In a letter to the Democratic National Committee, 60 African-American Democratic politicians outlined their support for the 2012 Democratic Party platform language on the Middle East and Israel. The group of black leaders was organized by former South Carolina State Representative and CNN commentator, Bakari Sellers. In the letter, Sellers stated:
I believe that the Mideast planks of the previous platform were carefully crafted and have served us well as a party and a country. As Democrats…we would be well served to stick closely to our previous platform language and ensure that any changes…do nothing to undermine the principles that have given such strength and clarity to our previous platforms.
Sellers said the purpose of the letter was to express support for the 2012 language in the Democratic Platform. He and the 60 signatories, like the members of the committee that represented Hillary Clinton, oppose using “occupation” to describe the Israeli settlements and opposed the removal of the affirmation that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.
Sellers also directly addressed the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) movement:
…Anti-Semitism has been on the rise and it has taken a new form — the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement known as BDS. The BDS movement is an effort to bypass direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and, instead, use economic and political pressure to force unilateral Israeli action on issues that must be resolved through talks.
Sellers’ position on BDS stands in stark contrast to the position forwarded by Platform Committee member, Professor Cornell West, during the committee meeting hearings:
We’re at a turning point now, and of course it’s going to be a slow one in the Democratic Party, but some of us will be working outside the Democratic Party to make it quicker. And that’s why I support the BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction).
Cornel West made an impassioned plea for the Palestinian people that has since gone viral across multiple platforms. West stated:
“Palestinians…wrestling with occupation for 50-some years–demeaned, devalued, dominated and exploited. For too long, the Democratic Party’s been beholden to AIPAC–that didn’t take seriously the humanity of the Palestinian brothers and sisters.
According to CNN, the letter sent by Bakari Sellers was in response to the traction that Professor West’s viewpoint might have gained “in the public narrative.”
Additional questions have arisen to the motivation and purpose of the letter from Sellers. One of the most ardent voices opposing Sellers’ letter is Rania Khalek of Electronic Intifada. In an interview with the Progressive Army, Khalek stated that Sellers’ letter was an attempt to undercut Cornel West’s testimony at the hearings–undermining the grassroots movement that is, for the first time, gaining ground in solidarity with Palestinians.
In an article on Electronic Intifada, Khalek stated:
West’s and Zogby’s advocacy for Palestinian rights has been so insistent that the Clinton wing of the party has attempted to neutralize them through the most cynical form of identity politicking.
Clearly, there is no single, monolithic position that can be attributed to the Black community on the issue of Israel and Palestine. As far as opinions from the Black community, they clearly can range from Sellers to West.
The full letter from 60 Black Democrats can be found HERE and below.