Listen: California Democrats defend right to boycott Israel

The California Democratic Party has approved a resolution calling on the US government to promote “a just peace based on full equality and security for Israeli Jews and Palestinians alike, human rights and international law.”

The resolution, which passed without debate at the annual state chapter conference in May, admonishes Israel’s settlement activities, as well as its denial of entry to activists who criticize the state.

It also decries the historic failures of the US government to take action against Israel “with actual steps to change the status quo and bring about a real peace process.”

Endorsed by more than 200 delegates at the California conference, the resolution breaks from the traditional mantras of the Democratic Party of prioritizing Israel’s military security, support of the “two-state” solution or pursuing yet another failed negotiations process, explained David Mandel, an author of the resolution.

Notably, the resolution also “rejects any effort to restrict or discourage open public discourse” on issues related to Israeli policies and “opposes any attempt to restrict or penalize those who exercise their views through nonviolent action to effect change,” signaling support for activists who engage with the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign and who face expanding repression on campuses and by local, state and federal legislatures.

Israel’s “extreme policies”

The resolution is “based on human rights, and also, really importantly to me, it criticizes any attempt to stifle debate, which has been happening all over the country, both in Congress and in a lot of states, including California, to stigmatize and suppress activism for boycotts and divestment,” Mandel told The Electronic Intifada podcast.

Mandel said he hopes that this resolution encourages other activists around the US who are fighting for progressive policy platforms in the national Democratic Party, especially as Democrats and Republicans are considering passing the federal Israel Anti-Boycott Act, which would make it a felony for companies to participate in an international commercial boycott of Israel.

Those found guilty could potentially face $250,000 to $1 million in fines and 20 years in prison.

“This resolution will be a small arrow in our quiver of opposing those kinds of things, but hopefully it will lead to examples in other states and help us out in opposing that kind of suppression of speech,” Mandel said.

The easy passage of the resolution indicates that the party’s members are rapidly shifting their opinions about the US-Israel relationship, added Estee Chandler, a Democratic activist who campaigned for the resolution.

Both Chandler and Mandel are members of Jewish Voice for Peace but worked on the resolution as private citizens.

“Opinions are changing among American Jews and others who until recently were reticent to express any serious criticism of Israeli policy,” Chandler said. She added that the belligerent pro-Israel stance of the Trump administration and the appointment of settlement financier David Friedman as the US ambassador to Israel has deeply upset Democratic Party members.

“What I’m finding as a Democratic activist is that more and more Democrats of all stripes are alarmed by the situation, the extreme policies of Israel and the violence of the occupation,” she said.

Listen to the interview with David Mandel and Estee Chandler via the media player above.

Theme music by Sharif Zakout

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Is it permitted to call for a boycott of Catapillar tractor for profiteering on the ethnic cleansing of the Bedouin peoples?

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I'm a native American. AIPAC the Israeli lobby writing what they want American law to be is a wake up call. America should be for the people by the People. The American people. Israel trying to destroy the Constitution of the United States of America, is wrong. he United States Supreme Court has ruled boycotting is a form of free speech protected by the Constitution.
We Americans can Vote. Check who supported this effort by AIPAC when they run for reelection remember who put Israel above the Constitution.
We can write our reps. This is a must do. It's a no brainer the highly organized Israeli Lobby is engaged in a letter-writing campaign. We need our voices heard.
We can protest.
It's up to us, Do we want America to be for the people by the people or by AIPAC the Israeli Lobby?

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Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).