DFL Convention Resolutions Brings Intra-Party Unrest

A Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party action agenda resolution condemning antisemitism had language affirming Israel’s right to exist removed on Saturday, opening it up to a vote from the delegates at the state convention. The resolution was one of a number that had a connection to Israel in the wake of a Hamas attack on Oct. 7 which has led to the war between the two, but only two of them ended up passing.

The original wording of the resolution was: “The Minnesota DFL condemns antisemitism in all its forms, including the targeting of Jews as individuals, as a people, or denial of the right of the state of Israel to exist, and is committed to combating anti-Jewish bias in all of its manifestations.” What made the final slate for delegates to vote on was “The Minnesota DFL condemns antisemitism in all its forms, including the targeting of Jews as individuals or as a people, and is committed to combating anti-Jewish bias in all of its manifestations.”

The other item that passed after a significant amendment: “The Minnesota DFL supports immediate release of hostages, immediate humanitarian aid, and an immediate cease-fire through continued peace efforts in Gaza, as well as supporting a two-state solution that affirms the rights of both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples each to have their own states within safe and secure borders”; the edited version took out supporting a two-state solution and added a line about the release of prisoners held in Israel without trial.

“The larger problem is there are lots of young folks who found a cause to rally behind who don’t know issues or history,” said State Sen. Bonnie Westlin, a Jewish member of the legislature who was a delegate. “I would like a ceasefire, hostages to go home, and a two-state solution. I’m horrified by what’s happening in Gaza, but theirs is a one-sided narrative of a free-Palestine movement.” 

There were 113 resolutions that the delegates were voting for, and each item required a 60% vote of those in the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. The final language for each can be read here, Of the 113 resolutions, 33 did not pass

The removal of the two-state solution angered other Jewish delegates.

“That one I was most upset about,” said convention delegate Rafi Geretz. “The resolution was acceptable (initially), but it was no longer acceptable with those changes.”

Joe Lifland said that many speakers were advocating a one-state solution.

“We were a part of the resolutions committee…it’s amazing that they can change the will of what precinct caucuses and senate districts did,” he said. “All of a sudden, at the end they’re changing the meaning of what people tried to convey.”

Said Westlin: “Their situation is to literally get rid of Israel and they don’t understand the ramifications of what they want to do.”

Later on Sunday, at the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas annual event, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said that people are debating a topic that he doesn’t see as debatable: Israel’s right of self-determination.

“The failure to recognize the State of Israel is taking away that self-determination, so it is antisemitic,” he said. “We talk about a two-state solution. We talk about finding partners that we could work with. That’s a goal that so many in here, I’ve worked alongside you trying to find out what the ability of a sovereign Israel to defend and protect its people…that is foundational to everything.

“Here in our part of the world, the state of Minnesota, with our allies in the federal government, we’re making sure we’re doing all we can to protect our Jewish citizens to push back on antisemitism.”

Confusion and anger

According to bylaws in the DFL Constitution, action agenda resolutions cannot contradict what is in the party platform, according to a source with knowledge of the platform committee’s processes. 

In the “National Security & International Policy” section of the 2022 party platform, one entry reads: “We support: … Israel’s right to exist within secure borders, Palestinian rights to self-determination, and continued peace efforts in the Middle East.”

“To those of experiencing it, it was an antisemitic act,” said Deb Calvert, a Minnetonka City Councilmember and a delegate. “But it doesn’t change anything.”

DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin said nothing changes in the platform despite the resolution fight. 

“The action agenda is an every-two-year deal of legislation people want to push for,” Martin explained. “There was a concern raised that a number of these [agenda items] should not have been there because are not piece of legislation that are actionable in Washington, D.C. or St. Paul.”

Yischa Bracha, a first-time delegate at the state convention, said that part of the reason the amendments passed is that people left the conference for one reason or another.

“It had been going on so long and people didn’t think anything important was happening,” she said. “That’s when those on the left took over and used the segment on the agenda that had been set aside for debate on resolutions to use as an opportunity to demonize Israel and turn it into hate-fest.

“When they were driving through their most horrific, objectionable amendments, they were winning by two-thirds, but it was two-thirds of half of the convention. When the ballot opened up and more people could vote electronically, most of those did not win.”

“We were outgunned, outnumbered, outmanned, outplanned,” said Geretz, quoting Hamilton. “The other side had their [stuff] together, had amendments ready, and knew what to do. We were unprepared.”

The “what is antisemitism” item wasn’t the worst of what was proposed, several people said, among which was supporting the funding of UNRWA; that one didn’t pass. 

“We were on the floor trying to beat back a bunch of these,” Martin said. “It was a success and a testament to Deb Calvert, Bonnie Westlin, Dick Cohen and others. “[The antisemitism one] seems to be the most offensive in the way they amended it. But it doesn’t change the platform.”

Bracha said that the resolution debate showed no facts or logic, and that she decided to speak at the convention after hearing multiple others accuse Israel of genocide, ethnic cleansing, and war crimes.

In her remarks to the body, she said: “These resolutions are nothing but an attempt to vilify the world’s only Jewish state. There is no genocide in Gaza. There is no ethnic cleansing. There is a war that Hamas started on October 7.”

Westlin said that the lack of historical context is a problem.

“You can’t take white colonialist framing of America and put it on what’s happening in Israel. We’ve faced and prayed to Jerusalem for millennia, but they don’t seem interested in learning that history,” she said. “One can stand with Israel, and demand justice for the murders of 1,200 innocents, the rape of women, the hostages taken, and be horrified at the loss of life in Gaza These are not mutually exclusive feelings. That’s what those who want peace want: Israel to be safe and secure in their borders, and a Palestine that has autonomy but not at war.”

(Editor’s note: some of the quotes have been amended from the original version; an error was made due to an unreliable connection in the interview, and another that the speaker request to change after reflection.)