Israel Boycott Backlash: ‘This Is Not the DSA I Founded’

With Bernie Sanders’ loss and Donald Trump’s win, the Democratic Socialists of America has tripled in size since 2016—and alienated some of its original members in the process.
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At its national convention in Chicago this past weekend, Democratic Socialists of America, the group founded in 1982 by the late Michael Harrington with Irving Howe and other noted social-democrats, passed a resolution in support of the worldwide Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, stigmatizing and endangering Israel as a legitimate Jewish state.

The resolution “declares itself in solidarity with Palestinian civil society’s nonviolent struggle against apartheid, colonialism, military occupation and for equality, human rights and self-determination.” To achieve that goal, DSA proclaims that it is “fully supporting BDS.”

The statement avoids any mention of the rights of Israelis to have a Jewish state, and does not even put forth the alternative of working for a two-state solution. Instead, the resolution “condemns all efforts to deny the right of Palestinians in the United States and their allies to free speech, assembly, and academic freedom.” The last phrase comes at a moment when pro-Palestinian groups on the campuses regularly try to prevent defenders from Israel from speaking, and when the Women’s March heralded Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian-American BDS activist, as one of its official leaders.

With Trump’s rise, DSA has exploded from 8,000 members in 2016 to 25,000 now—making it the largest socialist group in the United States. Many of its members play major roles in local, state, and national movements, and some are running in democratic primaries for city and state offices. Many of Bernie Sanders’ supporters joined the organization at the end of his unsuccessful campaign.

As such, DSA is in a position to support and widen the reach of the far left of the Democratic Party, which in the past few years has been developing a strong anti-Israel posture, so far blocked by pro-Israel Jewish Democrats like Senators Chuck Schumer of New York, Al Franken of Minnesota, Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin of Maryland, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who has said “The United States’ commitment to Israel’s security is and will remain unbreakable.” Many of these Democrats are both steadfast supporters of a two-state solution, although critical of Israeli policies such as settlement expansion and growth. But they all defend Israel’s right to exist, and firmly oppose the BDS movement that threatens it.

Indeed, Congress will soon vote on an anti-BDS resolution first introduced in the House in 2016 by Rep. Peter Roskam of Illinois and Juan Vargas of California, and in March 2017 in the Senate by Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, along with 48 other co-sponsors of the Anti-Israel Boycott Act, a largely symbolic bi-partisan bill that protests economic warfare against Israel, opposes “restrictive trade practices or boycotts fostered or imposed by an international governmental organization, or requests to impose such practices or boycotts, against Israel.”

While polls show declining support for Israel among Democrats, the Jewish state has a large amount of support from Republicans, and from the American public. By signing on to BDS and joining a movement that’s swept college campuses here, DSA is embracing the agenda of the far left in Europe. It is taking the same approach toward Israel as Jeremy Corbyn is taking in Britain’s Labour Party. Corbyn, though, will soon to be pushed into irrelevance. His loss to Theresa May was close, but he won the support of ideological youth and voters while traditional working-class voters were alienated by him.

Israel Boycott Backlash: ‘This Is Not the DSA I Founded’

With Bernie Sanders’ loss and Donald Trump’s win, the Democratic Socialists of America has tripled in size since 2016—and alienated some of its original members in the process.
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