It has been over 20 weeks since the lives of democracy-loving Israelis have been turned upside down. We are consumed with protest chants that make room for no other songs in our heads (DE-MO-CRA-TIA), a longing for the Israel we knew (and loved, despite all of its faults), and the realization that our Saturday nights are no longer our own, but rather, they – along with many other days and nights – are dedicated to demonstrating our unwavering support for a Jewish and democratic state.
So when we see that American Jews plan to visit Israel – whether to celebrate Israel’s 75th anniversary, go on a tour, or otherwise enjoy the falafel and sunshine – we are particularly eager to greet them and help them understand that the war we are fighting in the streets of Israel – the most dangerous war that has been fought in defense of Israel in its 75-year history – is not just for those who live within Israel’s borders – but very much for those who live outside it.
We want them to know and understand that we are fighting for the very soul of our country, and the homeland of the Jewish people.
In mid-June, you, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) – one of American Jewry’s larger and more active organizations – are holding your Global Forum in Tel Aviv, with over 2,000 attendees. You proudly proclaim on your website that AJC stands up for the Jewish people, the State of Israel, and the democratic values that unite us all, and while whoever wrote this statement may believe this is so, when it comes to the current, tumultuous events in Israel, you have sorely missed the mark.
Just a short month ago, you published a statement about the judicial coup (you referred to it as the “judicial reform”). Among other inaccuracies, one of the most egregious clauses was the following:
Whatever the Knesset does, Israel will still be a vibrant democracy. It will still be the homeland of the Jewish people and a refuge for endangered Jews anywhere. It will still be a pluralistic, multi-ethnic, and multi-religious society. It will still be a source of pride for Jews everywhere. It will still contribute to regional and global peace and prosperity. It will still be America’s most capable and reliable ally in a volatile region. And because of its unquenchable democratic spirit, it will still be capable of further change – if the public so demands – at the ballot box.
Israel will still be a vibrant democracy? Oh, how I wish that this was true! But if the Knesset actually passes the judicial overhaul, the ruling party will control all governing branches in Israel, and thus, Israel will most certainly not be a vibrant democracy. At best, it will be akin to Turkey, Hungary, and Poland.
A homeland for the Jewish people? The laws that have been proposed by the coalition will accommodate a homeland for religious and ultra-orthodox Jews only, and will obliterate any recognition of conversions that are not orthodox or based on maternal lineage. This in essence will remove the right of non-orthodox Jews from “making aliyah.”
A pluralistic, multi-ethnic, and multi-religious society? More than 150 bills are pending that will gut Israeli democracy; these laws will directly and adversely impact the lives of minorities in Israel, they will harm human and civil rights, the rights of women, the LGBTQ community and other minorities, they will promulgate limitations on freedom of expression, and adverse impact on proper public administration and election procedures. After these laws are passed – “pluralistic, multi-ethnic and multi-religious” will not be words descriptive of Israel.
Source of pride for Jews everywhere? I venture to say that with the passage of 150 anti-democratic bills to which I refer above, this will no longer be the case.
Contributor to regional and global peace and prosperity? The threat to Israel’s security is well documented amongst former military leaders, including the current Israeli Minister of Defense. The United States itself, under the Biden administration, has warned of the great danger that this judicial overhaul will present to the relationship with the United States. And of course, the Start Up Nation is already feeling the effects of this coalition government’s attempt to eradicate the checks and balances that exist today – we see this with the warnings of financial institutions, leading economists and industry leaders.
Capable of future change? This coalition has already attempted to amend the election laws (by extending the term from four to five), and with the judicial overhaul’s attempts to solidify anti-democratic elements, a future return to democracy will be close to impossible. If the judicial overhaul continues, Israel’s face will change forever.
With this as a background, a group of grassroot volunteers – USA For Israeli Democracy – wrote to you, asking that you invite a protest leader to speak at your Global Forum when you come to Israel in June. This request was issued after learning that the AJC does not plan on inviting anyone from the protest movement to speak, despite the demonstrations of hundreds of thousands of Israelis, week after week, month after month. I am sorry to say that the request has been simply ignored. No response at all, and no recognition of The. Burning. Issue. Of. Our. Times.
Will you now rectify your mistake? Invite a protest leader to speak and show us that you understand and acknowledge the fight of our collective lives. Show us that you do indeed stand for the democratic values that unite us all.