DSA’s New Pro-BDS Resolution

The Third Narrative first noted the dramatic changes in the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) by posting a piece by writer-activist JoAnn Mort, a founding member of DSA and board member of Americans for Peace Now, reacting negatively to DSA’s full embrace of BDS at its national convention in 2017 (that resolution’s text is included at the bottom of our post today).  By way of contrast, Jacob Plitman, who emerged in 2018 as the new editor of Jewish Currents and now its publisher, wrote a very positive report for JC in August 2017, “A BDS Endorsement from a Resurgent DSA.”  

Plitman’s article included a minor error (which may have been a typo) stating that DSA was created in 1992 rather than 1982.  More seriously, there was not one word about the BDS resolution’s silence concerning Palestinian terror attacks which repeatedly won elections for Israel’s right, nor how Israel’s construction of the West Bank barrier was conceived as a defensive response, with this intent distorted into also serving as an instrument of occupation and settlement expansion.  

There’s also nothing about how impossible it would be for an unrestricted return of 1948 refugees and their descendants to what became Israel.  Nor is there anything about the centuries of oppression and then the Nazi genocide that motivated Israel’s creation.  Finally, Plitman voices no concern about how BDS is allied with “anti-normalization” efforts, which even undercuts the ability of dovish Israelis to team up with Palestinian activists to oppose the recurring human rights abuses inherent in the ongoing occupation.   

Organizationally, DSA has experienced phenomenal growth since Sen. Bernie Sanders’ spirited run for the Democratic Presidential nomination four years ago.  It had grown from about 6,000 members to 25,000 when Plitman wrote his article in 2017, to at least 56,000 currently as reported by Harold Meyerson in The American Prospect, August 9, 2019, “What the Socialists Just Did and Why.”  Meyerson, like Mort, an original member of DSA, writes of the wildly swirling currents within an organization that is suddenly imbued with enormous youthful energy not seen on the left since the 1960s, but he writes nothing about Israel and BDS.   

Among the 168 pages of resolutions passed at DSA’s 2019 national convention in Atlanta during the first weekend in August, is Resolution #35, to “Establish a National BDS and Palestine Solidarity Working Group”:

Be it resolved that the Democratic Socialists of America establish a national working group dedicated to BDS and Palestine Solidarity; 

Be it resolved that the National will allow autonomous leadership and membership of said working group; 

Be it resolved that the National will reaffirm BDS and Palestine solidarity as a priority for the national organization and further commit itself to organizing in solidarity with the BDS movement, which urges nonviolent pressure on Israel until it meets three demands: ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall; recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194. 

Background Information 

Whereas, the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) endorsed the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement at its 2017 national convention; 

Whereas, the DSA Internationalism Committee is a closed, application-based committee with a limited number of spots and thus cannot facilitate the kind of open collaboration among rank- and-file members that is necessary to advance BDS and Palestine solidarity work; 

Whereas, DSA working groups help link DSA to critical social movements and provide an important mechanism through which DSA members can mobilize around particular issues within the organization, and which anyone can become a member; 

Whereas, a number of local DSA chapters are already involved in local and national level Palestine solidarity and BDS campaign organizing, in coordination with local and national Palestine solidarity organizations, and consolidation and coordination of these efforts would further develop and expand this work in DSA chapters. 

The full text of the DSA resolution of August 2017, supporting BDS, reads as follows:

Whereas, on July 9, 2005 all major Palestinian civil society groups, including all major trade unions, issued an open letter calling for “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel Until it Complies with International Law and Universal Principles of Human Rights (BDS Call);

Whereas, July 9, 2005 marked the first anniversary of the International Court of Justice finding that  Israel’s construction of a wall annexing Palestinian territory in the West Bank to be illegal;

Whereas, the BDS Call noted one year later, Israel continued “construction of the colonial Wall with total disregard to the Court’s decision;”

Whereas, according to the BDS Call “all forms of international intervention and peace-making have until now failed to convince or force Israel to comply with humanitarian law, to respect fundamental human rights and to end its occupation and oppression of the people of Palestine;”

Whereas, in light of this failure, Palestinian civil society has asked for global civil society and people of conscience to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel until it recognized the basic human rights of the Palestinian people by: ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall, recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and; respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194;

Whereas, Palestinian trade unions are unanimous in their support of BDS and all three major Palestinian trade union federations are part of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions National Committee (BNC);

Whereas, DSA would be joining other US-based groups and unions in supporting BDS, including the United Electrical Workers, the Connecticut AFL-CIO, UAW Locals 2865, 2110, 2322, AFT Local 3220, the National Lawyers Guild, the American Studies Association, the African Literature Association, the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, the Association for Asian American Studies, Jewish Voice for Peace, among others;

Whereas, since 1948 Israel has denied the right of return to Palestinian refugees;

Whereas, today there are five million refugees registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees;

Whereas, since 1967 Israel has militarily occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza, and the Golan Heights;

Whereas, Israel has engaged in a program of rapacious colonization (“settlements”) of the Occupied Palestinian Territories,

Whereas, Israeli settlers in the West Bank are given the rights of Israeli citizenship, subject to civilian law, and are permitted to drive on roads barred to Palestinians;

Whereas, Palestinians in the West Bank are not Israeli citizens, are subjected to military law, including being tried in military courts with a 99% conviction rate, are forced to drive on different roads, go through military checkpoints, are subjected to collective punishment, such as house demolitions, and have their land annexed and colonized to build settlements in which they are forbidden to live;

Whereas, there are today at least 50 laws that discriminate against Palestinians with Israeli citizenship;

Whereas, all of the aforementioned constitutes apartheid;

Whereas, since 2007 Israel has maintained a ruthless siege of Gaza, home of 1.9 million Palestinians, including 1.3 million Palestinian refugees, limiting access to food, electricity, and other basic materials, restricting movement, and transforming Gaza into an open air prison;

Whereas, Israel has since the blockage engaged in three wars against Gaza, which included sustained aerial bombing and the use of white phosphorous;

Whereas, since Gaza, is one of the most densely populated areas on Earth any widespread bombing is by its very nature a war against civilians;

Whereas, Democratic Socialists of America has condemned Israeli settlements and its bombings of Gaza;

Whereas, Democratic Socialists of America already supports “partial BDS” (boycotts of settlement goods);

Whereas, Democratic Socialists of America has endorsed the Movement For Black Lives Platform, which includes support for BDS;

Whereas, Democratic Socialists of America and Young Democratic Socialists played an important role in the historic international movement against South African Apartheid, upon which the BDS call is based;

Whereas, BDS is an inclusive, anti-racist human rights movement that is opposed on principle to all forms of discrimination, including anti-semitism and Islamophobia;

Whereas, Israel is the largest recipient of US military aid, making the US complicit in Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights;

Whereas, socialists have a responsibility to side with the oppressed and are committed to their unconditional liberation:


1. Democratic Socialists of America declares itself in solidarity with Palestinian civil society’s nonviolent struggle against apartheid, colonialism, military occupation and for equality, human rights, and self-determination.

2. Democratic Socialists of America responds to Palestinian Civil Society’s call by fully supporting BDS.

3. Democratic Socialists of America affirms that any political solution to the ongoing crisis must be premised on the realization of basic human rights, including all rights outlined in the BDS call.

4. Within 30 days after passing, a copy of this resolution shall be sent to the BNC.