Why the Non-Binding, Usually Irrelevant Democratic Party Platform Suddenly Matters

The Democratic Party Platform doesn’t mean anything in practical terms.  It’s not binding and it has no impact on policy, even though it is meant to represent the Party’s principal goals.  And frankly, the values defining the Republican and Democratic Parties are pretty clear.

How important is the platform?  A framer of the 2012 Democratic Platform, former Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank, says, “I don’t remember what was in it.”  Congressman Steve Israel of New York recently told Fortune Magazine, “I don’t know of any President who before making a tough decision said, ‘I better consult with the platform committee.’”

OK, I get it

However, when Bernie Sanders appointed Cornell West and James Zogby to the Democratic Platform Committee, with the intent of changing its position on Israel, he gave it new relevance.

In July 2014, during “Operation Protective Edge,” when Israeli forces crossed into Gaza to halt terror tunnel digging under Israeli kibbutzim and towns and to stop the increased rocket fire which had been raining down on innocent citizens for nearly a month, West posted on Facebook: “Let us not be deceived –- the Israeli massacre of innocent Palestinians, especially the precious children, is a crime against humanity! The rockets of Hamas indeed are morally wrong and politically ineffective – but these crimes pale in the face of the U.S. supported Israeli slaughters of innocent civilians.”

Cornel West also praised student activists at Stanford University who ultimately pushed the school’s trustees to divest from Israel.  In an interview with David Palumbo, a Stanford professor of comparative literature, in Salon Magazine, West advocated for the BDS movement and said,  “ … there is no doubt in my mind that the Israeli occupation is ugly, it’s vicious, it’s brutal, and it needs to not just be brought to attention, it needs to be brought to an end.”  He also famously stated that “Gaza is … the hood on steroids.”

James Zogby, born in the US and of Lebanese Maronite descent, co-founded the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and is the President and Founder of the Arab American Institute. He has accused Israel of waging a “holocaust” against the Palestinian people and is a consistent defender of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood.  Zogby has referred to Israeli military action against Hezbollah as “state terrorism,” brands Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a “war criminal” and also regularly charges Israel as being intolerant of its Arab citizens.

Of the three, the most moderate is Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota, who is a Muslim.  Although he is also critical of Israeli government policies, Ellison is a supporter of the two-state solution and even acknowledges that Jews have lived in the Middle East “since the time of Muhammad.”

Perhaps I am making too much of this.  The Clinton Campaign agreed to compromise with Sanders on the platform, allowing him to pick five of the 15 members of the committee.  She gets six and the remaining four are chosen by Democratic Party Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, which suggests that they will also be Clinton picks.  This should effectively neutralize Sander’s choices.  But Hillary can afford to compromise on the platform, because, as I stated up front, it really does not matter.

But what matters is that Bernie Sanders, and the people he picked for the platform committee, shows little knowledge or regard for how we arrived at the current situation:  Oslo, Israel’s peace initiatives in the 1990s, Hebron Agreement, Wye River Memorandum, Camp David Summit (2000), Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, the civil war in which Hamas wrested control of the Strip from the Palestinian Authority, and more. Israel’s efforts to make peace have been rejected, time and time again.

Had Sanders chosen people who advocate for Israel and a Palestinian state existing together peacefully, it would have been fair and constructive.  After all, he spent time in his younger days on a kibbutz and says he has family living in Israel.

Instead, he chose West and Zogby for the Democratic Party Platform Committee and, depending on what they may be able to accomplish, they can potentially alienate pro-Israel voters enough to support Donald Trump!   Sander’s choices can hardly conceal their hatred for Israel, advocate for its economic ruin and defend terrorism against Israeli citizens.

Can you “feel the burn?”

About the Author
Robert L. Kern has served as Director of Marketing & Communications for several "American Friends," Zionist and Jewish organizations. He is a former President of the American Jewish Public Relations Society and a member of the Executive Committee of the American Jewish Press Association. The views and opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author.