Dr. Cornel West, the renowned scholar and activist, and James Zogby, a longtime pro-Palestinian advocate and president of the Arab American Institute, condemned Israel’s illegal nearly five-decade-long military occupation of the Palestinian territories on Wednesday.
Both argued that the Democratic Party is increasingly out of touch with its rank-and-file supporters, more and more of whom oppose the Israeli government for its crimes against the Palestinians.
“Justice for Palestinians cannot be attained without the lifting of the occupation,” West said in an interview cited by the Times.
He stressed that the Democratic Party platform needs to bring more balance to “the plight of an occupied people.”
West who is one of Bernie Sanders’ five appointees to the Democratic Party’s platform drafting committee, also accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of “war crimes” in the continued occupation of Palestinian territories. Leading human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have said the Israeli military committed war crimes in its 51-day assault on the densely populated Gaza Strip.
This comes as Netanyahu moves his government even further to the right with the addition of the right-wing nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party. Professor West and another Sanders appointee, James Zogby, are looking to incorporate opposition to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories into the Democratic Party platform when the drafting committee meets at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July.
The Anti-Defamation League on Thursday called West’s support of the BDS movement and comments on Netanyahu “unacceptable.”
“Cornel West is a scholar of racial and economic justice, but claiming war crimes by Israel’s Prime Minister and BDS support [is] unacceptable,” ADL’s CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted on Thursday.
Zogby similarly called for a more balanced approach. “Any honest assessment would say that the debate on this issue has shifted over the last 30 years and the platform has reflected that but lagged slightly behind, and it’s now time to catch up,” he said in an interview. “Clearly most Democrats agree. But we will see what happens.”
Support for Palestinians is growing among Americans, particularly among progressives and the youth, according to a poll published by Pew earlier this month.
Among supporters of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, 39 percent back the Palestinians, while 33 percent support Israel.
Sanders indicated that he would seek “consensus” on the party’s policy towards Israel in a statement to the New York Times. “I have always and will always be 100 percent supportive of Israel’s right to exist and live in peace and security,” the Democratic presidential hopeful wrote in a statement. “I also believe that lasting peace in the region will not occur without fair and respectful treatment of the Palestinian people. I believe that most Democrats agree with that position and that a strong consensus will be achieved at the Democratic National Convention.”