Divisions Over Israel Shadow Calif. Democrats' Convention

Divisions Over Israel Shadow Calif. Democrats' Convention
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
Divisions Over Israel Shadow Calif. Democrats' Convention
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
Story Stream
recent articles

Democratic activists in California have sparked another divisive intra-party debate over inflammatory accusations leveled against the Israeli government at the state party gathering this weekend – an event where several Democratic presidential contenders plan to showcase their campaigns.

On Friday, the eve of the California Democratic Party convention in San Francisco, officials were set to consider at least five draft resolutions that would denounce the Israeli government’s influence on U.S. politics.

One particularly controversial resolution accuses Israel of willfully “aligning with the virulent Islamophobia” of white supremacist groups, including “Christian fundamentalist and ultra-right groups” in the U.S., and it indirectly links that alliance to the 2018 massacre of 11 congregants at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

The party’s Resolutions Committee on Friday evening will consider the five draft resolutions, among roughly 200 in total authored by convention delegates. The panel could try to table the ones dealing with Israel to avoid a dramatic public floor debate over the weekend.

Drew Hammill, spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, declined to comment on the resolutions while they remain pending. State party spokesman Roger Salazar was equally reticent.

“We are not going to comment on resolutions that at this point have neither been debated, finalized or passed,” he told RealClearPolitics.

The timing of another disruptive debate over Israeli is particularly vexing for Democratic officials, especially Pelosi, who will be on hand for the state powwow this weekend. Such divisions could also steal headlines — and some of the thunder — of the event’s headliners.

Some 14 Democratic presidential candidates plan to attend and speak at the meeting, including Sens. Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

For several months earlier this year, Pelosi refereed an intense fight over allegations of anti-Semitism in the House Democratic ranks after Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar and Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib drew fire from senior Democrats over comments widely viewed as anti-Semitic.

Pelosi ultimately rejected calls for Omar to lose her committee assignments and instead led an effort to pass a bipartisan resolution condemning a wide range of bigotry.

On Friday, the Trump campaign said California Democrats shouldn’t be taking time at their convention to consider anti-Israeli resolutions.  

“Rather than smearing one of America’s strongest allies, the Democrat Party should work on resolving its very real anti-Semitism problem among several of its elected officials,” Michael Glassner, the Trump campaign’s chief operating officer, told RCP. “There is no place for anti-Semitism in this country and certainly not in the halls of Congress.  

“President Trump stands firmly against the hateful ideology that Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats have failed to condemn,” he added. “There is no stronger supporter of the Jewish people than President Trump, who withdrew from the disastrous Iran deal that put Israel in great peril, defended Israel at the United Nations unlike previous administrations, and kept his promise in moving the U.S. Embassy to its rightful home in Jerusalem.”

The resolution under consideration in California that indirectly criticizes Israel for helping to fuel white supremacy also commends the House for passing the broad measure addressing the anti-Semitic controversy. It lauds House Democrats for “resolving to fight all racism and bigotry and for resisting the false conflation of support for Palestinian rights with antisemitism.”

The resolution’s author is David Mandel, an elected state Assembly delegate and liberal attorney who holds dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship. Mandel told Fox News it would be “far-fetched” to say that the resolution “directly” blames Israel for violence against Jews, though he suggested that Israeli officials bear some responsibility for both anti-Semitic and Islamophobic violence.

“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,” Mandel said. “That, I think, does indirectly lead to some of the violence.”

If the Resolution Committee tables the resolution, Mandel said delegates can quickly try to gather 300 signatures to force a floor debate, a step he said he may take.

He noted that in 2017, he negotiated with party officials to pass an unprecedented resolution condemning what it characterized as U.S. support for Israeli “occupation of the Palestinian lands,” and opposing crackdowns on economic boycotts of Israel.

Mandel also authored a separate resolution requiring party officials who visit Israel to make stops in Palestinian territory. He has said it’s intended to counter Israeli-organized “propaganda trips” for U.S. and other foreign lawmakers.

Another draft resolution, whose author is unknown, decries the Trump administration’s 2018 decision to cut $25 million it planned to provide the East Jerusalem Hospital Network, a group of six hospitals providing care primarily to Palestinians; $300 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which provides aid to Palestinian refugees; and more than $200 million in development aid to the West Bank and Gaza.

Susan Crabtree is RealClearPolitics' White House/national political correspondent.

Show comments Hide Comments