Israel holds a significance that goes far beyond being a mere playground for Birthright trips and beach destination for Diaspora Jews. It serves as a cornerstone of Jewish identity, embodying shared values that have historically united the Jewish people. Some of these shared values, however, are now under threat, as Israel grapples with an internal struggle between those intending to change its core values and those who want to preserve and protect its essence as a democratic liberal state for all Jews.
Make no mistake; the ongoing debates surrounding the judicial system, and, in particular, the regulations governing the Supreme Court, are not about differing perspectives within the context of a functioning democracy—they are a result of the attempted alterations of the foundations of the country by a group of corrupt extremists. These groups, motivated by their interpretation of Jewish law, have always viewed the Supreme Court as an illegitimate institution that facilitates Western liberal democratic values (often labeled as left-wing views), which are at odds with their vision of a “true Jewish kingdom”. Exploiting the support that has been granted to marginally elected officials, these forces are attempting to change the rules of the game and alter Israel’s core values to serve their beliefs.
Such a fundamental shift would eventually lead to an irreparable rupture between world Jewry, the majority of whom identify with Western liberal values, and the state of Israel. World Jewry has a stake in this struggle and thus possesses a legitimate imperative to take a stance. In this context, it is incumbent upon Jewish organizations, institutions, and federations, whose members believe in Western liberal values, to speak out and not remain silent. The imminent threat to Israel’s liberal values demands resolute action before irreversible changes take root. Now is the time for action, for a unified and unwavering stance to safeguard the values that bind us and ensure the endurance of Israel’s liberal democratic identity.
Israelis Cry for Democracy
The current coalition, with only a 0.6% majority vote, wields its power disproportionately, and jeopardizes the balance required to govern a diverse population. Their recent passing of the “reasonableness standard” bill is the first of hundreds proposed bills intended to undermine the judiciary. Israelis, both liberal and conservative, agree that this bill undermines democracy, favoring a compromise instead. Over the last 32 weeks, more than 2 million Israelis have taken to the streets, putting their lives on hold in a desperate plea to safeguard their beloved liberal democratic country from sliding into an authoritarian regime.
Undermining Democracy’s Gatekeeper
In a nation without a constitution, a federal system or term limits, the judiciary serves as the sole check on government power. However, it is clear the current government is speeding towards eliminating this safeguard and consolidating power across media, education, academia, police, and public service. Urged by respected figures such as President of Tel Aviv University, Professor Ariel Porat, and renowned author, Yuval Noah Harari, Israelis are planning to take unprecedented measures, including shutting down the economy, to maintain the Supreme Court’s authority. Their message is clear: we will protect our democracy at any cost.
A Nation Teetering on the Brink
The current government’s actions have brought calamity to Israel in myriad ways, from seriously undermining the readiness of the IDF to driving economic decline and eroding social cohesion. 80% of startups are now registered outside Israel vs. 20% before the “coup”. World Jews cannot afford to stand by as the fabric of Israel’s society and democratic institutions erode, which may lead to strained U.S.-Israel relations, provide ammunition to Israel detractors, and deteriorate Israel-Diaspora relations (e.g., change in the right of return law/“who is a Jew”).
World Jewry Responsibility
Israel’s future is at a crossroads, and world Jewry’s role is pivotal. Remaining passive is not an option. The stakes cannot be higher, and the time for action is now. The choice is clear: support Israel’s fight for democracy or let history remember our silence. World Jewry must recognize that this isn’t just a coup against democracy, but an existential battle for Israel. The nation we know – accomplished, powerful, modern, liberal, creative, innovative – will cease to exist as such if the current government’s agenda prevails. Yet, the international Jewish community remains cautious. Just last week, an employee from the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver was fired after confronting leadership and demanding that they take a tougher stand against the threats facing Israeli democracy.
World Jewry must recognize that the assault on Israeli democracy is not just an internal political dispute; it is a battle for Israel’s soul. The choice to remain silent or neutral is an affront on the values of democracy and human rights, on which Israel was founded. To truly care for Israel’s future, we must:
- Break the silence and actively educate ourselves and engage in informative, thoughtful discussions
- Support leaders who demand accountability from the Israeli government
- Demonstrate leadership by articulating a stance on the principles that should govern a functioning democracy
- Champion democracy and justice, and align ourselves with like-minded leaders and with the majority of Israelis, who understand and warn of the serious looming disaster
It is time to shine, show leadership and choose the right way, rather than the easy way. The future of Israel, democracy, and global Jewry hangs in the balance.