Democratic Florida Gubernatorial Nominee Sends Voters Mixed Messages About His Israel Stance

Evie Fordham | Politics and Health Care Reporter
  • Democrat Andrew Gillum and Republican Ron DeSantis are battling for the Jewish vote in the Florida governor’s race
  • Gillum is connected to pro-Palestine group Dream Defenders
  • Gillum’s platform says he stands for Israel, but he seemed to take an anti-Israel stance during a June interview

Florida’s Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum is sending mixed messages to voters about his stance on Israel as he and Republican opponent Ron DeSantis battle for the support of the state’s Jewish voters.

Gillum issued a campaign paper emphasizing that he stands against the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, but he is also cozy with anti-Zionist groups like Dream Defenders, reported The Washington Free Beacon Wednesday. Rival DeSantis has called Gillum “anti-Israel,” reported the Miami Herald.

The Dream Defenders Action Fund is one of six progressive groups committing a combined total of $3.5 million to Gillum, reported Florida Politics on Aug. 20. The organization has “led two delegations to Palestine,” according to its webpage on Palestine.

Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, has visited Israel three times, according to Orlando Weekly, but he also gave “a shoutout” to Dream Defenders at a Florida gubernatorial debate on June 11. Gillum told Dream Defender activists that he is proud to “stand up for you and stand beside you.”

“In 1948 the state of Israel was declared on top of stolen Palestinian land,” the Dream Defenders website states. “Israel routinely develops its latest military weaponry by attacking the civilian population of Gaza.”

Dream Defenders also accuses Israel of “ethnically cleansing over 750,000 Palestinians.”

On a 2016 trip to the region, Dream Defenders used a tour guide, Mahmoud Jeddah, who had “spent 17 years in an Israeli prison for planting four hand grenades on a Jerusalem street, wounding nine,” according to the Free Beacon.

Gillum also received backlash for anti-Israel comments he made on a June 30 episode of the podcast “GHOGH” when host Jamarlin Martin asked him about Israel-Gaza tensions.

“60 Palestinians who were throwing rocks and protesting what I view as apartheid, they don’t deserve to be shot. Can you speak to the 60 Palestinians that were murdered and the lack of a Democratic [Party] condemnation of that human rights violation?” Martin asked Gillum, according to the Free Beacon.

“None of us can look at those images and be okay with it,” Gillum responded, according to the Free Beacon. “At the hands of this [Trump] administration, we now have even cited more violence by recognizing Jerusalem to be the capital [of Israel] and also to locate the United States embassy there, again just adding more fuel to the fire. I think it was a provocation by the president that was unnecessary and it has been costly from a human toll.”

Florida passed a law “which prevents the state from working with companies that protest Israel” and was co-introduced by Republican Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz in 2016, according to Orlando Weekly.

“I will continue to support anti-Boycott, Divest and Sanctions legislation passed last year with overwhelming support in both houses of the legislature,” Gillum said, according to Orlando Weekly.

Gillum’s campaign is trying to separate him from other progressives who tend to be overwhelmingly pro-BDS. (RELATED: Democratic Candidate For Florida Governor Andrew Gillum Refuses To Make Campaign About Race)

“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,” Gillum campaign adviser David Singer told Orlando Weekly. “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.”

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