Progressive Zionists of California members Andrea Beth Damsky, Paul Kujawsky, Susan George and Matthew Finkelstein at the 2019 California Democratic party convention (Photo/Dan Pine)
Progressive Zionists of California members Andrea Beth Damsky, Paul Kujawsky, Susan George and Matthew Finkelstein at the 2019 California Democratic party convention (Photo/Dan Pine)

Fight over Israel in state Democratic Party made potent statement

At a quick glance, the wrangling over several resolutions harshly critical of Israel at the California Democratic Party State Convention two weeks ago provided no huge fireworks. The matter was in committee and was dealt with in a civil and parliamentary manner.

But make no mistake. These resolutions, had they been approved as originally written, would have radically upended the state party’s longstanding posture toward Israel and Middle East peace.

And as California goes, so goes the nation.

The authors of the five resolutions are active in Jewish Voice for Peace and other like-minded groups. Topics included the blockade of Gaza, sponsored travel to the region and the Trump administration’s Israeli-Palestinian policies, among other issues.

The resolutions referred to Israel as a settler colonial project, advocated for a Palestinian right of return, called for handing over the Golan Heights to Syria, and mandated that any official trips to Israel by elected Democrats include input from members of the Progressive Caucus and/or the Arab American Caucus.


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The party’s Resolutions Committee was having none of it. Members substantially rewrote every resolution, removing inflammatory anti-Zionist language and replacing it with more evenhanded text.

The original authors had their names removed from the documents in protest. The pro-Israel activists in the Democratic Party who pressed the committee to amend the language called the outcome a victory.

As supporters of Israel cheer that victory, we see a more far-reaching consequence of the resolutions fight.

It is vitally important to a successful U.S.-Israel alliance that the subject of Middle East peace never becomes a partisan issue. Both major parties have always championed a strong, secure and thriving Jewish state. It has been one issue on which Democrats and Republicans traditionally have agreed.

Yet too many progressives have endorsed a more anti-Zionist, pro-Palestinian position. It is now a given among many on the left that Israel is a pariah nation. This sentiment has crept into the Democratic Party, notably with the controversial statements made by two newly elected members of Congress, Ilan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, who have criticized Israel to a degree rarely heard from national elected officials.

However, neither they nor the authors of the resolutions speak for the Democratic Party.

Had California’s Democrats officially shifted, however slightly, away from their tradition of support for Israel, it would have shaken the national party to its core. Thankfully, cooler and wiser heads prevailed. We hope Israel can continue to count on bipartisan support going forward.

J. Editorial Board

The J. Editorial Board pens weekly editorials as the voice of J.