American Jews Alarmed Over New Israeli Government

This is a sampling of statements from progressive Jewish organizations that support self-determination, democracy, and pluralism for all Israeli citizens and Palestinians.  We begin with this statement, issued on December 29, 2022, by Ameinu — a national, multi-generational community of progressive Jews in North America:

Ameinu views with grave concern the establishment of the thirty-seventh government of Israel. This government, the most right-wing and reactionary in Israel’s history, imperils Israel’s democratic future through its inclusion of racist, homophobic and Kahanist elements. “Ameinu refuses to normalize this extremist government and we call on the organized Jewish community in the United States and around the world to do the same,” said Kenneth Bob, President of Ameinu. “Ameinu representatives will not attend events addressed by the extremist members of the government and will raise our voices in opposition to its policies in appropriate forums whenever possible. We will oppose any attempts to subvert the independence of Israel’s judiciary system as well as any moves to annex parts of the West Bank,” Bob added.   

Ameinu stands in solidarity with our colleagues on the ground who are fighting to protect Israel’s civil society. Ameinu will continue to defend Israel’s Arab citizens, its minorities, the LGBTQ community, and other at-risk elements of Israeli society; Israel must be a state for all of its citizens regardless of their religion, gender, or beliefs.

This is from a message issued on the same day as the above by Adina Vogel Ayalon, J Street’s Chief of Staff:

[Netanyahu’s] new right-wing coalition government has made settlement expansion and cementing the occupation a top priority. Outgoing Prime Minister, Yair Lapid, described parts of the coalition agreement as “full-on crazy.”

The new government has committed to:

  • “Promote and develop settlements” across the West Bank, including committing to legalizing outposts deemed illegal by Israel’s own courts;
  • Pursue outright annexation of occupied territory “at the right time and with consideration” to Israel’s national interests;
  • Amend gender and LGBT+ anti-discrimination laws to permit discrimination based on “religious belief”; 
  • Grant legal immunities to soldiers and police and loosen open-fire rules;
  • Repeal laws blocking those who incite racism from serving in the Knesset;
  • Adopt legal changes that would allow the Israeli parliament to override the Supreme Court. . . . .

The following is from a statement issued by Americans for Peace Now on Jan. 5, 2023:

Americans for Peace Now (APN) is alarmed by the radical judicial overhaul announced yesterday by Israel’s new Justice Minister Yariv Levin, a set of legislative initiatives aimed at limiting the power of the Israeli Supreme Court and the government’s legal advisors.

The plan’s objective is to dramatically diminish the judicial and legal checks and balances on Israel’s executive and legislative branches, dealing a severe blow to Israel’s democracy.

We urge the Biden administration to make clear that anti-democratic steps such as this are a severe breach the value-based foundation of the US-Israel alliance.   

APN’s President and CEO Hadar Susskind said: “This attack on Israeli democracy cannot be allowed to stand. We urge our Israeli brothers and sisters to reject this plan loudly and clearly. We urge the Biden administration to unequivocally express its opposition to this initiative. Friends don’t let friends shatter their democracy.

“In addition to the immense unchecked power that the proposed initiative would grant to the Israeli government to crush dissent and discriminate against minorities within Israel, these measures would also grant the government and the Knesset almost unlimited power to further oppress Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. While very far from perfect, Israel’s Supreme Court has been an institution where Palestinians could seek justice. Occasionally, if all too rarely, they found it. Once the Levin plan is implemented, the arbitrary and repressive West Bank occupation will be further entrenched.”. . .

The following quotes Rabbi Jill Jacobs, the CEO of T’ruah (an American organization of Jewish clergy dedicated to human rights) on Nov. 2, 2022: 

“With his record of hate speech and violence, coupled with his strong anti-Arab racist beliefs, MK Itamar Ben-Gvir has no place in the political mainstream. Allowing any messages for the justification of violence to be elevated to a government platform endangers the safety and security of people living in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. We also hold former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responsible for his role in legitimizing Ben-Gvir and his party as a means of reclaiming his own power.  . . .

“Jewish organizations have a moral obligation to stand together against Ben-Gvir and his party and loudly declare that they do not represent Jewish interests. Any form of hatred is not a Jewish value and those who incite political or social violence in the name of our faith should be called out and criticized. Every Jewish organization that regularly invites Israeli political leaders to speak at their conferences and events, or that meets with Israeli elected officials during delegations, must commit today to never inviting Ben-Gvir, Betzalel Smotrich, or other members of their party to address a U.S. Jewish audience. In the 1980s, mainstream American Jewish organizations broadly condemned Meir Kahane and his party. All Jewish organizations must do the same to his ideological successors.” 

The World Union of Progressive Judaism (an international alliance which includes the Reform and Reconstructing Judaism movements in the United States), issued this statement on Nov. 16, 2022:

The State of Israel and the world’s Jewish Diaspora communities have a relationship built on a common history and shared values.

The reality of a ruling coalition in Israel that will include dozens of Knesset members who freely express racist, homophobic and anti-democratic beliefs is frightening and is an anathema to Progressive Judaism.

It has potential catastrophic consequences for both Israel’s democratic character and Israel-Diaspora relations.

The World Union for Progressive Judaism calls on Benjamin Netanyahu to use his return to Israel’s premiership to create a broad and centrist Government that is embracing of human and economic rights and dignity, instead of one that will further normalize Kahanist and other ultra-Nationalists.

Putting individuals in high office who seek to further alienate Diaspora and Progressive Jews will serve no good end.

And the following is from the Nov. 3, 2022 statement by Paul Scham, president of Partners for Progressive Israel (PPI is associated with the World Union of Meretz):

Partners for Progressive Israel is extremely dismayed by the emerging results of Israel’s November 1 elections. … [T]he current center-right government will soon be replaced by an extremist far-right coalition of Jewish supremacists, authoritarians, and religious fundamentalists.It is a government that will constitute an immediate threat to democracy within the Green Line, to the rights of Arab citizens, women, and the LGBTQ+ community, to the standing of non-Orthodox Judaism, and certainly to any chance for equitable diplomatic engagement with Palestine or for ending the military occupation of the territories beyond the Green Line.Israel, as the Ha’aretz newspaper noted in its editorial, is about to be ruled by a “nightmare” government. ….