North Star Response to the Statement by DSA's NPC Concerning Vote on Iron Dome Funding
DSA North Star
The Caucus for Socialism and Democracy
We oppose and reject the statement of the National Political Committee of DSA criticizing our comrades and leaders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jamaal Bowman, for their votes in the U.S. Congress on the ‘Iron Dome’ legislation. The statement betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of how to make real political change, and of the role of legislative work by elected representatives in that process. It puts forward moral purity tests of the sort employed by fervent religious sects, not democratic political organizations, and substitutes dogma and absolutist rhetoric for a serious consideration of political strategy in the service of democratic socialist principles.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jamaal Bowman are not only our democratic socialist comrades, but two of the most courageous and stalwart defenders of Palestinian self-determination and rights in the U.S. Congress and on the national scene. They have been attacked from the right, again and again, for their advocacy on behalf of Palestinians, including their votes in the U.S. Congress in support of Palestinian rights. To attack these comrades from “the left,” in a statement that ignores their principled stands and the right wing political attacks on them for those stands, is indefensible. This sort of ultra-left posturing ends up in common cause with attacks on Ocasio-Cortez from the right for having voted ‘present’ on the Iron Dome bill (the parliamentary method of abstaining on a vote): when right wing Trumpist tabloids like the New York Post are attacking the same targets as you are, for the very same actions, it is time to engage in a very serious self-examination of your political positioning. That those targets are our comrades makes this positioning more than an extraordinary political miscalculation; it is an act that borders on political betrayal.
What is painfully evident in the NPC statement is the complete absence of strategic acumen, especially as it relates to legislative work. There are many occasions when members of Congress cast votes that involve aspects of the Israel/Palestine question. Political common sense should dictate that we choose our battles, and focus on the votes that best frame the question for public debate – votes that highlight the denial of Palestinian self-determination by taking on issues such as the continuing occupation of the West Bank and the de facto Israeli policy of annexation by settlement. In so doing, we affirm Palestinian humanity and rights. Instead, the NPC statement chooses as “the hill to die on” a piece of legislation deliberately framed by AIPAC and others on the right to highlight the Hamas practice of indiscriminately launching rockets and missiles into civilian centers areas within Israel: the ‘iron dome’ of the legislation is anti-rocket and anti-missile defenses. Insofar as that bill and Hamas’ waging of war against civilians frames the Palestinian question in public discourse, it will make garnering support for Palestinian rights and self-determination on other legislation all that more difficult. The ‘iron dome’ bill was a trap set by AIPAC and its allies in Congress, and was widely recognized as such, which was why the vote on it was 420 to 9. The NPC chooses to witlessly walk into that trap, and to compound their error by condemning Ocasio-Cortez and Bowman for not joining them in this self-defeating exercise.
The work of democratic socialists and progressives in the U.S. Congress is to pass legislation that advances our fundamental values. In foreign policy, that legislation should reflect our internationalist values of anti-imperialism and anti-authoritarianism, of self-determination and democratic self-rule for all peoples. That work demands of members of Congress that they focus on the most favorable framing of the public debate and on building the legislative coalitions and institutional power that can actually pass legislation into law. We must reject completely the notion that democratic socialists and progressives in Congress should function as “left” versions of Trumpists like Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz and Lauren Boebert, propagandists who have no interest in passing legislation and who stake out the most extreme positions in public debate, regardless of what it does to efforts to build majority coalitions. Yet a demand that democratic socialist and progressive members of Congress take the losing side in 420 to 9 votes on questions that are framed to our significant disadvantage would reduce them to precisely that role.
Finally, it is unfortunate that the NPC chooses to characterize the DSA’s support of the Palestinian people in revanchist terms, ones in which Palestinian nationhood and rights can only be achieved at the expense of Israeli nationhood and rights. “73 years of occupation” is not a reference to the occupation of the West Bank, but to the founding of Israel itself. To speak in those terms is to ignore the complexity of that period, when creating a national refuge for Jews in the wake of the Nazi genocide clashed with Palestinian rights. It is the rhetoric of a zero sum game, precluding the very possibility of a resolution to decades of conflict which recognizes and respects the rights of all -- Palestinians, Jews and other peoples in the region. Such arguments do not contribute to peace or justice, but only delay the day when the Palestinian people finally achieve self-determination and their rights, and they make the price in human lives and suffering before that day so much greater.
