October 22, 2019

Anti-Israel Language Removed from CA Dem Resolutions

The anti-Israel language featured in drafted resolutions at the California Democratic Party convention in San Francisco was removed on May 31, the Jewish News of Northern California reported.

California Democratic Party Resolutions Committee member and Democrats for Israel Los Angeles President Andrew Lachman told the Journal in a phone interview that the committee revised a resolution calling for the United States to restore funding to aid in the Gaza Strip and West Bank as well as funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) to say that “we should restore aid to the Palestinians when UNRWA stops teaching anti-Semitism in the schools and we have more oversight to ensure that Hamas doesn’t steal the aid.” The same resolution also solely blamed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the lack of peace in the Israel-Palestinian conflict was edited to say that both sides need to take better steps toward achieving peace. Another resolution calling for Israel and Egypt to end their Gaza blockades was revised to say that the blockades should be lifted only if there’s “more oversight” on Hamas and if Hamas stops launching rockets against Israel, Lachman said.

Lachman added that resolutions mandating that state party officials provide equal time in meeting with Palestinians and requiring California Democrats in the House of Representatives to attend Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s (D-Mich.) trip to the Palestinian territories. Language accusing the Israeli government of siding with far-right anti-Semitic groups in the United States calling for Israel to withdraw from the Golan Heights, were also removed.

The aforementioned resolutions all passed with unanimous votes from the 35-member committee, according to Lachman.

“These resolutions had elements that were covered in previous platforms but also radically departed from those positions, so the committee made the decision to edit those resolutions to be more in line with the platform of the party, which still embraces a two-state solution,” Lachman said.

A drafted resolution that only condemned right-wing anti-Semitism was withdrawn altogether, per Lachman.

David Mandel, a Jewish Voice for Peace activist and state Assembly delegate who co-authored five of the resolutions, told the Journal in a phone interview that the committee’s edits were a “procedural trick” since he and his co-authors were not consulted on four of the resolutions; on the one he was consulted on, they didn’t reach an agreement.

“I think they’re afraid the resolutions… would have overwhelming support of the California Democratic Party delegates,” Mandel said. He also said the committee’s actions “may or may not be kosher according to the bylaws” and that it was “very upsetting for a lot of people.”

However, Lachman argued that the committee rules clearly state that any resolutions submitted to the committee become the property of the committee and that the edited resolutions didn’t need to the delegates’ approval since they were affirmations of the state party’s platform.

“I think people were satisfied with the way it turned out,” Lachman said.

Progressive Zionists of the California Democratic Party founding member Andrea Beth Damsky said in a statement, “I am so pleased with this powerful repudiation of anti-Zionist activity in the California Democratic Party. The conversation about the conflict takes up far too much time and energy, and we look forward to refocusing our resources into issues of concern for all Democrats — reproductive freedom, climate change, housing, and even perhaps adopting the Equal Rights Amendment!”

American Jewish Committee Los Angeles Regional Assistant Director Siamak Kordestani said in a statement to the Journal, “The U.S.-Israel relationship has strong bipartisan support. We are pleased that the California Democratic Party rejected this series of divisive resolutions. These anti-Israel resolutions represent neither the views of the Democratic Party nor the mainstream Jewish community. We look forward to continue working with our Democratic elected officials to ensure that U.S. support for Israel is bipartisan.”

ADL Urges CA Dem Party to Reject Anti-Israel Resolutions

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) urged the California Democratic Party (CDP) to reject all anti-Israel resolutions at the party’s weekend convention in San Francisco.

Fox News first reported that there are six draft anti-Israel resolutions that could be debated during the convention at the Moscone Convention Center from May 31 to June 2. In a letter to the California Democratic Party leadership obtained by the Journal, ADL California Legislative Director Nancy Appel wrote, “We urge you to reject the resolutions regarding Israel as biased, unworkable, and counterproductive to the aim of peacefully ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. By laying blame on one party – Israel – and employing demonizing language, the resolutions reduce a complicated dispute to a facile narrative divorced from reality. In fact, these resolutions are just part and parcel of a coordinated effort to demonize and delegitimize Israel and its right to exist as a Jewish homeland.”

Appel then highlighted a few of the resolutions. The “Stopping Trump from destroying all possibility for peace in the Middle East” resolution doesn’t “place any blame on the Palestinians for the stalled peace talks and only ascribing fault to Israel, this resolution ignores the repeated peace offers Israel has made to the Palestinians over the years.” Another resolution calling on Israel to end the blockade of the Gaza Strip “fails to call on Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist organizations to cease their violent attacks on Israel,” Appel argued, adding that Hamas’ rocket attacks against Israel “are a significant reason for continuing the military blockade.” A third resolution calling for Israel to withdraw from the Golan Heights in Syria would put Israel in an untenable position, Appel wrote, noting that such a withdrawal “would provide an opening for terrorist groups and Iranian forces to occupy the area and launch violent attacks against Israeli civilian population centers.”

