Sanders’ Dream Team, The Platform and Palestine

by James M. Wall

Sanders0191463979430When the Democratic nominating convention meets in Philadelphia, July 25, the Platform Committee deliberations will indicate how much Hillary Clinton feels she needs Bernie Sanders’ support.

Given the dire, looming alternative of a President Donald Trump, it is tempting to stop worrying about the Bern and embrace the New York Times’ pro-Clinton narrative.

Not so fast. There is still ample time to support the party’s nominee after the Bernie Sanders’ forces make their Platform Committee stand.

Sanders has lain down a defiant marker by selecting three major pro-Palestinian Platform Committee members: Cornel West, James Zogby and Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison, each of whom brings a unique background to this fight.

That trio sounds like one of those powerful law firms of West, Zogby and Ellison, a team you would not want to face in the courtroom of public opinion when the issue is the continuous torture of a battered client.

The Arab American Institution posted a video introducing five progressive activists appointed by Sanders to represent him on the Platform Committee.

Sanders will arrive in Philadelphia lacking enough delegates for the nomination. But thanks to his delegates, including his progressive “Dream Team” on the platform committee, he is in a strong position to shape the platform.

The New York Times, and the rest of the establishment mainline media, constantly remind voters that platforms do not matter. And to be sure, Democrats in Congress are not guided by the party platform.

Still, the media thrives on conflict and since this should be a lively platform committee conflict, those sessions will get attention.

First, we need to debunk portions of the mainstream media pro-Clinton narrative. The Washington Post report on Sanders and his platform committee choices, began this way:

Sen. Bernie Sanders was given unprecedented say over the Democratic Party platform Monday in a move party leaders hope will soothe a bitter split with backers of the longshot challenger to Hillary Clinton — and Sanders immediately used his new power to name a well-known advocate for Palestinian rights to help draft Democratic policy.

Sanders did not suddenly gain his “new power”. A candidate still in the race for the nomination, with earned delegates, is entitled to an allocated percentage of committee seats.

Contrary to the Post, Sanders was not “given unprecedented say over the Democratic Party platform”. He earned those committee seats by winning delegates.

He was not given seats to “soothe a bitter split”, and he did not use “his new power” to name committee members. He did not get them as largesse from the DNC. He got them the “old-fashioned way”. He earned them. 

Party unity can wait until after the convention. Sanders should stay in this race as long as he and his delegates can impact the future of the party.

We may devoutly hope that a properly reported platform fight will cool down Clinton’s ardor for what the Nation magazine calls the “most-right wing government in Israel’s history”.

The recent political reshuffling in Israel’s governing coalition will put the unbridled nationalist Avigdor Lieberman in charge of the defense ministry and seal the creation of the most overtly right-wing government in Israeli history.

The New York Times doggedly clings to Israel’s version of the Palestinian struggle as it pretends its media neutrality. At times the pretense is dropped.

Recent case in point: The Times’ initial print story about two of Sanders’ platform committee appointees initially put quotation marks around the word “occupation”. Later editions. and the web version of the story, hastily removed the exposing quote marks.

Below is a screen shot captured by Mondoweiss of the original print story, with “occupation”‘ in quote marks, the publication’s way of suggesting an uncertainty of veracity. 

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Stephen Zunes, Professor of Politics and International Studies at the University of San Francisco, examined Clinton’s hard-line support of Israel in an essay for The Progressive:

While the large-scale civilian casualties inflicted by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) in military operations in recent years have raised concerns both within Israel and internationally, Hillary Clinton—the almost-certain Democratic nominee for President—has repeatedly gone on record defending the IDF’s conduct.

Not only has she failed to even once raise concerns about the thousands of civilian deaths inflicted by Israeli forces, she has been a harsh critic of human rights organizations and international jurists who have.

Going well beyond the normal “pro-Israel” rhetoric expected of American politicians, she has defended Israeli attacks on heavily-populated civilian areas as legitimate self-defense against terrorism, even in cases where the Obama administration and members of Congress—including Sanders—have raised objections.

Her statements raise serious questions as to what kind of rules of engagement she would support for U.S. forces in the “War on Terror”.

