GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – There is one place that some prominent Democrats in North Carolina didn’t want to go politically – Israel – yet some members of their party have dragged them there anyway, a conundrum Republicans are happy to point out.

Jewish organizations are suggesting that Democrats in the state were ignoring their interests when in June they adopted resolutions that acknowledge and perhaps even embrace Palestine. One Jewish news outlet even called the positions “anti-Israel.”

Cheri Beasley, the Democratic candidate for the open U.S. Senate seat, and Kathy Manning of Greensboro, up for re-election in the 6th Congressional District, say they don’t endorse these positions, which were adopted by the several hundred who attended the state convention in Durham.

Democratic Senate candidate Cheri Beasley (WGHP)

These were not campaign platform planks, as some have suggested, but resolutions brought in motions and passed by a majority of those present, no matter the views of party leaders or candidates.

The first resolution is titled “A Resolution in Support of Human Rights in Israel/Palestine,” and it goes on with three pages of stipulations about human rights issues and “violations” that include the treatment of the Palestinians.

It resolves, in part, that the NCDP will “call on the United States [to] follow the international recommendations to screen its aid and other economic and security relations with Israel for materials and other projects that go towards Israeli violations of human rights.”

A second resolution calls for an independent investigation of the killing on May 11 of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian/American who worked for Al Jazeera. Some evidence suggests she was killed by Israeli forces.

Rep. Kathy Manning (D-Greensboro) (Courtesy of US House of Representatives)
Rep. Kathy Manning (D-Greensboro) (Courtesy of US House of Representatives)

The resolution says the NCDP should “support the bipartisan calls in Congress for a thorough, independent and transparent investigation by the State Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigations into the killing of American citizen and journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.”

Those are positions that at least some Jewish leaders find repulsive.

“We did not think that the platform positions were written with the interest of advancing peace,” Rabbi Eliezer Sneiderman, director of Jewish community relations for the Greensboro Jewish Federation, said in response to questions from WGHP. “The Jewish Federation opposes efforts to delegitimize and demonize Israel.”

Sneiderman said the Jewish Federation did not have a voice in the development or adoption of the positions.

“We did, however, along with a group composed of Jewish Federations and JCRCs from around the state, express our concern over divisive positions,” he said. “The goal of any party should be advancing its main objectives and divisive side issues do not necessarily accomplish that.”

Beasley, embroiled in what most polls show as a dead-even race against Republican Rep. Ted Budd (R-Advance) to replace retiring Richard Burr, said she did not support the resolutions.

“I strongly condemn the anti-Israel resolutions brought forward at the NCDP state convention, and remain deeply committed to supporting and protecting Israel,” Beasley said in a statement released by her staff. “I will always stand up against hate, bigotry, and antisemitism and will work to ensure North Carolina is a safe and welcoming home to all.”

Manning’s statement

For Manning, the issue is as much personal as political. She is the only Jewish representative from North Carolina and one of 27 – all but two of them Democrats – in the House. There are 10 Jewish senators as of 2021. Her words somewhat mirrored Beasley’s.

“I strongly condemn the anti-Israel resolutions brought forward at the North Carolina Democratic Party State Convention,” she said in a statement. “I am deeply concerned by the misinformation and bigotry contained in these resolutions. These resolutions are divisive and do not reflect the values of the vast majority of North Carolinians, who support the strong US- Israel relationship.

“In addition, at a time of rising antisemitism, these inflammatory resolutions are dangerous. I remain committed to supporting our ally Israel and I call upon my fellow North Carolinians to speak out against any form of hate, bigotry, or antisemitism.”

Republicans support Israel

GOP Senate nominee Ted Budd (WGHP)

Ironically, Budd tends to agree with Beasley and Manning that the Democrats’ adopted resolutions about Israel are inappropriate.

“The choice for U.S. Senators is not complicated,” Budd said in a statement released by his campaign. “On one side you have Hamas, a terrorist organization who fires thousands of rockets at civilians and whose founding charter calls for Israel’s destruction.

“On the other side you have Israel, our friend, our ally, and a force for stability in the region. Israel has every right to defend themselves, and the United States of America should always have their back.”

