Democratic pro-Israel group takes credit for Sanders dropping out, fundraises off keeping Dem platform pro-Israel

Michael Arria  /  April 10, 2020

out an email this morning, celebrating the fact that Bernie Sanders dropped out of the presidential race and gearing its supporters up for a fight to keep the Democratic platform pro-Israel (DMFI).

The email, which was written by DMFI President Mark Mellman, takes partial credit for Sanders’s departure. “Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign for president,” Mellman, “That’s a big victory — one you helped bring about.”

Before Iowa’s January caucus, DMFI did run a series of anti-Sanders ads in Iowa, but the Vermont Sanders won the state’s popular vote anyway. The group spent more than $800,000 on the ads and the effort helped Sanders raise $1.3 million in just one day.

Mellman declares that the lobbying organization’s next battle will be over the Democratic platform. “Extreme groups aligned with Sanders, as well as some of his top surrogates — including Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar — have publicly declared an effort to make the platform anti-Israel,” he writes. Mellman points out that, while some people dismiss the importance of party platforms, the GOP effectively became an anti-abortion party after modifying its platform in 1976. “As a career political professional, I will tell you that if Democrats adopt an anti-Israel platform this year, the vocabulary, views, and votes of politicians will shift against us dramatically,” writes Mellman, “We simply can’t afford to lose this battle.”

In 2016, members of the Sanders campaign pushed for language calling for an end to the occupation and settlement expansion. That effort was ultimately rejected by the platform drafting committee in a vote of 8-5. However, the platform did include language regarding Palestinian statehood.

DMFI was established by Democratic donors and insider in 2019, to stave off a growing sympathy for Palestinians within the party. Last July, they sent a list of pro-Israel talking points for Democratic candidates to use if they were confronted by anti-occupation activists during campaign stops. The group has consistently insisted that lawmakers like Sanders and Omar are outside of the mainstream on the issue, but there is a lot of polling showing that Democratic voters are to the left of their own party on the subject of Israel/Palestine. In fact, a recent University of Maryland Critical Issues Poll found that almost half of the Democratic voters familiar with BDS support the movement.

Michael Arria is the U.S. correspondent for Mondoweiss