Appel wrote that the ADL is most concerned about the “Commending the House for resolving to fight all racism and bigotry and for resisting the false conflation of support for Palestinian rights with anti-Semitism,” which according to Fox News accuses the Israeli government of “support from Christian fundamentalist and ultra-right groups in the United States and abroad, dangerously ignoring their deeply rooted anti-Semitism while aligning with their virulent Islamophobia.”

“Besides demonizing Israel’s government, it willfully ignores instances when anti-Semitic expressions are made under the guise of criticism of Israel,” Appel wrote. “To be clear, it is not anti-Semitic to criticize the Israeli government or its policies. At the same time, it is undeniable that there are instances when such criticism crosses the line into anti-Semitism by using anti-Jewish tropes and conspiracy theories, and by refusing to acknowledge the Jewish people’s right to national self-determination. Moreover, the resolution is offensive in its specious claim that the identification of such incidents as anti-Semitic is false and intended to shut down Palestinian advocacy.”

Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action Agenda Rabbi Abraham Cooper told the Journal in a phone interview that the anti-Israel resolutions are part of an effort to “de-couple anti-Semitism from the hatred and attack on the state of Israel and on people who support the state of Israel.” He added that this reflects “a clever but overt shift where you suddenly are getting statements all over the globe identifying Israel with white supremacy.” Statements like that are “pernicious,” Cooper said.

“To see this kind of language percolate up in the Democratic Party now in the state of California… is not only an outrage, it’s downright dangerous,” Cooper said.

He called on the national and state Democratic Party leadership and the Democratic presidential candidates to speak out against the resolutions.

“The moment there will be a definitive pushback on this kind of language, this kind of behavior, it’ll disappear,” Cooper said. “Every time there’s an incremental step [that’s] met by silence, acquiescence… it’s just going to continue to grow.”

American Jewish Committee Los Angeles Assistant Regional Director Siamak Kordestani called the resolutions “deeply one-sided” in a statement to the Journal.

“They absolve terrorist organizations, such as Hamas, which have for decades targeted and murdered Israeli civilians,” Kordestani said. “The language completely disregards the plight of the 850,000 Jewish refugees violently expelled from Arab nations in the 1940s and 1950s, many of whom had nowhere to go but the Jewish state. The call to return the Golan Heights, which are of tremendous strategic importance for Israel, to Syria is irresponsible. Bashar al-Assad’s crimes against humanity and the horrific Syrian Civil War demonstrate that the entire region is safer with Israel in control of the Golan Heights. The resolutions should instead reflect the fact that Israel is the only country in the Middle East that safeguards free speech, an independent judiciary, and the civil rights of minorities and the LGBTQ community.”

Other Jewish groups have publicly spoken out against the resolutions. Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) Executive Director Halie Soifer said in a May 31 statement, “We urge the California Democratic Party not to fall into the trap of letting Republicans divide us on Israel and the fight against anti-Semitism,” adding that “the Democratic Party remains staunchly pro-Israel.” She then pointed out that the 2016 Democratic Party platform maintained “Israel’s right to defend itself” and denounced the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

“We strongly urge the delegates at the California Democratic Convention to oppose and defeat any resolution that is not consistent with the Democratic Party Platform on 2016 as it relates to Israel,” Soifer said.

Similarly, the Progressive Zionists of the California Democratic Party told Jewish News Syndicate, “These six anti-Israel resolutions divide us rather than bring us together. They give no care for the human rights, self-determination, and safety of the Jewish people in their ancestral homeland. As they all demonize Israel and hold Palestinian leadership completely harmless, one resolution even calls for the destruction of Israel as the Jewish state.”

Zioness launched a petition on May 30 calling on the California Democrat Party to reject the resolutions.

“These resolutions are perceived by American Jews as an attack on our community, which has seen a terrifying uptick in anti-Semitic attacks in America and around the world; which overwhelmingly supports the progressive agenda; and which has stood on the forefront of social justice movements in this country since their inception,” the petition states. “Anyone who wants to see these movements succeed understands that we must reject these attacks on the Jewish community by rejecting the demonization and delegitimization of Israel. By doing so, we protect the integrity of our progressive spaces and recommit ourselves to equality and human dignity for all people, including the Jewish people.”

David Mandel, a state Assembly delegate who co-authored one of the resolutions, told Fox News, “The Israeli government and its supporters here seem to be embracing the right-wing and not caring what they say about anything else — Islamophobia, dog whistles for anti-Semitism. That, I think, does indirectly lead to some of the violence.”

California Democratic Party spokesman Roger Salazar told Fox News, “We won’t be commenting on resolutions that have not yet been finalized, debated or adopted.”

CA Dems Party Arab American Caucus Chair Accuses Schumer of Allegiance to ‘Fascist Israel Lobby’

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks to the media ahead of a possible partial government shut down in Washington, U.S., December 20, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Iyad Afalqa, the chairman of the Arab American Caucus of the California Democratic Party, accused Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) of having allegiance to the “fascist Israel lobby.”