 ‘No such political entity as Palestine’

Israel Hayom in an analysis published last month criticized the party for adopting “A Resolution in Support of Human Rights in Israel/Palestine,” asserting that “there is no such political entity as ‘Palestine.’” Then it cited a “Resolution for an Independent Investigation of the Killing of Shireen Abu Akleh,” because “Palestinian obstruction was not mentioned in the resolution.”

The publication said those resolutions and two more that were not adopted were “put forward by NCDP party operatives who have deep anti-Israel histories.”

Israel Hayom also cites 41 mentions of Israel in the NCDP’s Final 2022 Resolution Report.

The issue about Israel and Palestinians has its roots in the Old Testament but its escalation in 1948, when the state of Israel was created after World War II. The issue has divided Americans in recent years.

The Pew Research center surveyed 10,441 adults in March and found conservatives are more likely to have “positive reviews of the Israeli people.”  Pew said that 78% of at least Republican-leaning adults had very/somewhat favorable views of Israelis, compared to 37% of Palestinians.

And 2 out of 3 have more positive views of the Israeli government. Those trends need to be vested more deeply in older people.

About this process

The votes by NC Democrats approved 34 pages of resolutions grouped under various topics. They included such “whereas” items as thanks to two retiring members of Congress, 1st District Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-Wilson) and 4th District Rep. David Price (D-Durham), to support for President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

They addressed voting rights, abortion rights, climate change, support for Ukraine and dozens of other both broad and nuanced issues. Including, yes, Israel.

NCDP Chair Bobbie Richardson (WGHP)

Party officials say they really have no voice over what might be “resolved” because ultimately, it’s a Democratic process, with the most votes carrying the issue. Not all suggested resolutions are adopted, so why was this one?

Bobbie Ricardson, the state chair, sought to answer that question.

“The North Carolina Democratic Party operates and upholds the State Party Platform as well as the National Democratic Party Platform,” she said in a statement released by the NCDP. “The State and National Party platforms are the statements of our core values, a set of principles, goals, and strategies for addressing the pressing issues of our time as voted on by our democratic body.”

That party’s platform for 2022 regarding the “State of Israel and the Palestinian people” says:

“We support a vigorous diplomatic engagement for Middle East peace, with the United States acting as a neutral mediator between the State of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, with the goal of guaranteeing security for Israel, establishing peace in the region and restoring full human rights to the Palestinian populations including the right to self-determination.”

A resolution adopted by the National Democratic Party that the state group “upholds” goes into more detail:

“Democrats recognize the worth of every Israeli and every Palestinian,” it states in part. “That’s why we will work to help bring to an end a conflict that has brought so much pain to so many. We support a negotiated two-state solution that ensures Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state with recognized borders and upholds the right of Palestinians to live in freedom and security in a viable state of their own.”

One party official suggests that an example might be that the party’s platform supports equal rights for women, but the members voted on a resolution to approve the Equal Rights Amendment, which has languished in North Carolina during required ratifications.

Was this appropriate?

Should these resolutions have been considered and adopted at all?

Chris Cooper of Western Carolina University (WCU)

Chris Cooper, a political science professor and elections expert from Western Carolina University, said this represents a “disconnect” between the party and the candidates.

“Political parties are messy organizations – full of members with varying degrees of tie-in to the broader mission,” Cooper told WGHP. “It’s important, but not particularly surprising that the party organization wouldn’t run the resolutions by its top elected officials.

“We’ve all certainly read a lot about disagreements within the Republican Party, but it’s also notable and important that the Democrats are not in lockstep, either. It’s the nature of a two-party system.”

Sneiderman of Greensboro’s Jewish Federation said that “foreign Policy is not an area that drives state-level politics. Platforms of this nature are driven by niche interests which do not have the overall success and health of the party as a central focus. They also do not have the goal of advancing peace.

“The political situation in the Middle East is complex. Understanding and resolution of the situation will not be advanced by a one-page, one-sided platform resolution.”

Said Jonathan Felts, a senior adviser to Budd: “Israel is our strongest ally in the Middle East and, at some points in our history, has been our only ally in the Middle East, standing as a lonely beacon of Democracy in the region.

“So, it’s disappointing that the NC Democrat Party chooses to lash out at Israel in an apparent effort to coddle favor with Hamas and other organizations who have made the destruction of Israel their number one priority.

“I hope Cheri Beasley will join Ted Budd in condemning the NC Democrat Party platform attacking Israel.”