Democratic Party has anti-Palestinian racism problem

Three people talking at airport

Former US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro voted against mild Democratic platform amendments upholding Palestinian rights. Presidential candidate Joe Biden agrees with his stance.

Matty Stern SIPA USA

“In a move that bodes well for Israel, the Democratic National Committee’s platform committee voted on Monday to reject additional language that would make the party’s stance on the Jewish state more critical.”

So writes Jackson Richman with JNS, a publication focusing on Israel and the Jewish community.

A more accurate sentence would read that the move bodes well for apartheid Israel.

The Biden wing of the platform committee, including vice presidential contender Keisha Lance Bottoms, voted down minor improvements that barely tempered the document’s overwhelmingly pro-Israel tilt.

But they would at least have recognized that Palestinians are under military occupation, clearly opposed settlements and minimally conditioned US military aid to Israel.

The outcome of that vote – strongly against the amended wording – can be seen here.

Staff for Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a progressive leader, did not respond to The Electronic Intifada as to why she abstained.

Is she lining up with the Biden wing’s hardline pro-Israel position, or did she feel the amendment did not go far enough?

If the latter is the case, she should say so.

The platform does say, “We will never amplify or legitimize the voices of bigotry, racism, misogyny, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, or white supremacy.”

Not one word is given in the platform, however, to denouncing anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian racism.

These sentiments are all-too-present in the Biden wing of the Democratic Party – and pervasive in the Republican Party.

Joe Biden himself voted for war with Iraq ahead of both the 1991 and 2003 US-led wars.

Hundreds of thousands of people were killed in those attacks, which further destabilized the region and led directly to massive disaster and death.

Biden is also on record saying, “I think it’s about time we stop … apologizing for our support for Israel.”

“It is the best $3 billion investment we make,” he has asserted. “Were there not an Israel, the United States of America would have to invent an Israel to protect her interests in the region.”

This language lays bare a total lack of concern regarding the dispossession and subjugation of Palestinians that went along with the creation of Israel. And it points to an ongoing satisfaction with Israel’s use of US military aid to occupy Palestinian territory.

Biden’s platform delegates overwhelmingly agree, though not unanimously.

Josh Ruebner at Mondoweiss pointed out Thursday that “Biden delegates Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates, and Khurrum Wahid, chair of Emgage Action, voted for the amendment.”


Biden’s delegates voted down language stating that “no United States aid may be used to facilitate annexation or violate Palestinian rights.”

The delegates also rejected acknowledging the occupation and chose not to oppose settlements but only “settlement expansion” – effectively legitimizing all of Israel’s land theft to date.

Alternative language promoted by Palestinian American delegates was not even brought for a vote.

According to Mondoweiss, Palestinian American delegates authored an amendment that included “conditioning military funding to Israel, ending Israeli occupation, opposing Israeli settlements, asserting Palestinian rights to Jerusalem, excising a discriminatory reference to Israel as a Jewish state, and calling for equal rights between Palestinians and Israeli Jews.”

That Palestinian Americans felt that they could only offer an amendment conditioning – rather than ending – military aid to Israel points to the deeply entrenched opposition to Palestinian rights they faced within the party. And even that watered down language was out of reach.

Monday’s vote points to profound anti-Palestinian racism within the party akin to refusing to acknowledge the reality of apartheid in South Africa and refusing to cut aid to South Africa for forced bantustanization of the country.

Writer Peter Beinart, a recent convert to the cause of equality in one state for Palestinians, Israeli Jews and others living there, pointed to the racist oppression Democrats are backing by refusing to take any stand against Israel’s plans to annex Palestinian land without granting Palestinians their rights.

Ali Abunimah responded by noting how even the two-state solution – that Democrats say they back – is inherently built on inequality for Palestinians.

Sam Hindi, a Palestinian American Democratic National Convention delegate, raised a similar concern.

“Supporting Israel as a Jewish state, rather than a state for all its citizens, is tantamount to endorsing institutionalized racism and apartheid,” he told The Electronic Intifada, noting that more than 20 percent of Israel’s citizens are not Jewish.

Barbara Goldberg Goldman, who voted no, disagrees. She is on record promoting Israel as a “Jewish and Democratic [sic] state” rather than a state for all its citizens.

Support for this sort of ethnonationalism discriminating against Palestinian citizens of Israel should have no place in the Democratic Party any more than would a white and democratic state or Christian and democratic state.

Dan Shapiro, President Obama’s ambassador to Israel, also voted against the amendments.

After implicitly backing the party’s support for Israeli apartheid, he asserted, “We’re a diverse party, and many views are heard, but Democrats are unified around these principles.”

Shapiro is signaling that Democrats may not like some of what Israel is doing, such as annexation, but they like standing up to Israel and for Palestinian equal rights even less.

