Too often official decisions of the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party (CDP) can be pushed through by a few without sufficient research, discussion, or counter-presentations. This is a growing and problematic trend. Fortunately, members of the Progressive Zionists of the California Democratic Party (PZCDP) were there to help foil the latest misguided attempt.
On Saturday, November 17, 2018 members of PZCDP attended a meeting of the Progressive Caucus of the CDP–the largest caucus in the state of California–as part of the Long Beach Executive Board meeting.
One would think that because it is an official caucus of the state party, the leadership would be careful to dot their I’s and cross their T’s when it comes to caucus business, such as endorsements of outside organizations. However, for some of its leaders this is certainly not the case.
The meeting began with a brief introduction from Chair, Karen Bernal, followed by reports from officers.
Zach Denney, Central Region Vice Chair, spoke briefly with about 90 seconds devoted to his experience of attending the National Conference of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR). Mr. Denney conveyed what a great experience it was, encouraged everyone to attend in the future, and why their work is important to him.
Suddenly, as if on cue, Clifford Tasner rises to make a motion that the Progressive Caucus of the CDP affiliate with the USCPR. Tasner was given guidance as to procedure from Chair, Karen Bernal, who said “And I support the sentiment.” Bernal clarified that the motion would be for endorsement of the USCPR because the Progressive Caucus is a part of the CDP. Tasner agreed. (Mind you, this is after a 90 second presentation by Denney of the organization now up for official endorsement).
Bernal then asked for discussion of one minute each for pro or con arguments.
As a member of the caucus I spoke in opposition to the motion saying in sum that we should not be so quick to endorse an outside organization without due diligence. I recommended that the caucus take the necessary time to do its homework, learn more about its platform, the work that it does, etc., before bringing the motion to a vote.
Member of the caucus David Mandel spoke in favor of the motion explaining that USCPR is a coalition of about 300 educational and advocacy groups for Palestinian rights, that he is a member of a number of them, and while there was not enough time for a thorough description, it is consistent with previous positions of the caucus and of the state party.
Next, caucus member Matthew Finkelstein spoke against the motion explaining that USCPR helps facilitate tax-exempt donations from the US to the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), which coordinates the BDS movement globally. Finkelstein detailed several of BNC’s funding to organizations with ties to terrorism.
Next, Elizabeth Lavertu, Officer at Large, moved to postpone the vote until the next meeting so caucus members can become educated about USCPR and make a more informed decision. Chair, Karen Bernal, explained that the next caucus meeting is an election and will not be conducive to a discussion on the merits of the original endorsement and asked Lavertu to rescind her motion.
Lavertu declined. Bernal realized the rules required an immediate vote on the postponement motion. A vote ensued. The motion to postpone won with about 75% of the room voting for postponement.
Why is this story important now?
First, earlier on the Facebook discussion group for the Progressive Caucus of the CDP both Matthew Finkelstein and I had posted the Tablet investigative piece on USCPR’s fiscal sponsorship of BNC and its troubling ties to terrorist organizations. Zach Denney, an officer of the caucus, chose to block both of us from his Facebook page.
Second, in December 2018 the American website DonorBox, a popular fundraising platform for non-profits, announced that it is freezing the accounts of the Ramallah based Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) headed by BDS co-founder, Omar Barghouti. DonorBox reached its decision after receiving information that the organization is affiliated with declared terrorist groups and misleads donors by falsely claiming it is a US-based charitable organization.
As you may recall, the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights serves as the American fiscal sponsor for the Palestinian BNC.
It is important to note here that officers Karen Bernal, Zach Denney, Marcy Winograd, and Philip Kim all voted against the postponement, meaning they desired to push through a vote for official endorsement of USCPR by the Progressive Caucus of the CDP after absolutely no due diligence concerning the organization. This behavior by these officers is not only improper, it is reckless and negligent.