take it to the next stage,” West said.

“I have to abstain. I have no other moral option, it would be a violation of my own limited sense of moral integrity and spiritual conscience,” he added. “That’s how I roll.”

West’s and Zogby’s advocacy for Palestinian rights has been so insistent that the Clinton wing of the party has attempted to neutralize them through the most cynical form of identity politicking.

“Concerned that Zogby and West’s viewpoint may be gaining traction at least in the public narrative, Bakari Sellers, a former South Carolina representative and now a CNN commentator, sent a letter signed by 60 African American politicians around the country to the co-chairs of the platform committee last week urging them to stick to the traditional language on Israel,” CNN reported.

This move was meant as a “counterpoint to West, a prominent member of the Black community.”

Fundamental disconnect

“Even though ending Israeli military occupation and settlement building have been explicit US policy goals since the early days of the George W. Bush administration, and even though Hillary Clinton as President Obama’s Secretary of State tried to advance these goals, Clinton appointees to the Democratic National Committee’s platform drafting committee outvoted Sanders appointees to exclude these very same goals from the Democratic platform,” Josh Ruebner, policy director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, told The Electronic Intifada.

“As Dr. Jim Zogby, a Sanders appointee, noted in the debate last night there is a fundamental disconnect between official US policy and the unwillingness of the Democratic Party to back it,” Ruebner added.

The US Campaign is calling on activists to urge both the Republican and Democratic parties to support Palestinian rights in their platforms.

‘The Battle for Justice in Palestine’: post-peace process era?

As Secretary of State John Kerry’s April 29 deadline looms for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, the State Department has dropped any pretense that talks will result in a framework agreement, instead confirming that negotiations at this point revolve around keeping the moribund “peace process” on life support for a few more months.

Whether or not the United States succeeds in arm-twisting the Palestinians to extend these sham negotiations for another fruitless round, it is clear that the jig is up.

Even U.S. political elites, such as Kerry himself, who last spring became the first U.S. politician to put a timeframe of one to two years on the remaining chance for a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue, recognize the last-ditch nature of the current “peace process” and the impending demise of the two-state paradigm.

Due to Israel’s continued torrid colonization of Palestinian land and its unwillingness to countenance true Palestinian sovereignty over any amount of historic Palestine, the days of trying to hammer the square peg into the round role are drawing to a close.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Barack Obama and Mahmoud Abbas  in 2009. (Photo: AP)

– See more at:

Layout 1Within this political context, Ali Abunimah’s new book, The Battle for Justice in Palestine (Haymarket Books, 2014), hits the shelves at the most opportune time, offering readers compelling deconstructions of Israel’s claims to a “right” to maintain itself as an exclusivist, discriminatory state, in-depth reportage of the

Israel lobby’s desperate, and often risible, efforts to prop up the country’s eroding image, and a reframing of the debate away from Palestinian sovereignty toward self-determination as the post-“peace process” paradigm to be embraced.

When a system loses its legitimacy,” as did the apartheid regime of South Africa, argues Abunimah, “all the weapons in the world cannot protect it [and] we’re beginning to see a similar loss of legitimacy for Zionism.”

Indeed, in his book, Abunimah provides copious evidence of how Israel and its supporters are no longer able to defend their cause on its merits.

With the discourse ceded and the reality of Israel’s apartheid regime and oppression of the Palestinians laid bare, Israel and its lobby are reduced to the untenable position of losing institutional support if democratic processes are allowed to unfold unhindered, or suppressing debate and subverting democratic processes itself to maintain the illusion of continued support for Israel.

Nowhere is this Zionist conundrum playing itself out more dramatically than on college campuses today, as Students for Justice in Palestine and similar organizations have succeeded in defining Palestine as one of, if not the most, burning issues on campus this decade through sophisticated, coalition-building campaigns of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS).

Abunimah documents in his book the fearsome intimidation, the McCarthyite blackballing, and even the attempted criminalization of freedom of expression that the Israel lobby is pushing in a frantic, rearguard action to stanch the debate.

Because, as Abuminah argues, “no matter how much Zionist groups belittle this or that student-council divestment resolution as merely a nonbinding or insignificant recommendation, the intensity of Zionist and Israeli efforts belies an understanding that the BDS movement and the struggle for Palestinian rights more broadly have the potential to score much bigger victories in the years to come.”

As important as Abunimah’s documentation is of the advancing BDS movement, perhaps the greatest contribution his book makes is to upend truisms, uncritically examined for too long, upon which Israel and its supporters have relied.

He does so masterfully, especially in a chapter entitled “Does Israel Have a Right to Exist as a Jewish State?” (excerpted here) Abunimah concludes that Israel does not have such a “right” because to assert so contradicts basic notions of democracy and equality.

Whereas in most countries—and certainly in any that claim to be democratic—rights accrue to citizens without discrimination, Israel makes a fundamental distinction between citizenship and nationality,” Abunimah notes.

Moreover, he argues, “Israel was created as a ‘Jewish state’ by expelling Palestinians and preventing their return. It can only survive in this form by maintaining current and committing future violations of the rights of Palestinians. To deny the rights of Palestinians wherever they are so that Israel can maintain a Jewish majority created through violence and discrimination flouts every contemporary principle of human rights and international law.”

But if Israel refuses to allow for meaningful Palestinian sovereignty and if Israeli Jewish society today nearly uniformly opposes living as equals with Palestinians in the same state structure, then how can the Israeli-Palestinian issue be resolved?

