Take us to your leader®. Then take us to your reader®.
How it works? [Click here]
Who we are
Our Agenda

Latest News
Good & Bad News

101 Palestinian History
Link & Resources
The Valley Galleria
nileMedia Reader

Join US
Contact Us

May 29, 2004
An Open Letter to Democrats

By Naseem Tuffaha


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 intact.

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 international law.

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 political ambition.

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.

Naseem Tuffaha

Want to help spread quality independent journalism?
Donate to NileMedia and watch us grow.

Friend's Name: 
Friend's E-mail: 
Your Name: