Pro-Israel Platform Fails
June 29, 1990
Special to The Transcript and Transcript Staff
Pro-Israel community leaders here are disappointed by the Washington State Democratic Convention’s decision earlier this month to reaffirm its 1988 platform plank calling for a Palestinian state. Washington is the only state to adopt such a plank in its 1990 Democratic Party platform.
“First there were eight, and now there is one,” remarked Sam Kaplan, a delegate to the convention. “Of the eight state parties who called for a Palestinian state in 1988, only one kept that plank in its 1990 platform.”.
Washington State Democrats not only reaffirmed their 1988 platform, but also added three resolutions calling for conditional halts in American aid to Israel.
The 1988 platform, in addition to calling for a Palestinian state, dictated that any future negotiations take place within an international conference. Such a conference is antithetical to American policy, which calls for direct negotiation between Israel and the Arab states. Platform opponents contend that an Arab majority at an international conference would enable them to dictate terms to Israel and the U.S.
“It was pretty frustrating,” said delegate Elaine Harholtz of the June 9-10 gathering in Spokane. “At times the convention seemed to be joyously voting down anything they thought was pro-Israel, even when they might not have been sure what they were voting for.”
But platform opponents said most delegates probably didn’t support these measures out of outright hostility to Israel.
“For many people it seems to come down to an issue of fairness,” said Marvin Stern, regional director of the Anti-Defamation 7League and a delegate to the convention. ‘In the past couple of years the focus has shifted from the regional Israel-Arab conflict, in which Israel’s security concerns have a great deal of legitimacy, to the narrower conflict within the territories.
“From that standpoint, it comes down to: ‘the Jews have a state, why shouldn’t the Palestinians?’ Because the regional conflict is so complex and beyond most people’s understanding, and because the framework of political conventions leaves no opportunity for full discussion or debate over the issue, delegates often base their decisions on very simple, even sentimental considerations.”
Democrats reject pro-Israel plank
John Friedmann, a delegate and an alternate member of the state platform committee, agreed.
“PEOPLE KNEW WHAT they were voting on, but I got the impression that they didn’t even want to know the facts, such as Israel’s size in comparison to the Arab states, the viability of a Palestinian state and so forth. They were moved by the human-interest stories about the situation in the territories.”
One problem the pro-Israel community faced at the convention, according to Elaine Harholtz, was a “confusion about who speaks for the Jewish community.”
A flyer circulated on the convention floor calling upon the convention to reaffirm the 1988 platform was signed not only by several groups hostile to Israel, but also by Jewish organizations, including Kadimal New Jewish Agenda, International Jewish Peace Union, and Americans for Progressive Israel.
David Loud of Kadima said that the signatories had no common agenda beyond the letter, adding that support for the 1988 platform should not be construed to imply support for resolutions calling for cutting off aid to Israel.
“I’m worried about the effect of our present unconditional aid policy,” said Loud. “I’m worried that Israel will not succeed in extricating itself from the occupation,” which he sees as the greatest immediate threat to security of the Jewish State.
Present American policy enhances this threat, he said, by “postponing the day of reckoning.”
Loud said there remains “a tremendous reservoir of support for Israel.
“But it’s not a matter of Israel versus the Palestinians; people are fed up with having to choose. One can support peace and justice for both peoples. To say otherwise damages the credibility of the Jewish community.”
Americans For Progressive Israel has been censured by the Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle for signing on to the leaflet.
At its June 20 meeting, the CRC passed a censure resolution accusing API of having violated “the CRC consensus position on the Mideast and, more significantly, willfully disregarded CRC policies and procedures concerning dissent by constituent organizations.”
The national office of API has also expressed concern that its Seattle Chapter failed to consult with them before signing on to the leaflet.
Charles Davis, a representative of Seattle API to the CRC, admitted that his organization violated procedures of both
the CRC and the national API office, and accepted the censure.
“We look forward to working together with the CRC in the future,” Davis said.
THE CONVENTION WAS marred by what several Jewish delegates felt was an expression of anti-Semitism. A letter circulated by Dr. Mohammed Said, a platform committee member and the principal speaker on behalf of the platform plank and resolutions on the Middle East, lamented the influence of American Jews in securing free emigration for Soviet and Romanian Jews.
“The Jewish vote is only 1 percent of the vote in this country, but through the proIsraeli PACs they have tremendous influence through their contributions,” Said said. “I resent very much their trying toimpose their will on the rest of the country.” Said called upon candidates to disclose total contributions from “pro-Israeli ‘fat cats.’”
In Said’s defense, Loud suggested that the letter was not anti-Semitic, although it “bruised Jewish sensitivities, including my own. We important to understand that what is motivating his letter is certainly not anti-Semitism, but rather tremendous frustration at the way some Jewish organizations have exercised influence over the political process,” especially in foreign policy.
The Republican convention, held a week later in the same city, was uneventful in comparison.
Because of a widespread concern that a platform fight over abortion would prove too divisive, the platform was adopted without amendment.
The Republican platform reaffirmed American support for Israel and called upon the Arab states to recognize Israel’s right to exist and its territorial integrity, which are “the primary basis for a peaceful settlement in the Middle East.”
Pro-Israel leaders said there are lessons to be learned from this year’s platform battle.
“The pro-Israel community needs to become more involved in politics at the grass-roots level,” said Stern “On the
whole, we have very good relationships with elected officials, but we need to be- come more involved with the parties, out of which the elected officials of tomorrow will emerge. It’s dear that if we’re not on the playing field, we can’t control the direction of the game. The dismal record of the last Democratic conventions shows that we can’t allow this to continue.”
Brad Rind is assistant regional director of the Anti-Defamation League.
The Jewish Transcript June 29, 1990