Democratic Party Platform Fight on Israel and Palestineby James J. Zogby
[At last week’s Democratic Party platform drafting meeting, I introduced Bernie Sanders’ amendment to the Israel/Palestine section calling for and end to the occupation and settlements. What follows are my comments, speaking for the amendment:]
During her opening comments, DNC Chairwoman Wasserman Schultz, spoke about “putting ourselves in others’ shoes.” That’s what we’ve tried to do with our amendment. We do not often see the Arab Israeli conflict through Palestinian eyes. As Senator Sanders has made clear, there are two peoples in this conflict—who need to be understood and whose pain needs to be recognized.
(While the platform calls for a “two state solution”) just using language about two states doesn’t acknowledge the reality that the Palestinians are living under occupation. Palestinian land is being taken by settlements. Palestinians are enduring check points that daily brings horrific humiliation—denying them freedom of movement, employment, and the opportunity to give their children free space in which to live. That’s the situation in West Bank and Jerusalem.
Gaza is another story entirely with 60% unemployment and even higher youth unemployment. You must understand that in Gaza, if you’re a young man under 30, you most likely have never had a job, have no prospect of a job, and therefore no opportunity to have a family or build a decent future. And so death becomes a more desirable option for some. Suicide rates are up, mental illness is up, drug addiction is up. The situation is unsustainable and it must change.
If you review our party’s past platforms, they have lagged way behind reality. I remember being in this same debate in 1988, when we called for our party’s platform to include “mutual recognition, territorial compromise, and self-determination for both peoples.” Back then, people reacted as if the sky were going to fall. It didn’t, we survived. We did not recognize a Palestinian state in our platform until 2004 after George W. Bush said it.
Now we have an opportunity to send a message to the world, to the Arabs, the Israelis, the Palestinians, and to all Americans that we hear the cries of both sides. That America wants to move toward a real peace because it understands that there’s suffering here. Suffering that is unsustainable.