On Monday, the Democratic Platform Drafting Committee debated and voted on the party’s 2020 platform, which outlines the party’s ideals and plans for the country over the next four years. As Palestinian-Americans and delegates to the Democratic National Convention, we are deeply dismayed that the language on Israel-Palestine once again ignores reality and basic Palestinian rights, and falls far short of a fair and just policy and the stated values of the party. We are further disappointed and disheartened by a drafting and voting process that was anything but open, inclusive and democratic.
As in 2016, this year the DNC again refused to acknowledge the fundamental reality that millions of Palestinians have lived under brutal Israeli military rule for more than 53 years, omitting any reference to Israel’s “occupation” of Palestinian lands. Similarly, the DNC refused to express opposition to Israel’s settlement enterprise as a whole — which violates international law and long-standing official U.S. policy before President Trump — choosing instead to only oppose the further “expansion” of settlements.
These aren’t abstract questions for Palestinians. Israeli settlements are Jewish-only colonies built on stolen Palestinian land. There are nearly 250 of them throughout the West Bank, strategically situated on the most fertile Palestinian land and atop large underground water aquifers, which have been rendered off-limits to Palestinians. These settlements divide the West Bank into disconnected ghettos, replete with walls, military checkpoints, roadblocks and trigger-happy Israeli soldiers controlling the movement of all Palestinians, making it impossible to lead a normal life. They not only devastate Palestinian lives and make any prospect of a future peace impossible, but they also constitute war crimes. All settlements are illegal — not just their expansion.
Palestinian-American delegates offered six amendments to the proposed Israel-Palestine plank. Of the six, only three were even considered by the Committee and, of those, none were adopted.
We asked the DNC to recognize the equal rights of Palestinians; to refrain from affirming Israel’s illegal annexation of East Jerusalem; and to support Israel as a state for all its citizens rather than an ethnically exclusive “Jewish state,” which is an endorsement of institutionalized racism. Would we ask that the United States be recognized as a White, Christian country? None of these amendments were considered.
One of the key amendments considered but not adopted was a request to make U.S. military funding to Israel subject to human rights guidelines. For over five decades, unconditional U.S. political, military and economic support has resulted in total impunity for Israel. Israeli leaders have faced no consequences for stealing Palestinian land and resources, destroying Palestinian homes, imprisoning and abusing Palestinian children, caging 2 million Palestinians in Gaza for the past 14 years, using lethal violence against unarmed protesters, and much more. As long as Israel continues to get a blank check from the United States, Israeli leaders will continue to believe they can act with impunity, trampling Palestinian rights, international law and peacemaking efforts.
This month, more than 200 of our fellow Democratic delegates signed a statement calling for the conditioning of U.S. funding to Israel should Israel follow through with its plans to illegally annex a large swath of Palestinian land in the Jordan Valley.
These individuals represent the base of the party and where it is headed in the future. They are a reflection of a sea change in the views of Democratic voters in recent years when it comes to Israel and Palestine, as evidenced by polls showing more Democrats support imposing sanctions or stronger action against Israel over settlement construction.
Despite this, the DNC and former vice president Joe Biden are once again refusing to hold Israel accountable. By simply expressing support for “a negotiated two-state solution,” the Platform Committee is making no real effort to chart a path for a two-state solution. Instead, Israel, while it continues to violate human rights and international law, will likely remain the largest recipient of U.S. foreign military assistance — $3.8 billion per year, or over $10 million per day.
At this critical moment in our country’s history, when millions are mobilizing in demand of racial justice, equality and accountability, the DNC’s failure to advocate policies that guarantee the same to Palestinians is deeply troubling, and inconsistent with the wishes of most Democratic voters. As the Black Lives Matter movement encourages the nation to critically probe and atone for its past, this is no longer acceptable.
A new generation is reimagining and defining a liberated future that connects people across borders, ethnicities, religions and color lines. Without a clear and coherent Israel-Palestine policy rooted in respect for international law, human rights and justice for all, the party will remain stuck in the past.
Huwaida Arraf is a Palestinian American human rights attorney, activist, and Democratic National Convention delegate from Michigan; Sam Hindi is a Palestinian American small-business owner and DNC delegate from California; and Zeina Ashrawi Hutchison is a Palestinian American human rights activist and DNC delegate from Virginia.