Video: Rania Khalek on looming Democratic showdown over Palestine

On Tuesday, I spoke with Nadia Kanji of The Real News about how Bernie Sanders’ appointment of five representatives to the Democratic platform committee could lead to a dramatic showdown over Palestine at the party’s convention in July.

The 15-member committee is tasked with drafting the Democratic Party’s platform every four years.

Though the document is non-binding and presidents have broken with it in the past, it lays out the party’s vision and the policy priorities on which the Democratic presidential nominee will run in November’s election.

As I mention in the interview, the Sanders campaign intends to push for language in the party platform that promotes Palestinian rights as a US priority.

This objective is reflected in the representatives that Sanders, who has run a strong challenge to Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination, named to the committee.

Among them are renowned public intellectual and civil rights activist Cornel West, an outspoken supporter of the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, or BDS; and Arab American Institute head James Zogby, who has strongly defended BDS as a “legitimate and moral” response to Israel’s brutal military occupation.

Sanders also appointed Democratic Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota, climate justice activist Bill McKibben and Native American activist Deborah Parker.

While Sanders has not endorsed BDS, he is not actively trying to obstruct it and has forcefully defended Palestinians in defiance of the pro-Israel consensus that dominates in Washington.

Clinton, meanwhile, intends to take the US relationship with Israel “to the next level” and has vowed to make combatting BDS a top priority should she become president.

Clinton’s six appointees to the platform committee, all Democratic insiders with pro-Israel bonafides, share this perspective.

Among them are Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress (CAP), an influential liberal think tank close to the Clinton and Obama wings of the Democratic Party.

Under pressure from Israel lobby activists, Tanden notoriously censored criticism of Israel at CAP’s Think Progress blog and pushed several of its top writers out of the organization for critical reporting.

Last year, Tanden hosted Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s extreme right-wing prime minister, for a friendly conversation, allowing him to spew lies to a liberal audience without challenge.

And as Foreign Policy reports, “Clinton pick Wendy Sherman was a top State Department official and lead negotiator on the Iran nuclear deal. Sherman, who is Jewish, called the divisiveness the historic agreement inspired ‘painful’ after it was signed last summer.”

As a result, Palestine is likely to be a major point of contention at the Democratic National Convention, even more so than in 2012.

That year, the Democratic establishment insisted on inserting language into the party platform recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, against the will of the delegates, eliciting an eruption of boos in a chaotic scene video of which went viral.

As recent polls indicate, support for Palestinians over Israel has shot up among liberal Democrats this election cycle.

In making Palestinian rights a central component of his fight for a more inclusive and open Democratic Party, Sanders is reflecting the progressive momentum that has coalesced around him.

Whether he succeeds remains to be seen. But an explosive confrontation at the convention between the corporate and hawkish pro-Israel forces backing Clinton and the progressive populism behind Sanders is practically guaranteed.


Rania Khalek

Rania Khalek's picture

Rania Khalek is an independent journalist reporting on the underclass and marginalized.