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Calls for Israel-Hamas ceasefire highlight tensions among Wisconsin Democrats at state convention

Groups within Wisconsin’s Democratic Party disagree about how the Biden administration is handling the conflict in Gaza

A security guard stands watch as pro-Palestinian protesters interrupt a speech by Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-WI, during the Democratic Party of Wisconsin State Convention at the Potawatomi Casino Hotel in Milwaukee, Wis., on June 8, 2024. Anya van Wagtendonk/WPR

At the state’s Democratic convention last weekend, delegates voted to pass a resolution calling for an immediate, unconditional ceasefire in the conflict. 

The vote tallied 135 delegates in favor and 91 opposed. Over 600 delegates were credentialed for the convention, but only 226 participated in the vote for that resolution.

The convention also included pro-Palestinian protestors interrupting a speech by U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

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The issue has become a tension point among Wisconsin Democrats, with disagreements about how much of the party supports a ceasefire and how unified they are behind President Joe Biden.

Heba Mohammad is one of the delegates who supported the ceasefire resolution and helped organize the Listen to Wisconsin campaign to encourage Democrats to vote “uninstructed” in the presidential primary.

Mohammad told WPR’s “Wisconsin Today” that calls for a ceasefire are “an overwhelmingly popular position” among Democratic voters in Wisconsin, and she believes the Biden administration is risking alienating voters in a key swing state with this issue.

“The folks who are in that room are self-selected party faithful, folks who are going to be doing the grassroots work to elect Democrats up and down the ballot.” Mohammad said. “They’re the ones who sent this message over the weekend. These are people who the party depends on.”

Others, like Democratic State Rep. Lisa Subeck of Madison, think the ceasefire push is coming from a vocal but small group within the party, who Subeck said are “on the edge or on the extremes of this issue.”

She believes most people at the state convention think the Biden administration is on the right track toward peace in the Middle East.

“As long as we have calls for an unconditional ceasefire, that only sets Hamas up to be able to continue to rebuild and continue to attack Israel.” Subeck told WPR. “What most Democrats support is a lasting peace, and that means the return of the hostages, and it means being able to come to a conclusion with a two-state solution.”

She pointed to other issues of significant importance to Democrats at the convention like access to health care and abortion that she thinks will bolster party support for Biden in the November election.