It’s a late August morning in Anaheim. The leadership of the California Democratic Party has gathered on its final day of the Executive Board meeting. On the agenda are a number of resolutions. Once approved these will become the state party’s official position.
Up for a vote is the resolution “Calling On Israel and Palestinian Authority To Return To Direct Negotiations For Permanent Peace”.
This resolution—which passed unanimously in committee—calls for a permanent and abiding two-state solution where a democratic Palestine and a democratic Israel live in peace. It acknowledges that there have been extremes on both sides preventing its fruition. The resolution then implores activists in the United States to seek common ground and help serve as an example to Israelis and Palestinians of what working respectfully together can achieve.
But then, in an unexpected turn of events the Chair of the Arab American Caucus, Iyad Afalqa, rises in unequivocal opposition to the resolution, saying: “We live in the era of the alternative facts. The resolution is full of alternative facts. Israel never agreed on a Palestinian state. All settlements are illegal under international law. It is a false symmetry to equate the occupied and the occupier. Palestinians never refused to return to negotiations. It is Israeli government incitement of violence what’s prevented continuation of the peace efforts and ineffectiveness and unwillingness to criminalize settlers’ crimes against Palestinian civilians. There is not even one time mention of justice in the resolution. And remember in order to achieve peace you have to promote justice.”
In response Andrew Lachman, the primary author, then takes the floor and reveals that he had “accepted every single change that the Arab American Caucus” had asked him to make to the resolution.
So, let’s recap here. The Arab American Caucus made their recommended edits to the resolution. The authors included all edits. The resolution passed unanimously in committee and moved onto the floor for a vote. Then on the floor in a sudden and unexpected twist Mr. Afalqa not only accuses the authors of lying in the substance of the resolution, he gives a full-throated condemnation of the very resolution his own caucus helped finalize.
But let us be very clear on exactly whom the charge of “alternative facts” must be levied upon in this particular instance. The comments by Mr. Afalqa stating that “Israel never agreed on a Palestinian state” and “Palestinians never refused to return to negotiations” are simply erroneous.
In fact, the Palestinian leadership has refused statehood and walked away from the peace process on at least three separate occasions. The first in 1947 when UN Resolution 181 passed at the time of partition, the second at the Camp David Summit in 2000 and the third the 2008 Ehud Olmert peace plan.
Fortunately in California the resolution passed with a majority of votes. However, at this time when U.S. hate crimes have risen sharply in both Muslim and Jewish communities, when Nazis and white supremacists march through the streets with impunity, when two California imams pray for the destruction of all Jews and don’t apologize until they are exposed by the media, neither side can afford to be disingenuously defiant when an earnest olive branch of peace is extended.
The California Democratic Party needs real leadership in its Arab American Caucus. Only then can we move into the realm of what is truly possible. But for this to happen, authentic engagement not dishonest brokering is required.