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Shulamit S. Magnus
Jewish historian

Actions From There That Would Help Us Here

Those abroad who love Israel and the dream and much of the reality it embodies, while opposing the policies of the current government and beleaguered by the Israel-hate being expressed, are at a loss about what to do.

Here’s what would help us, and you.

A huge demonstration or several big ones, in different, major locations, and full page letters in the major US media–

supporting the Israel that seeks a full, vital constitutional democracy, based on the principles stated in Israel’s founding document, its Declaration of Independence, establishing equal human and civil rights and obligations for all citizens, regardless of religion, ethnicity, or gender–

all this, embedded in a full constitution which lays out clear functions of and checks and balances between the arms of government and the role of the Supreme Court as the final interpreter of the Constitution;

a country that is about Jewish national self-determination and flourishing expression, not about ruling over another people;

a country which, in this current, horrible, moment, absolutely and categorically rejects any Israeli rule over Gaza, military or civilian, and any ongoing Jewish presence there;

which sees as essential Israel’s engagement with countries which share vital interests with us to construct a scenario in Gaza that serves the interests, rights, and needs of Gazans and Israelis, and the strategic interests of the region versus those of Ayatollah Iran and all theocratic, racist, misogynist, fascist, hyper-nationalist expressions, from wherever these come;

which puts return of all the hostages as the immediate and foremost goal of this moment;

and which seeks the dissolution of the current government and elections within three months.

It is essential to push back against Israel-hate abroad and any and all expressions of Jew-hatred, including patronizing, arrogant, colonialist efforts to define for Jews what Judaism and Zionism are– but the expression needs to be much more focused and specific. We here who stand for what is laid out above need open, organized, support for this vision in this critical moment in which Israel can and must re-invent itself. This war is horrific but historically, wars are also game changers, opportunities– for better and for worse, and we, here and abroad, must make this terrible moment an opportunity for better. In this, Israelis and Jews abroad who love this place and the dream it represents are one.

There will be huge demonstrations here in Jerusalem today when the Knesset opens its summer session.

A counter-expression from abroad of support from lovers of Israel and our common dream would be significant on many levels, for you there and for us, here, and absolutely, would make a political difference here.

Rather than feel helpless and just react to the discourse others are propagating, we need to fashion the discourse of this fraught moment which, however, also holds promise– if we make it so.

This is the solidarity we need, within Israel, including non-Jewish Israelis, for whom Israel is also their homeland– and with lovers of Israel abroad.

About the Author
Shulamit S. Magnus Professor Emerita of Jewish Studies and History at Oberlin College. She is the author of four published books and numerous articles on Jewish modernity and the history of Jewish women, and winner of a National Jewish Book award and other prizes. Her new book is the first history of agunot and iggun from medieval times to the present, across the Jewish map. It also presents analysis and critique of current policy on Jewish marital capitivity and proposals to end this abuse. Entitled, "Thinking Outside the Chains About Jewish Marital Captivity," it is forthcoming from NYU Press. She is a founder of women's group prayer at the Kotel and first-named plaintiff on a case before the Supreme Court of Israel asking enforcement of Jewish women's already-recognized right to read Torah at the Kotel. Her opinions have been published in the Forward, Tablet, EJewish Philanthropy, Moment, the Times of Israel, and the Jerusalem Post.
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