At DSA’s 2017 National Convention, delegates voted to endorse the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement against Israel. BDS, as it is commonly known, is a non-violent, international, human-rights-based campaign calling for the return of stolen Arab lands, equal rights for Arabs and Palestinians living in Israel and the Occupied territories, and the removal of the Apartheid Wall that runs across the West Bank.
The BDS vote represented a significant step forward for the organization in its support for Palestinian human rights. Since the 2017 vote, Palestinian politics have entered the political mainstream with the elections of Michigan representative Rashida Tlaib, the first Palestinian-American elected to Congress; Representative Ilhan Omar from Minnesota, a vocal advocate for Palestinians; and Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, from New York, who has said that reduction of U.S. aid to Israel should be “on the table” for Congress.
There are several reasons why this is an important moment for DSA to deepen its commitments to the Palestinian liberation struggle.
First, support for Palestinian human rights should be a cornerstone of the organization’s anti-imperialism and internationalism. U.S. military, political, and financial support for Israel is a foundation of its claims to control of the Middle East, both military and economic, including control of oil. Since the Arab Spring of 2011, U.S. support for Israel has deepened as a means of maintaining a hold on regional power. President Donald Trump’s move of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has emboldened Israel and its supporters to dismiss Palestinian claims to homeland territory.
Second, widening popular support for Palestinian human rights has also been important to such new political alliances on the Left as Black for Palestine and LGBTQ networks against Israeli “pinkwashing.” It has weakened the Democratic Party’s traditionally iron-clad support for Israel. This is reflected in opinion polls showing Americans under 30 with far more critical views of Israel’s occupation than those over 30.
Finally, Israel’s occupation of Palestine, and Israel’s apartheid state, have become important touchstones for a far-right resurgence globally, a development that has brought with it new attacks on socialists and leftists.
The authoritarian Orban government in Hungary, the neo-fascist Bolsonaro regime in Brazil, and the most right-wing elements of the U.S. Republican Party, including Trump, have held up Israel’s ethnonationalist state as a model of governance. Israel has invited this enthusiasm by passing the so-called “Nation-State Bill” in 2018 which specified that Israel was the nation-state only of the Jewish people. The bill formally reduced Arabs and Palestinians to second-class citizenship.
At Socialism 2019, held July 4–7 in Chicago, Ali Abunimah, editor of the Chicago-based Electronic Intifada, will speak on the topic “Palestine and the Global Struggle for Justice.” I am a DSA member in West Lafayette, Indiana, and I will speak on the topic “Palestine and the Left.” See the conference schedule here.
The Socialism 2019 organizing committee has also agreed to host a breakout meeting at the conference to develop a Midwest Socialists Palestine Working Group, date and time to be announced. The working group will seek to develop a plan of study and action around Palestine for Socialists in the Midwest. It will also be a space to help build new BDS campaigns in schools, workplaces, community groups, and professional associations.
I encourage everyone to attend Socialism. I especially encourage those who attend to catch the talks on Palestine and to attend the working-group meeting.
For more information contact me at bill.mullen2 at gmail dot com.