Clinton allies block bans on Israeli occupation, fracking & TPP in party platform ahead of DNC

Democratic US presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. © Lucas Jackson
Democrats aligned with presidential candidate Hillary Clinton blocked a number of motions proposed by the small Sanders contingent on the DNC platform committee, including a call to end Israel’s illegal settlements and military occupation of the Palestinian territories.

After hours of debate between the neo-liberal and progressive members, Arab American Institute President James Zogby introduced an amendment to change language used in the platform.

Using direct input from Sanders, whom Zogby supports, the new motion called for an international effort to rebuild Gaza, “an end to occupation and illegal settlements so that [Palestinians] may live in independence, sovereignty and dignity,” and the recognition that Palestinians “deserve security, recognition and a normal life free from violence.”

Zogby also wanted to remove the reference to Jerusalem as Israel’s “undivided” capital, along with a pledge to oppose “de-legitimization” of Israel at the UN and by the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

“The term ‘occupation’ shouldn’t be controversial,” Zogby said, pointing to the fact that George W Bush, Ariel Sharon, and Barack Obama referred to it as such.

The motion was struck down with an 8-5 vote, with Sanders appointees the only ones to vote in favor.

Wendy Sherman, vice chair of Madeleine Albright’s lobbying group and lead negotiator in last year’s Iran nuclear deal, accused both the UN and the BDS movement of anti-Semitism.

Former Claire’s Boutique co-CEO Bonnie Schaefer pointed to the fact that “as a gay Jewish Zionist,” Israel is “the only place in the Middle East that I can walk down the street with my wife hand in hand and not be afraid.”

“I can’t get in the airport without seven hours of harassment because I’m of Arab descent,” Zogby responded to Schaefer.

Platform committee member Cornel West, a civil rights activist urged the DNC to “tell the truth”, arguing, “When the IDF [Israeli Defense Force] kills innocent people, over 500 babies in 51 days, no matter how many shields they say Hamas uses, it’s wrong, from a moral and spiritual point of view.”

Democratic Split

The vote reflects the growing conflict surrounding Israel within the DNC, following Sanders’ appointment of members who are open to Palestinian rights, a departure from the party’s pro-Israel stance. An earlier drafting committee meeting also saw clashes over the issue of Israel and Palestine.

The committee split between the establishment and more left-leaning members was further illustrated by other issues on the platform.

Single-payer healthcare, carbon tax, $15 minimum wage, opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal, and a fracking ban were all shot down by the pro-Clinton arm of the group.

Sanders appointee Congressman Keith Ellison suggested stronger language in the “Fight for $15” section, while Clinton appointees backed their multi-millionaire candidate’s strategy of a gradual rise starting at $12 an hour, which would still put a family of four below the poverty line even if they are lucky enough to get an elusive full time job.

Ellison also pushed for language which would clearly state opposition to the TPP, a position on which both Sanders and Clinton agree, but it was struck down by other members in deference to President Barack Obama who pushed for the deal.

The committee voted against a proposal to oppose direct military intervention in Syria, along with a no-fly zone over the region. Although this is aligned with Obama’s position, the group voted against it.

Sanders appointees called for reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act, which Hillary’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, ended during his administration, opening the way for the housing bubble and 2008 global financial crisis, according to economists.

Leading environmental activist Bill McKibben proposed the carbon tax and a ban on fracking, but even the former head of the Environmental Protection Agency Carol Browner was among those Clinton insiders who opposed his amendments, claiming that the natural gas extracted through fracking helps reduce carbon pollution.

Paul Booth from the civil servant union AFSCME prioritized winning the election and union jobs over Mother Nature in his opposition to the ban on the controversial method.

“These jobs are in the most significantly important battleground states that we have to carry in order to win the election that we have coming up,” Booth said.

The committee approved some of Sanders’ proposals surrounding abolishing the death penalty and expansion of social security, but that wasn’t enough for the public intellectual Dr West, who abstained from voting on the overall platform.

“[If] we can’t say a word about [Trans-Pacific Partnership], if we can’t talk about ‘Medicare For All’ [single payer health care] explicitly, if the greatest prophetic voice dealing with impending ecological catastrophe can hardly win a vote and if we can’t even acknowledge occupation as something that’s real in the lives of a slice of humanity, I don’t care what color they are, I don’t care what culture, whatever, then it just seems to me there’s no way in good conscience I can say take it to the next stage.”

Drafting Committee

The drafting committee consists of 15 members who are responsible for developing the party’s platform.

DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz offered just a third of those slots to be allocated by Sanders, in an effort to appease those who believe the system is rigged.

Wasserman Schultz appointed Los Angeles Congressman Howard Berman, Oakland Congresswoman Barbara Lee, and businesswoman Schaefer, along with Baltimore Congressman Elijah Cummings as chair.

Sanders appointed Minneapolis’ Ellison, McKibben, Dr West, Zogby, and his Tribal Outreach Director Deborah Parker.

Clinton appointed civil servant union leader Paul Booth, Browner, Chicago Congressman Luis Gutierrez, Cincinnati Congresswoman Alicia Reece, Sherman, and Center for American Progress President Neera Tanden.

The platform won’t be finalized until after the Democratic convention in July when the official nominee is chosen. While it’s expected to be Clinton, Sanders has yet to drop out of the race and a possible FBI indictment over her classified email scandal could derail her plans.