October 17, 2019

CA Dem Party Criticizes Israeli Treatment of Palestinian Children, Condemns Anti-Zionism

Photo from Public Domain Pictures.

The California Democratic Party (CDP) endorsed Rep. Betty McCollum’s (D-Minn.) bill over the weekend that called for withholding funding to Israel over their detainment of Palestinian children, and also adopted a resolution condemning anti-Zionism as “anti-Semitic hate speech.”

McCollum’s website states that the bill, H.R. 2407, is aimed at curbing Israeli’s detention of “an estimated 10,000 Palestinian children” who “are subject to abuse and, in some cases, torture.”

Progressive Zionists of California (PZC) Co-Founder Susan George told the Journal in a phone interview it was “very problematic” that the CDP’s Legislative Committee voted in favor of the bill 75 to 25 during the party’s executive board meetings in San Jose, Calif. from Aug. 24-25.

“We should be talking about children everywhere and how they’re treated,” George said. “and yet, what this is doing is saying that Israel is uniquely evil in its treatment [of children].”

Democrats for Israel Los Angeles President Andrew Lachman, who is also a member of the CDP’s Resolutions Committee, told the Journal in a phone interview that H.R. 2407 would require Israel to apply Israeli law to the West Bank when it comes to the treatment of children, which would violate Article 66 of the Geneva Convention.

“You can’t impose another country’s law in a conflict state,” Lachman said, adding that such a move would pave the way toward Israeli annexation of the West Bank. He also pointed out that the bill would only apply 0.055 percent of West Bank children.

“While I think we can all agree that making sure children are not mistreated in any law enforcement setting is important, the statistics and the solution… does not support the desired outcome the proponents are advocating for,” Lachman said.

The CDP had previously endorsed McCollum’s bill in 2017, so the CDP’s recent action was a reaffirmation, according to George and Lachman.

George said it was PZC’s understanding that the committee wasn’t going to address the McCollum bill, leading her to believe that the few people who want to make the issue of Israel “front and center” in the CDP kept pushing for the matter to be addressed at the convention, and they succeeded.

“We always have to assume that will still come up,” George said.

Additionally, the CDP passed a resolution that stated, “Everyone agrees that criticism of Israel, including its leadership, policies and actions, is not anti-Semitic, but asserting that the Jewish state be targeted as an illegitimate, uniquely evil, and racist entity that deserves to be dissolved— based on criteria applied to no other country—goes well beyond the boundary of critique and qualifies as anti-Semitic hate speech.” The resolution goes on to denounce “hate speech in all its forms against all ethnic and religious groups including all forms of anti-Semitic hate speech, including anti-Semitic anti-Zionism.”

George said that the passage of the aforementioned resolution, which was authored by PZC founding member Andrea Beth Damsky, was “groundbreaking” because it was the first resolution condemning “anti-Zionist hate speech” in the Democratic Party.

“The intention of it was to focus within our own backyard, similar to what happens on college campuses,” George said. “It isn’t a majority of people that is using that language, but it’s enough where it alienates people, makes people feel unsafe, it’s harmful, it’s divisive, and we wanted to make a very strong statement about that to bring awareness to it.”

The CDP also adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism, condemned the Trump administration’s “hate speech” and denounced the criminalization of homosexuality in countries like Iran and Brunei. They also rejected an effort to support Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D-Minn.) resolution supporting the right to boycott. 

Lachman said that as a whole, the CDP did some “amazing things” for the pro-Israel community.

“We managed to get through almost everything we thought,” Lachman said.

A spokesperson for the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said in a statement to the Journal, “ADL welcomes the California Democratic Party’s resolution condemning anti-Semitism. It’s critical for all leaders to call out this hatred wherever they see it–whether inside or outside their own political party. Importantly, this resolution clearly denounces instances when anti-Zionism crosses the line into anti-Semitism.” At this time, the ADL has not yet weighed in on the McCollum bill.