Jewish advocacy groups and elected officials are celebrating a victory after the California Democratic Party disregarded calls by party members to include critical language about Israel in its 2022 platform.
Passed March 6, the platform calls for “a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict directly negotiated by the parties that guarantees equality, security and democracy for all; recognizes Israel’s future as a secure and democratic Jewish state with recognized borders; and, provides Palestinians with independence, sovereignty, and dignity.”
“It demonstrates there is a lot of support for Israel in the Democratic Party,” Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel, chair of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus, said in a phone interview.
Despite attempts by various groups to include harsher rhetoric concerning Israel, approximately 80 percent of the public testimony supported the pro-Israel language of the state party’s 2020 platform. A number of groups worked to ensure the 2022 platform upheld that language.
“California Democrats did an exceptional job of standing up for Israel and … against antisemitic boycotts and attacks, as well as supporting Israel’s right to exist as a secure, Jewish democratic state,” Democrats for Israel California said after the 2022 state convention concluded earlier this month.
Along with its pro-Israel language, the party platform urges “an end to the teaching and use of antisemitism and Islamaphobia in discourse throughout the Middle East and beyond.”
In what Democrats for Israel California describe as a “rebuke of the BDS movement,” the platform affirms “the right of individuals to criticize persons, corporations or government, but not for reasons of racial, religious, ethnic, gender or sexual orientation discrimination.” BDS is the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel.
The platform also calls for the rejoining of the Iranian nuclear agreement.
The California Democratic Party, the nation’s largest state Democratic Party, held its 2022 convention from March 4-6. The virtual gathering drew more than 3,600 delegates, elected officials and activists.
In public forums across the state in the three months before the convention, more than 150 Democrats offered remarks on the subject of Israel. Representatives of Oakland-based Jewish Voice for Peace and the Arab American Caucus of the California Democratic Party spoke for language calling for the Palestinian “right of return,” Andrew Lachman, president of Democrats for Israel California, said in a recent interview.
Additionally, “any reference to Israelis was always ‘Jewish Israelis,’” he said. “In their view, the only people who are Israelis are Jews.”
The L.A.-based Jewish Journal, citing a source close to the situation, reported that the opposing language would have included the following: “Replace one-sided military and diplomatic support for de facto annexation and domination with a policy aimed at engaging Israeli and Palestinian representatives … toward a political solution that guarantees human rights, equality, security and democracy for all. Israeli Jews and Palestinians alike deserve peace, dignity, self-determination, security and a normal life free from occupation, discrimination, terror and incitement.”
Ultimately, the platform committee “felt there were no grounds to accept or incorporate the inflammatory language proposed,” Lachman said.
Disproportionate concern over Israel among the party’s progressive wing is consistent with the party’s recent history. Earlier this year, there was a controversial effort led by a group called the Progressive Delegates Network to normalize support for the BDS movement and the Palestinian “right of return” within the party, J. reported.
Democratic Majority for Israel, a Washington, D.C.–based group that supports a strong U.S.-Israel relationship and a progressive policy agenda, applauded the effort.
“We’re thrilled that California’s Democratic Party is continuing its proud, pro-Israel tradition by passing this comprehensive platform that supports a two-state solution and affirms that Israelis and Palestinians deserve security, dignity, independence, and the right to self-determination,” Mark Mellman, president of Democratic Majority for Israel, said in a statement. “Like Democrats nationally at our 2020 convention, California Democratic Party leaders and delegates again rejected an attempt to insert a divisive anti-Israel amendment.”
The Israel language — which comes in a lengthy section of 45 bullet points “to create a more secure and peaceful world” — says California Democrats are committed to supporting efforts “among representatives of Israel, Gaza and the West Bank to de-escalate tensions through good-faith negotiations that recognize Israel’s future as a sovereign, secure and democratic Jewish state and that can lead to security and independence for Palestinians. Recognize that Israelis and Palestinians deserve security, recognition and a normal life free from terror and incitement and respectively should be free to govern themselves, each in their own viable states in peace and dignity.”
In addition to the previously mentioned groups, others that worked to ensure the party’s stance included Progressive Zionists of California, the California Legislative Jewish Caucus, the California Young Democrats Jewish Caucus, the American Jewish Committee, JIMENA, StandWithUs and A Wider Bridge. Support also came from California congressional delegation members, party leaders, activists and other elected officials.
“A lot of the kavod [Hebrew for ‘respect’] goes to the activists, the party activists, and a lot of folks who organized testimony up and down the state to make the case for strong, pro-Israel language in the platform,” Gabriel said. “The [Jewish] Caucus is grateful to Democratic Majority for Israel, Democrats for Israel and all the groups out there who did this important grassroots work.”