Israel Leadership is not only Israel’s Business

The months since October 7th ignited deep feelings of connection and patriotism among Israelis, alongside profound fear, sadness, and disappointment. The months leading up to October 7th saw a frightening polarization in Israeli society as the country’s extremist far-right government began to shatter the ethos of the Jewish and democratic state. Using populist and destructive rhetoric, the government marginalized and delegitimized those outside its political base, leaving them without representation or a clear national identity. Now, even as we enter the war’s eighth month, the government continues to polarize Israeli society by shattering what the Declaration of Independence defines as the essence of the Jewish and democratic state: humanism, equality, and solidarity.

Amidst this turmoil, a dangerous global wave of antisemitism is raging. Public discourse seeks clear-cut categories of identity and power; therefore, it cannot stomach the idea of a Jewish state without casting Israel as “the bad guy.” It is also unable and unwilling to accept that Zionism can be inclusive and capable of upholding every citizen’s rights within a Jewish and democratic state, and definitely unable and unwilling to distinguish between Zionism and Judaism. And so, the world is lashing out at Jews. In an absurd turn of events, Zionism — created initially as a solution for antisemitism — is now perceived as colonialism to justify antisemitism.

We cannot control the emotional roots of antisemitism: deep hatred and fear. History has shown us that these will always resurface at times of distress. However, because Israel is Chafetzat Chaim (“a pursuer of life”), it is our moral duty to recognize the link between Israel’s government and the global wave of antisemitism. Whether we like it or not, Israel’s government is perceived as the face of Zionism and Jewish nationhood. Thus, when the current government scorns humanism, freedom, and the sanctity of life, it is endangering Israel and all Jews alike.

Therefore, we must work together. Our shared fate is urging the Jewish leaders of the diaspora and liberal Israeli leaders to change the political reality in Israel. We need all hands on deck in this historic time. Let us create a better government for Israel, one that is Jewish AND democratic.

About the Author
Tali Yariv-Mashal (LL.B Tel Aviv University, MA Columbia University; Ph.D., Columbia University; EMC Insead University) is Currently Director of Interdisciplinary Research and Engagement at the Center for Applied Research on Risks to Democracy at the Tel Aviv University. She also works as an independent advisor for Philanthropists, Philanthropic Foundations and NGOs, and is a researcher of Civil Society, Philanthropy and Education. Tali was the Director of the Beracha Foundation between 2010 – 2023 and served as the Chair of the Israeli National Forum of Foundations between 2020-2023. Prior to her roles in Philanthropy , Tali was a fellow researcher and lecturer at the Gilo Center for Civic Education (Hebrew University, Jerusalem, 2016-2019), served as the director of the Excellence program at the ‘Beit Berl ‘ Teachers College (2016-2018) Which is a joint program for Arab speaking teachers, art teachers and Jewish Hebrew speaking teachers; and worked with various NGOs and with the Ministry of Education on topics of Civic Education , Education for Democracy and Democratic Leadership. Tali serves as board member in various NGOs: she is the founding Chair of "Haira - Urban Sustainable" , a board member of "121 For Social Change" and a board member of "Bonot Alternativa".
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