-Submitted by Mark Hage, Vermonters for Justice in Palestine,
The Democratic Party’s pyramid of support for Israel is crumbling
The Top: Business as usual
In presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden, the Israel lobby has a throwback candidate to a bygone era when Democrats and Republicans equally fell over themselves to praise Israel, and the best that can be said about Kamala Harris’s record in the Senate is that she voted against a bill last year that encourages states to unconstitutionally deny contracts to people who support BDS campaigns for Palestinian rights.
For the first time, this year’s Democratic Party platform includes a plank supporting the First Amendment right to engage in BDS. But the Democratic Party’s support for the constitutional right to support BDS is the only redeeming feature of an otherwise horrid platform that refuses to even name Israel’s military occupation, much less condemn it.
Last month, Mondoweiss broke the story that the platform committee of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) sidelined proposed amendments submitted by Palestinian-American delegates and even voted down a weaker version.
The Middle: The Squad and Progressive Electoral Success
Marie Newman kicked off the trend in March in Illinois’s 3rd Congressional District by taking down Rep. Dan Lipinski. Newman, an ally to her district’s large Palestinian-American constituency, defeated a solidly pro-Israel veteran congressman in what one pro-Israel insider called “a big loss and embarrassment for pro-Israel Democrats.”
Then in June, Jamaal Bowman soundly defeated Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), the powerful pro-Israel chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, in a monumental collapse for the Israel lobby, which punctured its aura of invincibility.
Cori Bush eked out a stunning upset of Rep. Lacy Clay (D-MO), who shamelessly engaged in racist and Islamophobic electioneering in a failed bid to derail her campaign. Bush…doubled down on her support for BDS in response to Clay’s provocations.
And let’s not forget that the Israel lobby also spent big bucks to try to knock off other members of The Squad and failed miserably with Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) handily defeating their opponents. Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), the other member of The Squad, who is also outspoken in support of Palestinian rights, does not face a primary or general election opponent.
The significance of this year’s primaries cannot be overstated. Prior to this year, defeating the Israel lobby’s preferred candidate in one election would have seemed nearly unthinkable. The cumulative effect of the races spotlighted above is nothing short of a political earthquake.
The Base: Turning support for Palestinian rights into political power
As documented meticulously by Prof. Shibley Telhami for the Brookings Institution, over recent years Democrats have come to support Palestinian rights, with majorities supporting BDS and one democratic state if the two-state paradigm is not attainable. This changing sentiment within the base of the party is what enables and empowers candidates to run and win on a platform supportive of Palestinian rights.
The challenge now for supporters of Palestinian rights is to build on this momentum and win over the top of the pyramid. This will be an infinitely harder task but one well worth undertaking in the hopes that the 2024 platform and presidential candidate will unambiguously adopt Palestinian rights.