Our Fight To Get the Democratic Party To Call for a Ceasefire in Gaza

The Palestinian American experience these past eight months has been unlike any other. Every day, I wake up thinking this has to be a nightmare, the pain and heaviness in my heart is indescribable.

Additionally, as a Democrat, it has hurt to see so many elected officials and long-time allies stay silent during the televised genocide and ethnic cleansing of my people.

At the same time, I feel judged for not giving up on the Democratic Party. I still believe that the two parties are vehicles to help make changes in policy, and my path to achieve that change is the Democratic Party. I haven’t given up on the values the Democratic Party is supposed to stand for. I believe it is the party of the people, despite our leadership’s betrayal of our progressive values that are supposed to include human rights, equality and justice for all.

In these eight months, countless Americans have attempted to achieve justice for my people through various methods. I chose to keep advocating for our party to call for a ceasefire and recognize Israel’s war crimes and atrocities against Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. To say this has been difficult is an understatement.

In April, I submitted a resolution with co-author Yoana Tchoukleva, an elected delegate of the California Democratic Party, calling for an immediate and permanent ceasefire as well as placing conditions on military aid to Israel. You can read our full resolution here.

About a week before our Executive Board meeting, Agi Kessler, one of the co-chairs of the Resolutions Committee, contacted us. She stated that since the committee received three resolutions on the same subject, they combined them into one combined resolution.

On Mother’s Day, we spoke with Ms. Kessler, who kindly explained the process and asked if we wanted to be authors on the combined resolution. The new resolution’s language was problematic. As a Palestinian, it was dehumanizing.

The combined resolution was not fact-based and did not assign appropriate blame to Israel. The majority of the resolution blamed everything on Hamas for using civilians as human shields, ignoring the thousands of US-made bombs Israel has dropped on Gaza over the past eight months. The text focused on the October 7 attack while minimizing the ongoing misery of 2.3 million people in Gaza.

We asked Ms. Kessler to give us time to decide if we wanted to sign on to the resolution, and she kindly agreed. If Yoana and I didn’t agree to be authors, we would be excluded from the process of making edits to the combined resolution and speaking before the committee. However, we knew many would be upset with Yoana and me for putting our names on a resolution that minimized and dismissed the atrocities committed against Palestinians by Israel. It was an extremely difficult decision for us.

Ultimately, Yoana and I agreed to add our names so we could possibly change the language or kill the resolution. We wanted to prevent text that was harmful to Palestinians. It would also be embarrassing for the party to pass something so problematic. The resolution was not factual and didn’t represent the reality of what is happening in Gaza.

We were both scared, but we decided to use the process available to make our voices heard with the hope of influencing change. Several people cautioned us that we would not make a difference.

I just knew we had to try, as did Yoana. It is my personal belief that I’m obligated to engage in the process as much as possible. Those in leadership need to be challenged, or change will not happen. We can’t give up and surrender a space because if we do, they will continue to win.

My plan was to speak from the heart and from the perspective of a Palestinian. I felt it would be easy to reject a resolution, but to deny a person is different. I focused my arguments on the lies and neglect of concern for the plight of the Palestinian people in the text of the resolution. I explained how passing it would hurt our party and how the party has lost credibility with people unregistering from the Democratic Party in record numbers.

Yoana illustrated how, regardless of Hamas’ actions, Israel is still violating its obligations under international law to protect civilians. Edison Gomez-Krauss, who authored one of the other original resolutions, gave testimony on why he supported all our edits. We presented a unified front.

The debate over the text at The California Democratic Party Resolutions Committee meeting lasted over two and a half hours. The discussion included many tense moments, but ultimately, we convinced over a dozen committee members to accept our edits to the combined resolution.

The final language is not perfect, but it appropriately assigns blame to Israel, not just Hamas. It addresses the dehumanization of Palestinians in the West Bank and calls for an immediate and durable ceasefire. Of course, a lot of work was done to reach out to other authors and talk to them about supporting our edits. I feel many hearts were changed that evening. It took time, but it happened.

It took a village and a belief that once people realize what is happening in Gaza, they would be convinced of the need to call for a ceasefire to the Israeli onslaught. It was time for the California Democratic Party to make a statement recognizing the reality of the suffering of the Palestinian people, and on May 17, 2024, that happened.

This isn’t the end; it is just one step in the right direction. Hopefully, this resolution sends a message to our President and members of Congress who represent California who haven’t called for a ceasefire to finally do so. As a Palestinian, I can’t give up – I have to keep trying. If we give up, they win. Justice isn’t cheap, but it is always worth fighting for.

Mirvette Judeh, a Palestinian born in Puerto Rico, is an impactful community leader and dedicated activist, recognized for her roles including former Vice Chair of the Arab American Civic Council and key organizer for the designation of Little Arabia in Anaheim. Her commitment to social justice extends through her recognized engagement in political campaigns, unions, and community-affecting issues, evidencing a deep commitment to advocacy and change. Passionate about supporting the underserved, including single mothers and the unhoused, Mirvette has also significantly contributed as a Democratic Party of Orange County Central Committee Member, state delegate to California Democratic Party (CDP) through central committee. She is serving as  southern vice chair of the Arab American Caucus of the CDP. For the past 8 months her involvement in the SoCal ceasefire coalition, advocating for peace and a ceasefire in response to the Gaza assault, further highlights her dedication to social justice. The eldest of six and the first in her family to graduate from college, Mirvette holds a B.S. in Psychology from the University of California, Irvine, and an M.S. from Pepperdine University. Her relentless pursuit of  justice, community improvement and belief in the power of collective action continue to drive her efforts towards positive change.