For the first time ever, a Palestinian and a Jew on Sunday issued a joint call to California Democratic Party convention delegates to support equality and democracy for all in Israel Palestine, regardless of the final negotiated borders. The vote on the platform amendment was close, perhaps too close to call without an actual count of delegate cards, but the chair called it for those who argued Israel must be a Jewish-defined state, not one that allows exiled Palestinians to exist in their homeland.
To push the vote to the floor following platform committee rejection, a team of Palestinians, Jews and others…labored throughout the previous night, walking the long convention halls, collecting 400 delegate signatures on petitions for a floor vote on the amendment.
Before the vote, Yassar Dahbour, Co-Founder of the Palestine American League, and David Mandel, a supporter of Jewish Voice for Peace Action asked some 3,300 delegates to amend the party's platform to embrace principles of human rights, including the right of Palestinian return and the right to live free from occupation. To push the vote to the floor following platform committee rejection, a team of Palestinians, Jews and others, including this writer, working with Jewish Voice for Peace Action and the party's Arab Caucus, labored throughout the previous night, walking the long convention halls, collecting 400 delegate signatures on petitions for a floor vote on the amendment.
The amendment read:
"Proactively seek a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflicted negotiated by the parties that guarantees equality, security and democracy for all, no matter what the final settlement regarding states and borders. Israeli Jews and Palestinians alike deserve peace, dignity, self-determination, security and a normal life free from occupation, terror and incitement. Oppose any unilateral annexation of territory, and support the right of all those who were forced from their homes to return to their homelands and receive compensation for their losses."
In a moving speech amplified throughout the convention hall, Mandel told of having worked for 50 years for a just peace in Israel Palestine, of having supported a two-state solution despite former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir's insistence that "there are no Palestinians" and of having come to the realization that Israeli land annexation and settlement expansion made a two solution unlikely, if at all possible. Dahbour, meanwhile, moved hearts and minds when he told of his own family's displacement from their homeland when Zionist militias conquered Haifa decades ago. Now, he said, Palestinian family members, dispersed across continents and countries, longed to return to the land they once loved.
Arguing the other side, California State Senator Scott Wiener (San Francisco) mischaracterized the amendment, saying it called for the destruction of Israel and represented an existential threat to Jews. Joining him at the podium was California State Senator Laura Friedman (Los Angeles) who said Israel must be a Jewish-defined state to guarantee sanctuary for Jews historically persecuted. Neither Wiener nor Friedman addressed the issue of Palestinian displacement or Israeli settlement expansion, which is now codified and promoted in Israel's Nation State or Basic Law.
As delegates streamed out of the convention hall, still waving placards that read, "Palestinians should be free," organizers of the amendment fight vowed the struggle would continue.
Marcy Winograd co-founded the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party and supports Jewish Voice for Peace Action.