By Theresa Opeka
A group of N.C. Jewish clergy leaders are calling out the N.C. Democratic Party for anti-Israel resolutions that were considered at the party convention held June 18 in Durham. Calling the resolutions potentially “dangerous.” the clergy members point to the party’s Platform Committee Special Report, which sets a wide range of positions that the state party takes in the upcoming year, including 2022 elections.
The North Carolina Jewish Clergy Association issued a statement on June 17 that criticized Democrats’ resolutions that said Israel violated the human rights of Palestinians, called for an investigation into the alleged killing of a Palestinian-American journalist by Israeli forces, and establishing May 15 as Nakba Remembrance Day, recognizing the destruction of Palestinian villages.
“Of the seven resolutions devoted to foreign affairs, three are focused on criticism of Israel,” said the NCJCA Steering Committee, including Rabbi Judy Schindler, Rabbi Eric Solomon (co-chairs), Rabbi Mark Cohn, Rabbi Lucy Dinner, Rabbi Andy Koren, Cantor Shira Lessek, and Rabbi Batsheva Meiri. “While some of our clergy are sympathetic to some of the claims embedded in the statements, on the main, these resolutions are not thoughtful nor balanced. In short, they contain one-sided representations of the complexities of the decades-long Arab-Israeli conflict.”
The resolutions the Jewish clergy leaders oppose start on page 17 of the document and fall under the heading “Support Human Rights in Israel/Palestine” but focus on targeting sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes on Israelis they say are targeting the human rights of Palestinians.
The Democrats’ platform resolution states that Israel forcibly transferred property from Palestinians to Israel by removing and demolishing tens of thousands of homes and communities, expropriation of land and property equivalent to eminent domain in the United States, creating separate reserves and ghettos for Palestinians, and denial of the right to leave and return to their country and denial of the right to a nationality.
The party’s position also asks the United States to link nearly $4 billion annually in military aid for Israel to ending crimes of apartheid and persecution of Palestinians.
The resolution document supports bipartisan calls in Congress for an investigation by the State Department and the FBI into the killing of Palestinian-American citizen and journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. She was killed by a bullet to the head while covering an Israeli raid on the Palestinian refugee camp in Jenin on May 11. Israeli officials initially blamed the incident on Palestinian gunmen, but it is alleged that Israeli forces were likely responsible for her killing. The resolution says Israel is not investigating the killing of Abu Akleh, an American citizen.
Commemorating May 15 as Nakba Remembrance Day is also in N.C. Democrats’ party platform document. Nakba, meaning catastrophe in Arabic, is the expulsion of over 750,000 Palestinians and the destruction of 500 Palestinian villages and neighborhoods they say established the state of Israel in 1948.
“Sadly, such party stances often lead to the demonization of Jews and Israelis, ignore Israel’s genuine security concerns, play upon age-old anti-Jewish stereotypes, and include language which implies that Israel should cease to exist as a sovereign state,” The N.C. Jewish Clergy Association continued in its statement. “Furthermore, given the troubling rise in direct acts of anti-semitism against many North Carolina synagogues, we consider these resolutions to be potentially dangerous.”
A number of threats have been reported over the years to synagogues in North Carolina. Anti-Semitic graffiti, including two swastikas, was reported covering a pedestrian bridge that runs over Interstate 540 in Raleigh in January. The local Jewish community was put on alert as a result of the graffiti. A standoff that also occurred in January at a Texas synagogue adds to the fears of those of the Jewish faith.
The association says it doesn’t believe that the resolutions further the chances for Middle East peace and do not reflect the diversity of views within the state Democratic Party.
“The North Carolina Jewish Clergy Association is officially nonpartisan,” the statement read. “However, within our ranks, we include numerous clergy who, as private citizens, affiliate as Democrats. This effort to single out Israel in the party’s platform is particularly disappointing for our NC Jewish clergy affiliated with the Democratic party.”
They asked the N.C. Democratic Party to reject the resolutions and instead have a conversation with them and other concerned Democrats who seek a platform that reflects the spectrum of views on the Arab-Israeli conflict.