My partner Matthew Finkelstein and I live in Vallejo, California, in the San Francisco Bay Area. We’ve been on the left side of the political spectrum for most of our lives. Since being together we’ve organized and advocated for guaranteed healthcare for all, limiting the power of financial institutions, transparency of police records and against unnecessary use of force, local environmental issues, and more.
Then, a funny thing happened while volunteering most of our time on the Bernie Sanders 2016 campaign—we both attended the DNC Convention in Philadelphia where I was a delegate. There we discovered an irrational hatred for Israel was often baked into the “progressive” narrative. The one-sided ferocity of it took us both by surprise.
Activists subscribing to the “Israel is irredeemably evil” narrative on the left tend to fall into three categories: 1) they understand little about the complex history of the conflict and why there is yet no peace; 2) they were indoctrinated by anti-Israel groups such as “Jewish Voice for Peace” or “Students for Justice in Palestine;” or 3) they willfully promote the agenda that Israel as a Jewish state has no legitimate right to exist, and advocate for a full and undemocratic “right of return” of millions of Palestinians into Israel.
Unbeknownst to many in the first two categories, the demand for a “right of return” is not based in law but is a weapon manufactured by BDS leaders who openly call for the destruction of the Jewish state.
As we continued with our activism in the California Democratic Party, in November of 2017 we witnessed an anti-Israel, pro-BDS presentation in the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party that shocked a number of us to the core. It was so completely one-sided in its portrayal of Israel that indoctrination is a more apt descriptor. Under everyone’s seat (over 300 were in attendance) were Jewish Voice for Peace postcards supporting the right to boycott Israel. We were all encouraged to sign. There was no healthy debate or discussion of the issues. It was a clear set up and Israel was the loser.
This was a bridge too far! A few days later we joined forces with other activists in attendance who were also troubled by the proceedings. This is how Progressive Zionists of California was born, and we have been advocating within the party for a fair and just representation on this issue ever since.
This past weekend, November 15-17, at the California Democratic Party (CDP) Convention in Long Beach, Progressive Zionists of California worked to bring together a coalition of activists and organizations—each bringing much-needed skills and experience–to successfully defeat an antisemitic amendment to the CDP Platform–instigated mostly by Jewish Voice for Peace activists–that called for a Palestinian “right of return.” We also held a solidarity rally against antisemitism the day before.
PZC, coalition partners and friends know that to call for the end of the world’s only Jewish state in the party platform is not only antisemitic, it is political suicide. If we continue in this manner, we might as well hand the election to Donald Trump, as it will divide and splinter Democrats. One need only look at what is happening in the UK Labour Party to understand this.
Of course, we want Israel to be a more fair and just country, just as we want the same at home. However, when “Pro-Palestinian” activists say nothing about making the lives of the Palestinian people better–something we all support–when Jewish Voice for Peace activists refuse to criticize Iran-funded Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorism or the treatment of LGBTQ persons or dissidents in the West Bank and Gaza, or make no mention of the over 800,000 Middle Eastern and North African Jews expelled from Arab lands with most finding refuge in Israel–then we know we are not dealing with honest brokers.
PZC understands this and will continue to build broader coalitions with friends and allies to insure that antisemitism in the form of anti-Zionist hate has no place in the Democratic Party. We aren’t going anywhere!