Here Abunimah remains optimistic, marshalling evidence from successful, if imperfect, transitions to democracy and equality in South Africa and Northern Ireland that once seemed unthinkable.

Abunimah refuses “to allow our vision of justice to be constrained only by what seems realistic from the perspective of today, and especially not by what powerful and privileged groups deem acceptable or pragmatic.” He reminds the reader that up until the very end of apartheid in South Africa, white South Africans also opposed democracy and equality, “predicting that any attempt to impose it would lead to a bloodbath.”

With the demise of the “peace process,” the snowballing of the BDS movement, and Israel’s increasing pariah-hood, this day of reckoning may be sooner off than many expect, as even Barack Obama has warned.

In an interview last month with Bloomberg, the president cautioned that “if you see no peace deal, and continued aggressive settlement construction—and we have seen more aggressive settlement construction over the last couple years than we’ve seen in a very long time—if Palestinians come to believe that the possibility of a contiguous, sovereign Palestinian state is no longer within reach, then our ability to manage the international fallout is going to be limited.”

Instead of continuing to rely on the stale, discredited advice of pro-Israel ideological zealots such as Martin Indyk and David Makovsky, who currently head the U.S. “peace process” team, the Obama administration—as well as all concerned people—would do well to turn to Ali Abunimah’s The Battle for Justice in Palestine to think freshly about how to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian issue fairly and justly in this coming post-“peace process” era.

– See more at:

About Josh Ruebner

Josh Ruebner is the National Advocacy Director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and a former Analyst in Middle East Affairs at Congressional Research Service.

He is author of Shattered Hopes: Obama’s Failure to Broker Israeli-Palestinian Peace (Verso Books).

Other posts by .


 Can’t have the cake and eat it too: “US, Stop Funding Israel, or Let Others Broker Peace

Noura ErakatHammonton, NJ, United States, posted this August 5, 2014 ·

Alert: Were talking about ending US aid to Israel in the New York Times!

The NYT asked if the US can still be a leader in the Middle East (seriously).

My response: the US needs to stop funding Israel or let others do the job including multilateral institutions that the US has deliberately impeded. Rashid Khalidi is part of this “debate” as are others insisting the US marginalize Hamas and support Israel at all costs.

Thanks to Josh Ruebner & US Campaign to end the occupation for fabulous research on US military aid to Israel.

“The United States has incapacitated the U.N. Security Council by using its veto power to shield Israel from accountability 40 times between 1972 and 2011.

The only other situation where the U.S. used its veto power so systematically was to protect colonial and apartheid regimes in South Africa, Rhodesia and Namibia.”

U.S. Should Stop Funding Israel, or Let Others Broker Peace

Noura Erakat

Noura Erakat, a human rights lawyer, is an assistant professor at George Mason University and co-founder and co-editor of Jadaliyya.

August 5, 2014

As Israel’s primary patron of economic, military and diplomatic support, the United States has a duty and the capacity to help resolve the Palestinian-Israel conflict. It should either comply with its domestic laws and cease military aid to Israel or simply step aside and allow international mechanisms to function without obstruction.

Ending aid will either restrain Israel and facilitate a political resolution or encourage a backlash that induces the global community to intervene.

Between 1949 and 2008, the U.S. has provided Israel with $103.6 billion, more than all of the foreign aid it has provided to Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America combined.

Since 2000, it has provided Israel with $3.5 billion worth of F-16s and $77 billion in Apaches.

Military aid to foreign states is subject to several U.S. laws including the Arms Export Control Act , the Foreign Assistance Act and the Leahy Law. Each of these laws conditions the receipt of aid on the furtherance of human rights.

The Department of State annually notes Israel’s systematic abuse of human rights against Palestinians.

Congress has nevertheless renewed aid to Israel without scrutiny either by willful ignorance or disregard.

In the eyes of our 535 elected representatives, Israel can do no wrong.

This has not always been the case.

The Reagan administration halted its cluster munitions sales to Israel between 1982 and 1988 in response to Israel’s disproportionate and indiscriminate attack on civilians in Beirut.

In 1991, the George H.W. Bush administration conditioned its loan guarantees to Israel on the cessation of its settlement expansion in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

The United States has ample evidence of Israel’s human rights violations that should trigger these laws today. In its most recent offensive, Israel has dropped over 100 one-ton bombs, hardly precise and discriminate weaponry, onto the densely populated and besieged Gaza Strip.

Human Rights Watch documented Israeli ground forces shooting and killing fleeing Palestinian families in Khuza’a between July 23 and 25. Amnesty International documented the killing of 45 civilians in the Occupied West Bank over the past three years.


Cessation of American military aid to Israel will create at least two possibilities in the long run. On the one hand, it can restrain Israel, thereby creating more opportunities for a political resolution to the conflict. On the other hand, it could have the opposite effect and motivate Israel to pursue more maximalist policies, thereby increasing the cost of its transgressions. This will likely induce the international community to effectively intervene à la the South African model.

Short of complying with its own laws, the United States can also step aside and allow international mechanisms to function. The United States has incapacitated the U.N. Security Council by using its veto power to shield Israel from accountability 40 times between 1972 and 2011.

The only other situation where the U.S. used its veto power so systematically was to protect colonial and apartheid regimes in South Africa, Rhodesia and Namibia. The United States has similarly undermined the efficacy of the <href=”#v=onepage&q&f=false”>International Court of Justice, the Human Rights Council and, as we are currently witnessing, the International Criminal Court.

The U.S. is a central part of the problem in the Palestinian-Israel conflict. To be a part of the solution, it needs to do less, not more.


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