We, the Pittsburgh Chapter of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), reaffirm our commitment to Palestinian Liberation. We join the chorus of DSA chapters formally rebuking the DSA National Political Committee’s (NPC’s) decision to de-charter the Boycott, Divest, & Sanction and Palestine Solidarity Working Group (BDSWG) and to remove the organizers who were doing work in that group from current and future leadership positions.
At the 2019 Convention of the DSA, member delegates voted to pass Resolution #35 which reads, (in part, full text can be read here):
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.
In late 2021, a DSA-endorsed congressman, Jamaal Bowman of New York’s 16th district, voted to support Israeli Iron Dome defense funding, met with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, and took a trip to Israel sponsored by J Street, a pro-Israel lobby group. These actions, along with a failure of attempted meetings to produce course corrections from Rep. Bownman led to calls from BDSWG (among others) for the NPC to censure or expel Rep. Bowman from DSA membership. Ultimately, neither occurred. Instead the NPC retaliated against the BDSWG by de-chartering the working group and banning its leaders from future leadership positions in the DSA for one year.
The decision to de-charter the group was undemocratic, was not supported by our bylaws, and remains highly detrimental to the future of this organization on a strategic level insofar as it sent a message to our Palestinian members and other leftist organizations that Palestine is not a priority for DSA, and that we are more interested in building personal relationships with elected officials than adhering to our democratically determined values.
It is the position of the Pittsburgh DSA that the BDSWG was unjustly punished for legitimate public criticism of the NPC’s actions in contravention to the will of DSA’s membership, as expressed at the 2019 convention. While the NPC has attempted to justify these undemocratic actions as a response to harassment, grievances among individual members should have been resolved through existing harassment and grievance channels, rather than through the undemocratic collective punishment of the BDSWG.
While the NPC has since partially reversed their decision, by reinstating the BDSWG as a working group, it has failed to reinstate the leaders who were unjustly removed from the group and banned from future leadership positions for one year.
As an chapter, we want to be clear: Palestinian liberation is a priority in our organizing. The Pittsburgh DSA has been proud to support local Palestinian justice coalitions—including The Pittsburgh Coalition to End the Deadly Exchange and the Pittsburgh BDS Coalition—and to host the BDSWG at our January 2022 General Body Meeting. Our chapter also voted unanimously at our March General Body Meeting to issue our own BDS Resolution which holds us to support the Pittsburgh BDS Coalition, to avoid purchasing boycotted products or services with chapter funds, and to hold our own endorsed candidates accountable for anti-BDS stances or actions.
Therefore, the Pittsburgh DSA makes the following demands:.
- Reinstate the leaders of the BDSWG who have full rights, in a democratic organization, to freely and openly critique the broader organization and its leadership, the NPC, when they violate adopted resolutions of the general membership. The freedom to publicly criticism of leadership is essential to any democratic institution.
- Revoke the one-year ban on these members running for future leadership positions.
In closing, we want to thank the members and leaders of the BDSWG, the minority of the NPC who spoke out against the decision and provided the membership with transparency throughout the process, and our fellow DSA chapters, working groups, and members who have continued to unconditionally support Palestinian liberation.
[Approved by the General Body, May 16, 2022]