On March 27, Afalqa posted a link on his Facebook page to an article titled “Senate Democratic Leader Schumer Compares Ilhan Omar to Trump in AIPAC Speech.” Schumer said during his March 26 speech, “When someone says that being Jewish and supporting Israel means you’re not loyal to America, we must call it out. When someone looks at a neo-Nazi rally and sees some ‘very fine people’ among its company, we must call it out.”

Afalqa wrote in his post, “Shmuck Schumer the traitor whose allegiance is for Fascist Israel lobby who called himself the Guardian of Israel in Congress is attacking Rep Omar who hinted at the big elephant in the room: treason of the Fascist Israel lobby that Schumer belongs to.”

Afalqa went onto state that the “highest amount” of money from the “pro-Israel lobby” in the 2015-16 election cycle went to Schumer.

The Progressive Zionists of the California Democratic Party (PZCDP) said in a statement sent to the Journal via email, “Progressive Zionists of the California Democratic Party is concerned about the most recent statements made by Iyad Afalqa on his personal Facebook page and in the CADEMs unofficial delegate group. This is unfortunately not the first time he has used such inflammatory rhetoric, and is especially disappointing considering he co-sponsored a resolution condemning anti-Semitism.”

“Utilizing the tropes of dual loyalties, Jewish conspiracy, and power to criticize AIPAC is disturbing in a moment where highly charged rhetoric like this increasingly endangers the Southern California Jewish community — which has experienced many recent anti-Semitic incidents, with perpetrators espousing frighteningly similar rhetoric to Alfalqa’s,” the PZDCP said.

In February, Afalqa shared a link to an Al Jazeera op-ed stating that “Zionism has always been a white supremacist, settler colonialist, anti-democratic, right-wing ideology, which has demanded a loyalty based on nationalist racism” that has “collaborated with anti-Semitic forces towards a mutual goal of global apartheid.”

The PZDCP responded to Afalqa’s sharing of the aforementioned op-ed by writing in a Facebook post at the time, “This is clear and unbridled anti-Semitism found in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a famously false and hateful pamphlet alleging international conspiracy by racist, global Zionists. By itself, this trope has been responsible for the deaths of literally millions of Jews. This is the language we see being normalized in the article you shared.”

Additionally, in October 2017, Afalqa asked in Facebook when the Democratic National Committee (DNC) would be moving its headquarters “to Tel Aviv”:

Afalqa and the California Democratic Party did not respond to the Journal’s requests for comment.

This article has been updated.

Downtown Mural Prompts Concern of Anti-Semitism

Mural at the Vortex in downtown L.A. Courtesy of Facebook

UPDATE: 3:54 p.m. on Feb. 26:

Jeff Norman, a representative of the Vortex, where a mural featuring Stars of David has caused consternation in the Jewish community, has defended the artist’s right to free expression and has invited anybody with a different message to paint a mural alongside the current one on the warehouse building in downtown Los Angeles.

“The Vortex stands for free expression,” Norman said in an email. “The artist whose mural includes the Star of David (created for the LA vs. WAR show to acknowledge 9/11 about 5-6 years ago) did not intend to express an anti-Semitic message. We believe his intent deserves considerable weight. We invite those who feel otherwise to paint another mural next to it. We are also open to hosting a public discussion about this controversy at The Vortex.”

Reported earlier on Feb. 26:

The mural depicting anti-Semitic imagery appears to have been defaced since a photograph of it was shared on Feb. 25 on social media. Artists 4 Israel shared the following photograph of the mural, showing that someone spray-painted the words, “No Place for Hate,” over the mural:

Defaced mural. Courtesy of Artists 4 Israel

Asked who was responsible for defacing the mural, Craig Dershowitz, CEO of Artists for Israel, said he did not have any comment.

The mural appears to have been painted in 2011 for an art show called “vsWar.” The Journal obtained the following image through social media:

The painting of the mural in 2011. Courtesy of endlesscanvas.com

The downtown mural is causing concern among Los Angeles organizations and leaders for its depiction of a grim reaper wrapped inside an American flag emblazoned with Jewish stars. The figure appears to be dangling a dead baby from its grip. Other imagery includes a war rocket, snakes and what looks like a pile of money.

The Los Angeles artist Vyal painted the mural. He said on his Instagram page in 2018 that it was inspired by a trip he had taken “to Palestine some years back.”

The mural appears on the exterior wall of the Vortex, a performance space in an industrial neighborhood downtown.

Organizations that have expressed concern about the mural’s imagery include Progressive Zionists of the California Democratic Party, which shared a post on Facebook about it on Feb. 25.

“Hey The Vortex, Is this a real thing on your building? If yes, why? It’s wildly anti-Semitic. If not, you should probably clear up the confusion,” the organization said in the post, while tagging the Vortex’s Facebook page. “Signed, Some confused and concerned community members.”

Information about how long the mural has been up was not immediately available.

On Feb. 25, a Facebook user shared a photograph of the mural on his page. He said someone he knew had taken a photograph of the mural on Saturday, two days earlier.

The Vortex, meanwhile, describes itself as an independent community center that gives nonprofits access to an affordable performance space, according to its website.

This story is developing.