A Jewish attendee of the California Democratic Party's state convention at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, May 31, 2019 (Photo/Dan Pine)
Matthew Finkelstein, a Jewish attendee of the California Democratic Party's state convention at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, May 31, 2019 (Photo/Dan Pine)

At state convention, California Dems reject anti-Israel language in resolutions

Sign up for Weekday J and get the latest on what's happening in the Jewish Bay Area.

Updated: 9:50 a.m., June 3, 2019

The Resolutions Committee of the California Democratic Party has substantially rewritten six resolutions, deleting or softening language harshly critical of Israel.

On Friday, at the party’s state convention in San Francisco, the committee passed five of the resolutions as rewritten, prompting the original authors to withdraw their names and co-sponsors. One other resolution was withdrawn.

The resolutions dealt with a variety of issues related to anti-Semitism, Israel, Palestine and American involvement in the region. One included original language that required the Democratic Party to oppose “all efforts to stigmatize and suppress support for Palestinian human rights by falsely conflating it with anti-Semitism.” Another suggested Israel has a legacy of “settler colonialism,” while still another would have required elected party officials to include equal-time visits to Palestinian territories whenever visiting Israel, and should contact the state party’s Progressive Caucus or Arab-American Caucus to plan those trips. Another demanded a Palestinian “right of return,” which mandates descendants of Palestinians who fled what is now Israel during Israel’s 1948 War of Independence be allowed to return to Israel and to their original homes. Two resolutions supported returning the Golan Heights to Syria.

All such language was removed from the resolutions.

Supporters of Israel considered it a total victory.

“I’m pleased that the committee decided to reject those resolutions [as originally written],” said California State Senator Ben Allen, who chairs the state’s Jewish Legislative Caucus. “I thought they were divisive and I’m glad we’re now able to move forward.”

“We were satisfied with the outcome,” said Andrew Lachman, a committee member and also president of the Los Angeles-based Democrats for Israel, adding “The Party does not have a taste for taking radical positions that alienate the Jewish community.

In a letter to the committee sent before the meeting, members of the Jewish Caucus wrote, “These resolutions paint a false picture of facts on the ground and inappropriately place blame entirely on Israel for the ongoing conflict. Moreover, while parts of these resolutions are unobjectionable, each one strategically buries divisive and problematic language within its body which demonizes Israel, challenges its right to exist, and undermines the prospects for peace.”

David Mandel, a Sacramento-based activist with Jewish Voice for Peace and author of several of the resolutions, addressed the committee and expressed his objections. He said that he had not been consulted before the resolutions were rewritten, and objected to the new language.

Committee chair Agi Kessler explained that once resolutions are submitted, they become the “property” of the committee, which has the right to rewrite and amend them. Once Mandel and the other authors and cosigners of the resolutions removed their names, the committee became the author.

Lachman agreed that Mandel and his colleagues “made some valid points,” and that the committee wanted to preserve them. But he added, “Some were beyond what the Democratic Party stands for. We don’t stand for [Palestinian] right of return without a peace agreement. We want to see the people of Gaza provided with security and solve the humanitarian crisis, but part of that has to do with dealing with Hamas, not just Israel.”

Mark Mellman, president of the Democratic Majority for Israel, said, “Working with other organizations, our board, and individuals, we made clear to CDP leaders and delegates that these resolutions were oversimplified and inaccurate. And we are very pleased that, after careful deliberation, the party accepted our view. Sadly though, this is not the last time we’ll see efforts to demonize and delegitimize Israel.”

Micah Liberman, an activist with Progressive Zionists of California, attended the meeting along with several fellow activists. He was happy with the outcome. “The job of the Resolutions Committee is to represent the will of the broad tent that makes up the Democratic Party. They said to this small fringe that you may not abuse our system.”

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.