Shapiro and Wendy Sherman, deputy secretary of state during the Obama administration, both spoke against the amendments.

Palestinian American delegate Hindi said that the interventions by Shapiro and Sherman skewed the debate.

He called it an “unbalanced process” for the platform committee to allow two former high-ranking officials to speak against the amendment.

Hindi said two voices against one was “contrary to how other amendments were handled.”

He noted that the platform’s call for a two-state solution without any measures to hold Israel accountable is hollow.

“It is a preposterous call as Israel’s illegal unilateral actions of building settlements, land theft, ethnic cleansing render that solution impossible to establish a contiguous and viable Palestinian state,” Hindi said.

By voting to ignore Palestinian rights, the DNC platform committee “has chosen the path of complicity and cowardice,” according to Jewish Voice for Peace Action.

The party has adopted a platform that is “wildly out of touch with the Democratic base,” the group said.

But according to Beth Miller, Jewish Voice for Peace Action’s government affairs manager, “the intergenerational, multiracial movement of Palestinians, Jews and allies within the Democratic base will continue to grow and keep pushing for Palestinian rights, dignity and freedom.”

There’s no other choice. The anti-Palestinian racism within the Biden wing of the Democratic Party is clear.

It may sound softer than President Donald Trump, but it is no less harmful to Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation and apartheid.

Advocates for Palestinian rights who plan to vote for Biden on 3 November – an election date the demagogic Trump is questioning – will have to keep challenging the Democratic candidate if he is victorious.

Yet the grassroots pressure must not only be on the party establishment, but also on those calling themselves progressives.

A first step would be to demand that Ocasio-Cortez speak out about what happened with the platform committee. Her silence is deeply troubling.




Seems to me the DP is as racist or anti-racist as it's politically advantageous to be, given the circumstances. There is no quid pro quo going along with prejudice toward African Americans, to the contrary. On the other hand, well I think we all know the other hand right?


No surprise here. Zionist money, whether Christian or Jewish, demands a blind eye for the human and civil rights violations perpetrated by the Israeli government against the Palestinian People.


I'm voting for Gloria La Riva for the Party for Socialism and Liberation. That Party's 10-point plan includes the following: "Stop U.S. aid to Israel. Self-determination for the Palestinian people, including the right of return. "


Wait a minute. My inference was that racism is endemic in American politics. My point is that the nature of those politics, within that context of racism as a determinant of persuasion, is almost inescapable.
That’s not because Americans are any more racist than anyone else, by nature or nurture. It’s because Americans are the most privileged of the species. Not the way the Swiss or Norwegians are but because of our global dominance. Everyone has its glorious founding.
I know you in part by how easy it is for you to condemn your vote to a silent end, felt only by you and your commiserate fellows. Think how hard it is for so many African Americans to revisit the insulting reception school bussing had across the board in white communities and yet vote for Biden, who stood opposed on the thinnest of rationale.
Think for a minute how hard it is to have to go back, after seeing America’s first Black President, to a realization that one’s future lies not in a promise of equality but handling bigotry.
Voting is a privilege according to Republicans. It is a right according to Democrats. It’s up to you, what you want to make of that right/privilege and what it says about who you are, to you.
Be bold and principled and make your statement, or join together with those of us trying to survive. It's not a choice for me. I have a good idea of where things will go when I hang with folks who pick fights without knowing where they'll wind up. And I know that if I'm going to go down, I don't want it to be because I didn't use both my head and my heart.


American interests. That's the problem. The rich and powerful in America believe its interests lie in the conquest, domination and racism it has practised since the founding fathers arrived. That's how it got rich. That's why it's powerful. The interests need to be redefined: reversing climate change must happen or the US is doomed. The old doctrines won't pass muster. Conquest, exploitation, pursuit of wealth before all things: that's what has brought the world to the brink. The Palestinians are victims of the old doctrine. If the US sticks to its "our money before all things" guns, it will go down with the rest of the planet as nature does what it does. The people who built the US of the old doctrine understood nothing about how ecology works. God would provide. Destiny was manifest. No, he won't. No, it isn't. The planet wasn't made for us but we for the planet. Either we change our ways or it will wipe us out as easily as the dinosaurs disappeared. US hubris is outdated. Its support for Israel is part of that hubris. Either the US forces Israel to pull out of the settlements and recognise a free, autonomous Palestine, or the Middle East will never bring about the changes needed to reverse climate change. It can't be done without a fundamental change in how we conceive the essence of our economic systems.They have to be based on sustainability which means equality which means equal rights for all in Israel/Palestine. When necessity is brewing a storm, best to batten down before it arrives. The US should choose the right course before it is forced to do so in a panic.

Michael F. Brown

Michael F. Brown is an independent journalist. His work and views have appeared in The International Herald Tribune,, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The News & Observer, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Washington Post and elsewhere.