Offir Gutelzon

Strength’n Unity

Protests in Israel against the government’s anti-democratic judicial overhaul have found an echo throughout the world. While demonstrators mass on the squares of the country each Saturday afternoon, the call has been heard in Europe, North America, and elsewhere. New York, the capital of the Diaspora, has seen weekly protests at Washington Square Park.Central to the protests is a group of Israeli expatriates who can teach us all a lesson about civics and activism. Israelis in San Francisco launched the UnXeptable initiative when the Bibi-Ben Gvir government first signaled its assault on Israel’s democracy in response to the new government’s designs on the country’s democracy. The organization embodies the grassroots spirit that has animated the demonstrations in Israel. And it helps that many of these folks are in the tech industry, bringing to bear their expertise in social media and turning their activities into viral events on the Internet.The group’s activism is an energizing force-multiplier for Jewish life in the Diaspora. UnXeptable is the first Israeli-American movement to emerge since the launch of the Adelson-funded Israeli-American Council, and it has emerged on a wholly organic, ground-up basis. Many Israelis in America have tended to both eschew civic engagement and remain separate from local Jewish Federations and Community Relations Councils.The Israeli pro-democracy protest movement is a magnificent opportunity to bridge this divide in the American Jewish community and to encourage dialogue and interaction between American- and Israel-born Jews on matters of common concern. In our support of democracy – in America and in Israel – we stand united. UnXeptable demonstrates the tremendous potential of Israeli Americans’ participation in broader American Jewish life.

UnXeptable has shown some organization skills that our Jewish institutions should take notice of, including events this month in Sofia, Bulgaria, Frankfurt, Germany*, Melbourne, Australia and elsewhere. The group also shares on its website resources for protesters – banners, signs, pamphlets. They have also done an excellent job explaining the issue to a lay audience, by collecting interviews and articles in English language on the judicial imbroglio. In its ability to mobilize, it is showing itself to be truly Xceptional.These efforts will continue. Despite the recent pause in the legislative process and the outbreak of violence from the Gaza Strip, judicial reform has re-emerged with a vengeance. And judicial reform is not the only menace this government poses to democratic institutions. Itamar Ben-Gvir is trying to turn the police into his personal strike force and has secured the prime minister’s promise to set up a national militia unaccountable to other security agencies. The danger of theocratic-authoritarian moves is imminent and credible.UnXeptable is asking the Diaspora to keep up the fight and is a testament to how Israeli-based and Diaspora Jews can come together as we face similar challenges. In America, we need to be like those Israelis who answer the call every Saturday afternoon – from Tel Aviv to Afula, from Jerusalem to Beersheba.The fight for democracy is one that spans the world and should involve Jews wherever they reside. Demonstrators in Israel and the Diaspora know that we are all stronger when we raise our voices together.


(*Those events were organized by another Israeli expats group in Europe called Defending Israeli Democracy.)

About the Author
Offir Gutelzon is a proud member of the Israeli American community in Palo Alto and a Silicon Valley entrepreneur. In 2020, he helped launch UnXeptable in support of a democratic Israel. Read more: