September 14, 2015

Labor Day Experience

Shortly after 9:30 AM, my sign ( Democratic Party Supports Israeli Genocide in Gaza)
and I entered the Oaks Park picnic grounds via the South central walk way. Jim Robison, former
Multnomah County Democratic (MDC) Chair , environmental activist, and strong advocate for
Single Payer Healthcare, gave me a smile as I walked down the pathway from the Southern
entrance to the North West entrance.

James Strassmaier and Lane Poncy were at an ”Oral History of Labor” table and I spent some
time with them. While at the table, a Bernie Sanders supporter sought my signature of support
for Bernie but I declined because of his Zionist views.  As she was departing, she expressed
support for my cause and her intention to check into Bernie’s position on the issue. I then moved
next door to the Democratic Party Table.

The two women at the Demo table expressed indignation at the suggestion that they, as Democratic
Party members, might be implicated as supporters of the Genocide that is slowly taking place
every day in Gaza. When the younger of the two tablers tried to say that President Obama,
head of the Democratic Party, can’t do everything, I explained that everybody does what they
can and that I was doing what little I could do by carrying my sign. I did my best to explain the
the MDC defeat of Peter Miller’s resolution condemning Israel for War Crimes during Operation
“Caste Lead” ( December 27th , 2008 to just before Obama’s inauguration in January 2009).
There was little reaction from these two faithful Democrats.

For those readers who are not Multnomah County Democratic Party insiders, at the January
2009 MDC meeting, Peter Miller, a dedicated supporter of Palestinian human rights collected
sufficient signatures to introduce an emergency resolution, calling out Israeli War Crimes
against the Palestinians and calling for Israel to be held accountable. Uncomfortable with the
resolution, the Zionist wing of the MCD party had the resolution referred to the MCD executive
committee for refinement. Rather than edit Peter’s resolution, a second resolution was written
and both resolutions were presented at the February MCD meeting. After some heavy lobbying
from Multnomah County Democratic Party stalwart and Zionist, Sue Hagmeier, the new
resolution was approved as a substitute. The new resolution replaced War Crimes and War
Criminals with two sets of victims, Palestinians and Israeli, and accountability was replaced
with hope for a better future. With the death of 22,000 Palestinians, including 500 children, at the
hands of the Israeli war machine all the MCD could muster was a hope for a “better future “

After leaving the MCD table, I signed a petition for increasing the minimum tax for corporations
that do more than $25 million in business in Oregon and talked with a team promoting a
candidate for Multnomah County Commissioner. While standing in front of the Bernie Sanders
table, a woman, claiming to be an organizing official, confronted me and said that only
organizations that had paid for tables were allowed to do any vending and that I would have to
leave. When I explained that I “was not doing any vending”, she signaled her boss and picnic
companion Bob Petroff, Northwest Labor Council President. When he asked that I leave with my
sign, my response was: “I’m not sure that I want to do that”. Vagueness tends to reduce

He then cautioned, in mildly threatening language: “If you don’t leave, I will have to resort to
my own personal remedies.” The obvious threat, however, was tagged with not so definite
description of an area near the miniature railroad tracks where I might stand. We shook hands
and I walked toward the Eastern entrance where I met up with Tim Calvert, an uncompromising
supporter of Palestinian Human Rights. His sign read, Boycott IsraHell. (There is a powerfully
directed message in two words)

Tim and I stood near the railroad tracks and conversed with politicos until noon when a beady
eyed plainclothes security type used his smart phone to notify Petroff’s secretary that we were
“still there.” Upon her arrival, Tim and I were puzzled by the woman’s antagonism, and asked if
she was a Zionist. She denied being a Zionist but was unresponsive when questioned about
obligations to defend free speech and to stand in “solidarity” with besieged and oppressed
people like the Palestinians. “Solidarity” was part of the posted themes for the Labor Day Picnic.
Since Tim had a business appointment and I had a been at the picnic for over 2 1/2 hours, we
left together with a very clear picture that Organized Labor and the Democratic Party are not
reliable partners in the struggle for a better society.

by Herschel Soles

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