Andrew Gillum vows support for anti-BDS legislation in unreleased campaign document

click to enlarge Andrew Gillum gives a speech in Orlando at a Democratic unity rally on Friday, Aug. 31. - Photo by Joey Roulette
Photo by Joey Roulette
Andrew Gillum gives a speech in Orlando at a Democratic unity rally on Friday, Aug. 31.

As the Democratic gubernatorial nominee for governor, Andrew Gillum has remained largely silent when it comes to Israel and Palestine, a highly polarized — yet bipartisan — topic many view to be a critical factor in weighing support for politicians and candidates. With an unapologetically progressive campaign, the Tallahassee mayor’s discreet but fervent support for Israel and objections to Palestinian dissent, based on a campaign position paper shared with Orlando Weekly, come as a surprise to his left-wing base but a nod to some of Florida’s Jewish voters — a coveted campaign-season demographic.

Gillum’s 413-word platform on the issue outlines his belief in a two-state solution, support for former President Barack Obama’s 10-year, $38 billion military aid package to Israel, and endorsement of strong anti-BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanction) policies that go as far as to include a bill preventing Florida “from investing in or doing business with” companies that protest Israel.

"I will continue to support anti-Boycott, Divest and Sanctions [BDS] legislation passed last year with overwhelming support in both houses of the legislature," Gillum said, referring to Florida's Senate Bill 86, which prevents the state from working with companies that protest Israel. The bill passed unanimously in the Florida Senate in 2016 and requires the State Board of Administration to maintain a database of "scrutinized companies" boycotting Israel.

With grass-roots traction in the U.S., BDS is a Palestinian-led movement boycotting Israel in various forms, similar to the South African anti-apartheid movement, the group says on its website. "The BDS call urges action to pressure Israel to comply with international law." For decades, Israel has received widespread international scrutiny for its disproportionate response tactics against Palestinian civilians and Hamas, a dominant terror faction in Gaza that launches homemade explosives into Israel, endangering Israeli citizens.

“As Governor, I will continue to push back against anti-Israel efforts, like BDS, that question Israel's existence as a Jewish state, and will support bipartisan measures that help deter such practice,” Gillum added.

A spokesperson with the Gillum campaign verified the authenticity of the position paper on Wednesday, confirming that it is "a paper the campaign produced."

"This is an extremely nuanced issue, and through his own personal experience and his own ideals, he has come to the conclusion that he is not a supporter of the BDS movement," David Singer, a campaign adviser to Gillum, told Orlando Weekly in an interview. Singer continued, "To be a progressive thinker, and as someone with progressive values, does not mean you are in lockstep with every position of the progressive movement. And this is one where he simply is not."

In his years of service, Gillum has been active in strengthening Florida’s connections with Israel. He visited the city of Ramat HaSharon, Israel in 2007 as a city commissioner for a trip under the Tallahassee Sister City exchange, a program he promoted that forges economic and cultural partnerships between Florida’s capital and cities abroad like Sligo in Ireland, Krasnodar in Russia and Konongo-Odumasi in Ghana.

Having visited Israel three times, Gillum committed to extending his experience into the governor's mansion: "Through our Sister City partnership, I have seen firsthand the critical importance of these exchanges, and I would greatly expand them as Governor."

But the positions in his paper signal a shift to more aggressive, straightforward views of the conflict between Israel and Palestine, highlighting popular issue points from the playbook of U.S. political action groups looking to sway influence over politicians, like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a powerful lobbying group Gillum met with in 2017 at the beginning of his gubernatorial bid.

The document is emblematic of a new chapter in Gillum's candidacy where bigger donors and more complex political winds will blow his way. His campaign message focuses on progressive policies like expanding Medicaid and raising the minimum wage to $15.

During the primaries, one of the only times Gillum was questioned on his views of Israel and Palestine was in a June 30 podcast for Moguldom, a media platform focusing on black issues. In the interview, Gillum espouses vastly different views from the ones he embraces in the campaign paper, deriding Israel's military responses.

"What we've seen is in my opinion an outsized response that has created a humanitarian crisis," Gillum told Moguldom. He went on to rebuke president Trump's decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, the contested capital between Israel and Palestine.

"At the hands of this administration, we now have even incited more violence by recognizing Jerusalem to be the capital and also to locate the United States embassy there, again just adding more fuel to the fire," Gillum said. "I think it was a provocation by the president that was unnecessary and has been costly from a human toll."

Gillum could not immediately be reached for comment, but reaffirmed in a statement to Orlando Weekly his stance on the matter: "I believe a two-state solution will further the important and difficult work of building peace in the region, while ensuring Israel maintains its Jewish and democratic character with internationally recognized and secure borders."
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