Dear NileMedia Reader: We got a number of emails from our readers suggesting we
publish this letter to Washington State Democrats. After reading it, you will
understand why they are so outraged. In our opinion, the outrage should extend
beyond the boundries to Washington State. We personally have no use for
Republicans or Democrats. But if you just happen to be a member of the
Democratic Party, you need to explain why it is so undemocratic. Read on. We
post. You decide.
An Open Letter to Washington State Democrats
By Naseem Tuffaha
While President Bush's approval numbers continue to drop as more and more
Americans believe the country is heading in the wrong direction, Democrats
have never felt as optimistic as we do today that Bush will not be
re-elected in November. This is an amazing fact, considering Bush’s stature
of near invincibility only two years ago and the unprecedented war chest of
funds the Bush team has been able to raise.
But key questions remain. Do we as Democrats really have something to feel
good about? Do Democratic leaders present a bold vision that inspires us as
well as Americans across party lines? Do they act with courage and
principles that make us proud to be Democrats? Or is it that we seek to win
offices by not being quite as bad as our opponents? Based on the actions of
Democratic leaders over the past few weeks, it appears some real
soul-searching is in order.
On a national level, we see John Kerry maintain near silence on what is
becoming the most pressing issue of our time – the war in Iraq which has
taken the lives of over 800 American service men and women, thousands of
Iraqi civilians, and has cost us tens of billions of dollars. Only a few
weeks ago, in an overt display of political pandering, John Kerry decided to
align himself with the policies of Israel’s right-wing government led by the
notorious Ariel Sharon who continues to flagrantly violate international law
with his attacks on Palestinian civilians.
Locally, in King County, we sadly see similar displays of weakness among our
party leadership. On May 8th King County Convention, a platform plank was
passed by Democratic party delegates calling for an end of U.S. aid to
Israel while it violates international law. Party leaders scurried over the
following week to examine ways to undermine this plank. The King County
Chair appeared on a right-wing radio show to apologize profusely and
diminish both the value of the platform and the process by which it was
adopted. Challenges to the plank were brought forward on procedural grounds
in attempts to remove it from the platform. And the plank was mysteriously
omitted from the King County platform that was sent to the Washington State
platform committee, even though another plank addressing the
Israeli-Palestinian issue that some viewed as more “balanced” remained
A number of Democrats who observed this sequence of questionable moves
decided to take action. A call-down effort was organized to inform party
delegates of attempts to bypass the democratic process. The reaction among
the grassroots of the party was tremendous. The vast majority of delegates
who received phone calls decided to sign on to the petition supporting the
democratic process by which the plank was adopted. Even some who voted
against the plank at the King County Convention felt it more important to
uphold the democratic process. One person did call back several days later
to ask that her name be removed from the petition. She stated she was “a
chicken” and was worried that such a platform plank could cost John Kerry
the election. She was an exception.
Things began to look up as the King County Chair issued a written statement
on May 24th in which he declared “the platform plank will stand as adopted
by the delegation on May 8th. We will be meeting on May 25th to adopt the
final platform, but will only address the add-on planks that were not
addressed on May 8th. Anything that was passed on the convention floor will
stand and will not be revisited.
However, at the May 25th meeting of the King County Central Committee,
through a series of motions, back-door moves and consultations with Robert’s
Rules, the issue was in fact revisited. The language of the plank was
changed so as not to include any reference to Israel. Instead, it became a
broad statement about ending aid to any country in violation of
While such a statement is a welcome addition to the platform, it is a
troublesome replacement of the previous platform plank regarding aid to
Israel for a number of reasons. First, it loses the perspective that Israel
is the largest recipient of U.S. aid, receiving over 1/3 of the entire U.S.
foreign aid budget. Second, it loses the perspective of Israel’s role as a
violator of international law. Currently, Israel is in violation of over 30
U.N. Security Council resolutions – more than any country in the world.
The fact that our government should consistently respect international law
should not be used to grant Israel cover behind anonymous statements. The
King County platform is quite specific in many other places including the
foreign policy section. For example, the platform opposes specific trade
agreements such as GATT, NAFTA, WTO, FTAA. It does not broadly assert
opposition to “unfair trade agreements” and then refrain from listing
examples. Also, the platform opposes the efforts to overturn treaties such
as ABM, ICC, Kyoto. It doesn’t broadly refer only to “international
treaties”. It names them to bring the appropriate clarity and emphasis.
Similarly, the delegates who voted for the plank at the King County
Convention felt it appropriate to bring focus to Israel. The King Country
Central Committee has now washed it away preferring instead to make it the
proverbial elephant in the room.
The most troubling parts of this process, however, are the actions and
motivations of a number of Democratic party leaders. The King County Chair
said the plank would not be revisited, yet it was. He said the plank would
stand as adopted, yet it didn’t. While there may be procedural
justifications as to why the King County Central Committee had the authority
to change the plank, the credibility of the King County Chair is now further
called into question based on the statement he issued only the day before.
The most vocal advocate for changing the plank was the Chair of the King
County Young Democrats. His argument to the Central Committee centered
around “not alienating an important constituency in the Democratic party”.
In a year where Democrats have emphasized the need for “backbone” and
speaking up for what is right, the Chair of the Young Democrats chose to
argue for perceived political expediency. And for most of his colleagues on
the Central Committee, that was good enough.
While this process has revealed disappointing behavior by some party
leaders, it has generated enormous enthusiasm and support among the
grassroots of the Democratic party. Many have come forward to express
heartfelt thanks for raising an issue that was previously considered taboo
within the party. They have been waiting a long time for this dialogue to
take place and many are eager to join in.
This year, the grassroots of the Democratic party in Washington state has
spoken loudly and clearly on this issue. The grassroots has passed over a
dozen resolutions against the Berlin-style Wall that Israel is building on
Palestinians lands. The grassroots has passed a strongly worded platform
plank in the 46th Legislative District making aid to Israel contingent upon
dismantling the Wall and ending its occupation of Palestinian territories.
Any place the grassroots has had an opportunity to pass such pro-justice
planks and resolutions, it has done so. An exciting, deep-rooted change is
taking place on the ground floor of the Democratic party, even though these
changes seem to frighten the Chairs and committees that loom large with
Martin Luther King once said, “We must build dikes of courage to hold back
the flood of fear.” That is the challenge before us in the grassroots of
the Democratic party. As Democratic leaders all too often let fear dominate
their decisions, we must set a strong example of the courage and integrity
that will inspire people and attract more voters to our party. Only then
will we earn the position to help create a truly just and fair society.
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