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Massachusetts Dems in Turmoil Over Proposal to Condemn West Bank Settlements

Some state Democrats are attempting to derail resolution that states that "Israel's settlements in the occupied West Bank are obstacles to peace"

The West Bank settlement of Givat Zeev is pictured in late December, 2016. (Photo: Getty)

The West Bank settlement of Givat Zeev is pictured in late December, 2016. (Photo: Getty)

The Massachusetts Democratic Party has been plunged into turmoil by a proposed resolution stating that Israel's illegal settlements in the West Bank are an obstacle to peace between Israel and Palestine, the Boston Globe reported Friday.

Carol Coakley of Millis, Mass., proposed the resolution that reads in part: "the Massachusetts Democratic State Committee affirm our support for the long-standing U.S. policy of the State Department and every administration from President Lyndon Johnson to President Barack Obama, that Israel's settlements in the occupied West Bank are obstacles to peace." Coakley has been a member of the Massachusetts Democratic State Committee for 18 years, the Globe notes.

"This resolution targets a hypocrisy in the position of the national Democratic Party [...] which says it supports a two-state solution, but gives huge aid and backing to Israel and very little to Palestinians."
—Cole Harrison, Massachusetts Peace Action

And while multiple U.S. presidential administrations, global leaders, and the United Nations have also repeatedly stated that Israel's West Bank settlements are an obstacle to peace in the region, some Massachusetts Democrats are attempting to derail Coakley's resolution before it heads to the full Democratic State Committee next week.

The Globe reports:

[Former state treasurer Steve] Grossman, the former chairman of both the state and national Democratic parties, as well the one-time head of the pro-Israel American Israel Public Affairs Committee, said the resolution, if successful, could gravely damage Democrats politically.

He said it feeds a "one-sided blame game," which is playing out across college campuses and in pockets of the "progressive wing of the Democratic Party," and would send a disturbing message to many Democratic activists.

“A lot of people would read about it and would read the language and say: 'Frankly, that's the last straw. This is not a place I feel comfortable any longer,'" Grossman said.

Other Democrats also oppose the resolution, the newspaper observes.

"The Democratic State Committee cannot afford such a divisive and ill-advised resolution at a time when our party needs to unite to protect the values and commitments we hold dear," wrote James Segel, a former state representative and aide to Barney Frank, in a letter. "If adopted it is almost certain to spark a bitter, very public, and entirely unnecessary debate that would seriously undermine party unity and alienate many of our core supporters."

MassLive reports that Segel has gone so far as to propose an alternate resolution that states that there are "many impediments" to peace in the region.

"These include Palestinian incitement and terrorism, Israeli settlement expansion, and many others," the resolution reads. "To achieve a lasting solution to this conflict, both sides will have to make significant concessions and refrain from actions that undermine prospects for peace."

Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim also reportedly characterized Coakley's effort as "unnecessarily divisive."

Yet flying in the face of such critique is the fact that Coakley's resolution quotes from Obama's State Department, which at one point described the settlements as "corrosive to the cause of peace." Such statements don't seem to have hurt Obama in Massachusetts: state voters overwhelmingly supported Obama in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections.

Cole Harrison, the executive director of Massachusetts Peace Action, testified Wednesday before a subcommittee in support of Coakley's resolution, the Globe reported, and characterized Grossman's statements as "scare tactics."

"This resolution targets a hypocrisy in the position of the national Democratic Party—let's call it the Hillary-wing of the party—which says it supports a two-state solution, but gives huge aid and backing to Israel and very little to Palestinians," Harrison said, according to the Globe.

MassLive further reports that "Coakley said she was inspired to bring the issue to the Massachusetts party in August, after the national fight," referring to failed attempts by supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to include statements in the Democratic Party platform condemning Israel's West Bank settlements.

"Because the national party could not come to grips with it, or acknowledge the problem, perhaps one state could do it, and perhaps another state could follow, and maybe in four years we'll be able to say Palestinians have rights too," Coakley said.

The subcommittee created to study the resolution will vote on it over the weekend, the Globe reports: "The subcommittee has several options. It can refer the document to the full state committee for a vote on April 29. It can table the resolution. It could amend it. Or members can farm it out to another subcommittee for more review."

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