J Street Joins Bernie Sanders in Call for Democratic Platform Changes on Palestinians

Petition urges more balance in Democratic position on Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but also calls for clear stance against BDS movement.

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Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) speaks to the media during a press conference at the Hilton Garden Inn June 6, 2016 in Emeryville, California.
Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) at a press conference in Emeryville, California on June 6, 2016Credit: Scott Olson, Getty Images/AFP

J Street is echoing Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ push to make the party platform’s language more balanced when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

However, the liberal Jewish Middle East policy group is also urging platform drafters to note that the party opposes the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

In a petition headlined “Support Israeli security and Palestinian rights,” J Street calls for adding language “noting concern about the expansion of settlements, which entrench the occupation and endanger peace.”

In addition, according to a report on Politico Monday, the group is circulating a memo among members of the party’s drafting committee calling for a “a balanced position” that includes recognizing Palestinian claims to eastern Jerusalem.

“The overall tone of the document should establish the party’s deep commitment to meeting the essential needs of both Israelis and Palestinians,” the June 2 memo notes.

Sanders recently sparked concerns among pro-Israel Democrats by appointing Cornel West, Rep. Keith Ellison and James Zogby, three people known for pro-Palestinian activism and criticism of Israel, to the platform drafting committee. West is a prominent BDS backer and Zogby has spoken forcefully against attempts to marginalize the movement.

The Democratic Party platform for years has favored a two-state outcome to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but has also cast that posture on pro-Israel terms and laid the blame for the longstanding impasse mostly on the Palestinians.

Sanders, who is Jewish, has been more critical of Israel than front-runner Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state. In a campaign speech last week focused on foreign policy and security issues, Clinton said the United States has a “moral obligation” to support Israel.