9/28/2021 05:39:03 pm
DSA North Star referring to the iron dome in the exact same terms the IDF does, as if money were not a fungible commodity, and as if the iron dome funding didn’t free up billions that apartheid Israel can now use towards the oppression of the Palestinians. Maybe this congruence of opinion with the IDF is where this “very serious self-examination” should begin.
9/28/2021 07:36:27 pm
This statement is mistaken in every particular, including what amounts to in practice a defense of Zionist occupation of Palestine in its early years. Zionism arose in part under the protective wing of British colonialism. From its very first, before it envisioned an independent state, the Zionist majority envisioned itself as working under a Palestine perpetually under British colonial rule. That is why one of the representatives of British colonialism referred to the Zionists as "our loyal little Jewish Ulster". And even at that time, the Zionist forces in Palestine were actively encouraging the firing of Arab workers and those workers being replaced by Jewish workers.
9/29/2021 12:07:34 am
The “DSA Northstar” statement discredits the North Star. The final paragraph reveals the core beliefs of the group: It misstates the history of Zionism and Israel, repeats Israeli lies, calls for the hopeless and deceptive “two-state solution,” and repeats the slander that Jews and Palestinians cannot live together.
Michael A. Dover
9/30/2021 05:13:47 pm
As a recent addition to the North Star Steering Committee to fill a vacancy, I was among those who voted unanimously for this statement, although I was not the author. I would encourage those who comment to make an argument which can further progressive and left discussion and debate. On the Iron Dome, issue, I had a couple of discussions with Ilan Goldenberg when he visited the Cleveland City Club in 2019 and spoke to J Street here. He is a former Obama National Security Council staffer, now a Senior Fellow and Director, Middle East Security Program, Center for a New American Security. He confirmed what was my understanding: the missiles (much more than rockets these days) that Hezbollah and increasingly Hamas have at their disposal are becoming more and more advanced, and threaten civilian populations of Israel (Jew and non-Jew I might add). Substantively, additional US support for their modernization was and is important for world and regional peace, given that the US is the only nation to help ensure Israel's military security. Were advocates of an end to that aid to win, the likelihood of war in the region would skyrocket, to use a sad metaphor. The successful resumption of the Iran agreement and progress towards a just settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are both essential to world peace, which the last time I checked is an important issue for democratic socialists. The PLO called in Fall 2020 and again this year for an international peace conference; that initiative deserves support as well. Michael A. Dover, Cleveland.
10/1/2021 04:54:47 pm
Reading this response prior to seeing the DSA statement, I was fully prepared to agree with the above. However, the language used in the original condemnation, as well as the principles behind it, are inarguably appropriate for the occasion and our cause. The characterization of the AOC/Bowman criticism as anything more than disappointment is disingenuous, and failing to acknowledge the colonial nature of Israel's founding as the first of many violations of Palestinian self-determination legitimizes the colonial occupations perpetrated to this day.
J. Rosalia Brightsea
10/1/2021 11:09:08 pm
One wonders, given that the North Star Caucus deems calling for a differing vote by elected members of a liberal party 'ultra-left', what exactly the North Star Caucus believes it to be left of, if not reaction itself? There was a time when accusations of 'ultra-left' argumentation meant something, but they certainly never referred to electoralism, let alone electoralism within the context of a liberal, imperialist party. Surely there is no need to engage in such utterly uncomradely hyperbole in order to make your point? If your concern is that there is political harm to be suffered in taking such a position, surely saying that and not invoking the laughable idea that the position taken by the NPC is aligned with Bordigism is the better means of making your argument!
10/3/2021 05:54:38 pm
There can be No liberation of Palestine or Palestinians anywhere-inside Israel, on the West Bank, in Gaza, or anywhere else in the 70+ year old camps & diaspora without the ending of the illegal state of Israel. To think or act otherwise is not understanding the absolute importance the Zionist state is to the English, US, French and other imperialists since before the signing of the 1917 immoral, illegal, ethnic cleansing Balfour Declaration. I would make 3 concrete suggestions to DSA North Star, DSA NPC: 1. everyone who has not should read the most comprehensive, detailed history of the Zionist, imperialist colonialist Palestinian project: Dr, Rashid Kahlidi’s 2020 book: The HUNDRED YEAR’S WAR ON PALESTINE; 2. Invite Dr. Kahlidi to give a presentation this year; 3. After that have a public debate on the issue including is Israel an illegal state from the beginning; how can there be a liberated Palestinian state while Israel exists? Why much of the left, especially white left, remains Zionist: DSA members, SWP and others and what to do about it and more;
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