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Did Democratic delegates just vote down Obama bid to pander to AIPAC on Jerusalem?

September 8, 2012

This article by Ali Abunimah is re-posted from Electronic Intifada.

An extraordinary thing happened at the Democratic National Convention today. The official party platform for 2012 left out a reference that “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel” that was in the 2008 version.

Under pressure from the Israel lobby and the Republicans the Democratic leadership hastily moved to shove it back in on a voice vote that required a two-thirds majority. But to the stunned surprise of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa who was chairing the convention, the “No” votes seemed to be louder, as the video above shows.

Shocked, Villaraigosa held the vote a second time, and then a third time. Each time it seemed the noes had it. Nonetheless, Villaraigosa declared that it had passed anyway. Loud booing could be heard. It’s an astonishing spectacle (see a longer version of the video from C-Span).

Obama intervened directly

Apparently, Obama himself intervened as JTA reports:

late Tuesday afternoon – after Republicans launched a full-force offensive criticizing the omission – the Democrats reversed course. Robert Wexler, a member of the platform draft committee, and a chief Jewish surrogate for the Obama campaign, credited President Obama for the change.

“They are returning the language to the 2008 situation,” Wexler told JTA late Tuesday. “The president directly intervened to make sure this amendment happened.”

But it seems ploy by Obama to pander to the Israel lobby has badly backfired. Gleeful Republicans are already circulating the video and spinning it as Democrats booing Israel.

Shower Israel with love and affection

Just this morning, in a New York Times oped, Israeli-American tycoon Haim Saban ostensibly defended Obama against Republican claims that Obama has “thrown allies like Israel under the bus.” Saban admiringly listed Obama’s unconditional financial, military and diplomatic largesse to Israel. But even after all that Saban – an Obama supporter – suggested that Obama “should have showered Israelis with more love and affection.”

That was in the morning. In the afternoon the Jerusalem debacle occured at the convention. I personally am uninterested in the GOP vs. Democratic aspect. I consider both parties indistinguishable on Israel and so many other issues. They are part of the same ruling establishment.

But ramming through AIPAC’s desires – despite an apparent no vote – was a neat summary of how US elites make decisions when it comes to Israel. Both parties are in a bidding war to appease Israel’s most extreme supporters at home and abroad. If this means riding roughshod over their own members, the American public, world opinion, international law and the basic rights of the Palestinian people, then so be it.

We can expect that in an effort to repair the damage from today, Obama’s big convention speech tomorrow night will shower Israel even more “love” than ever.

Obama’s history of pandering

For Obama, it is also nothing new. Despite elevated and unrealistic expectations that he would be different, I had warned as early as 2007 that Obama had surrendered any autonomy on Palestine to AIPAC.

JTA is revealing on how the platform is actually written in the first place – effectively under direct AIPAC supervision:

A Jewish official speaking on background said that at least three American Israel Public Affairs Committee officials were present during the entire period when the platform was drafted last month in Minneapolis. Other Democratic and Jewish officials confirmed AIPAC’s participation in the process.

There is another way

For those committed to justice in Palestine today’s events are a reminder that the road to justice does not go through the GOP the RNC or the DNC, but for us in the United States it goes through BDS – boycott, divestment and sanctions against an Israeli apartheid regime that has the full backing of US political elites.

Jerusalem, after all, and all of Palestine are not Barack Obama’s or Mitt Romney’s to auction off to the highest bidder.

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