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman typically sweetens his criticism of Israel’s ultra right-wing government with digs at Israel’s progressive critics.

In his May 25 column, “Netanyahu, Prime Minister of the State of Israel-Palestine”, Friedman went beyond a casual nod against the progressives. He offered what must be described as false testimony by misrepresenting BDS, dismissing it as no more than an anti-Israel American “campus movement”. He wrote:

Israel has recently been under intense criticism on the world stage. Some of it, like the “boycott, divestment, sanctions” (B.D.S.) campaign, is a campus movement to destroy Israel masquerading as a political critique.

Friedman’s clipping service could inform him that BDS originated among Palestinian religious and secular leaders. It is anything but merely “a campus movement”, an epithet that is unfair to campus activists and to the international BDS campaign.

Take note, Thomas Friedman, if BDS is just an “anti-Israel campus movement”, then the New York Yankees are just a bunch of guys tossing and hitting baseballs in Central Park.

Closing on a brighter note. 

In January, 2009, President Barack Obama had just been inaugurated. It was a hopeful time. The nation’s first African American president was beginning his first term in office.

At the time, I wrote a posting that included the words of “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, often referred to as the unofficial African-American National anthem. 

I returned to “Lift Every Voice and Sing” in 2013, with a new posting which included a video provided by Emory University with the closing song on a night the school honored author Alice Walker, the noted African American author.

“Lift Every Voice and Sing” was written as a poem in 1899 by James Weldon Johnson (1871–1938) and set to music in 1900 by his brother, John Rosamond Johnson (1873–1954).

In the video the young man leading the singing is an Emory graduate, class of 2011. His name is Garrett M. Turner. At that time he was preparing to pursue further graduate work at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

About wallwritings

James M. Wall is currently a Contributing Editor of The Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, Illinois. From 1972 through 1999, he was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine. Jim launched this new personal blog April 24, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to jameswall8@gmail.com Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years.
This entry was posted in Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Israel, Middle East, Palestinians, Religious Faith, United Methodist Church. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Sanders’ Dream Team, The Platform and Palestine

  1. Jack Graham says:

    Why is it necessary to be way out in left field to say that the United States should have no special relationship to Israel, or a blind pro-Israel policy in the Middle East, or to adopt Likud fanaticism as if it were an existential declaration of American identity? I am just an old-fashioned William Jennings Bryan Democrat, and an insurgent Charles A. Lindbergh Sr. Republican, and, therefore, have no political party at all, except in my own mind. But you don’t have to be the likes of Cornel West to be against current American foreign policy in the Middle East. Dr. West offers nothing to most of us. I just believe in honest money, the middle class, and a foreign policy that minds our own business. I am not a Marxist. Occupy Wall Street went nowhere, because it deserved to go nowhere. Hot-button social issues are distractions for the births. I’m just on Main Street, or, if you prefer, a country lawyer who believes that Israel is not the 51st State, and that we owe Israel nothing more than normal diplomatic relations and friendly neutrality between Arabs and Jews in the Middle East. I am against any political party, including the Democratic Party, that overdoes it on Israel, which is why I don’t like Hillary Clinton and have doubts about Donald Trump. I read the Bible too, but it does not say we have to help the Likud build a third temple so Jesus can come again. — John Remington Graham of the Minnesota Bar (#3664X)

  2. robertassaly@gmail.com says:

    Someone please venture a guess as to whether Sanders might run as an independent.

  3. AWAD PAUL SIFRI says:

    Jim, Thank you for an absolutely great article, in which you raise several excellent points.
    From where I stand, the most important is the formulation of the Democratic party Platform.
    It is critical to clinch this moment in order to ensure that there is a genuine change in the sickeningly pro-Israeli occupation position of both parties.
    If the Democratic party wants to establish itself as the party of the future demographics of America, then the time to establish such a platform is NOW.
    An even-handed platform that speaks out against racism, bigotry, apartheid, and injustice, such as the occupation of Palestine, will be a signal to many potential segments of American society.
    Let us hope that the Democratic platform is able to launch this new initiative with reasonable success.

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