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Annexation Endangers the Security and Democracy of Israel

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Recontructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association are signatories to the following appeal from J-Link, an international network of progressive Jewish organizations from
Israel, the United States, Canada, Europe, Latin America, South Africa, and Australia.

J-Link_The International Progressive Jewish Network

ANNEXATION ENDANGERS THE SECURITY AND DEMOCRACY OF ISRAEL
APPEAL TO J-LINK MEMBERS AND SUPPORTERS

May 19, 2020

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

As supporters of J-Link, the international network of progressive Jewish organizations, we urgently share our deep concerns, backed by the analysis of diplomatic and security experts, regarding the Government of Israel’s intention to proceed with annexation of parts of the West Bank.

Only a short time remains to convince the Government of Israel to halt this ill-advised move. With the abetment of the Trump administration, Prime Minister Netanyahu is perpetuating the myth that reality on the ground supersedes international law. This is the moment that Israelis need to consider the consequences to their security and international relations, as a result of unilateral annexation.

Notably, a petition signed by 220 former senior officers of the army, the Mossad and the police who are members of Commanders for Israel’s Security stated that annexation will set in motion a chain reaction over which Israel will have no control, leading to the collapse of the Palestinian Authority. This in turn would require Israel to take full control over the entire West Bank and assume responsibility for the lives of 2.6 million Palestinians.

The coalition agreement signed by Netanyahu and Alternate Prime Minister Gantz includes articles that enable the incoming government to expedite the process of annexation as of July 1st. Despite an acknowledgment of the need to discuss the matter with the international community, the only binding commitment in the agreement is coordination of the move with the U.S. Administration. As was the case with President Trump’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan, the Palestinians have no say in the matter.

It is worth noting that Article 28 of the Coalition Agreement mentions the government’s intention “to strive to uphold existing peace agreements,” indicating that Jordan and Egypt may have leverage over this decision.

For the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, heavily populated by Palestinian refugees, annexation risks destabilization that could endanger the government and compel it to reconsider its peace treaty with Israel. Israel’s peace treaty with Egypt would also be put in jeopardy. Moreover, Israel’s actions are already straining its relations with democratic countries around the world.

Unilateral annexation is illegal under international law and contravenes all relevant UN Security Council resolutions pertaining to the Israel-Palestine conflict, particularly UNSC Resolution 2334 of Dec. 2016. If implemented, annexation will signify the demise of the two-state solution and will dash any hopes the Palestinian people have of achieving self-determination through nonviolent means.

Furthermore, annexation could turn Israel into a state that maintains permanent control over millions of Palestinians within its territory — while denying them the most basic civil and political rights — thereby putting an end to democracy in Israel as we know it.

Such action risks provoking a mounting tide of delegitimization of Israel and further bouts of antisemitism. Annexation will also jeopardize relations between Israel and progressive Jews around the world for whom human rights, equality and democracy are essential principles.

Please join us in our call to all who care about Israel’s future to take immediate action to convince the government and people of Israel that the price to be paid for annexation will be too heavy for Israel to bear.

J-Link Coordinating Committee

50 Organizational Signers from 17 Countries

Ameinu Australia
Ameinu Canada
Ameinu United States
Americans for Peace Now
Argentinos Amigos de PAZ AHORA
Amogos Brasileiros Do Paz Agora (Brazil)
Canadian Friends of Peace Now
Casa de Cultura (Uruguay)
Centro Progresista judio CPJ (Chile)
Centre Communautaire Laïc Juif (Belgium)
Cercle Martin Buber Geneva (Switzerland)
Gruppo Martin Buber- ebrei per la pace (Italy)
Habonim Dror North America
Habonim Dror South Africa
Hashomer Hatzair World Movement
J-AMLAT (Latin America)
JCall Europe
JCall Belgium
JCall France
JCall Italy
JCall Spain
JCall Switzerland
Jewish Democratic Initiative (South Africa)
Jewish Labor Committee (United States)
Jewish Labour Movement (United Kingdom)
JSpace Canada
J Street (United States)
La paix maintenant (Peace Now), France
Llamamiento Argentino Judio (Argentina)
Meretz Argentina
Meretz France
Meretz UK
Meretz Uruguay
Mujeres activan por la paz (Argentina)
Netzer South Africa
New Israel Fund (Australia)
New Israel Fund (Austria)
New Israel Fund (Canada)
New Israel Fund (Germany)
New Israel Fund (United Kingdom)
New Israel Fund (United States)
New Israel Fund (Switzerland)
Partners for Progressive Israel (United States)
Policy Working Group (Israel)
Reconstructing Judaism (United States)
Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association (United States)
Smol Talk Mexico
Truah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights (United States)
Union Jovenes judios Argentinos (Argentina)
Yachad (United Kingdom)

What is J-Link? J-Link is an international network of progressive Jewish organizations from Israel, the United States, Canada, Europe, Latin America, South Africa, and Australia. We share a love of Israel and a commitment to democracy, human rights, religious pluralism, and a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. J-Link aspires to work with our respective local Jewish communities, our national governments and international organizations to advocate for our values and vision for Israel.

Israel

Statement on New Settlement Expansion Announcements

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Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association are alarmed by the Netanyahu government’s recent announcement that seeks to expand settlements in a way that would cut through Palestinian population centers and deny contiguity to a future Palestinian state. Previous Republican and Democratic US administrations have rejected similar plans with good reason. We call on the Netanyahu government to cancel these plans, and we call on all American Jewish organizations that support a two-state solution to join in this urgent message. We continue to oppose unilateral territorial annexation on the part of the Israeli government, and we remain committed to a just, democratic, and peaceful future for Israelis and Palestinians within a framework of two states for two peoples.

Public Statements, Israel

Statement on Trump Proposal on Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

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For decades Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association have advocated for a negotiated, two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on security, dignity, human rights, and freedom for Israelis and Palestinians alike. The peace we have advocated envisions an end to Israel’s role as an occupying power, and the acceptance by all nations of Israel’s permanent place in the region as a Jewish and democratic state. 
 
The Trump Administration’s new proposal to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been lauded by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Head of the Opposition Benny Gantz, though the two leaders have signaled different approaches to what they would like to do with it. Netanyahu sees in the plan a green light to begin annexing West Bank lands that the plan envisions will be part of Israel in the future. He has already announced plans to hold a cabinet vote in days on a proposal to annex the Jordan Valley in the West Bank. Gantz, in contrast, has told the Trump Administration that he thinks nothing in the plan should be implemented before the March 2, 2020 Israeli election, and that he wants to include Palestinian, Jordanian, and other Arab leaders in renewed talks based on the plan as a starting point.
 
While we would welcome any meaningful progress towards achieving the kind of just and lasting peace that Israelis and Palestinians both deserve, we are concerned that the process leading up to the unveiling of the plan has not included Palestinians at all. In stark contrast with past Israeli-Palestinian agreements brokered by US administrations of both parties, the Trump-Kushner plan was presented to the public without any Palestinian leaders standing alongside their Israeli and American counterparts. The plan offers Israel sovereignty over close to a third of the West Bank, as well as over all of the current settlements, including those deep in the West Bank. It envisions a possible future Palestinian state in Gaza and in a Swiss cheese-like territory encompassing about two-thirds of the West Bank, dotted by Israeli settlements and exclusive-use settlement access roads. The Palestinian Authority has, as expected, already rejected the plan.
 
We continue to hope that we will see Israeli and Palestinian leaders find a way to reach a mutually acceptable, two-state, permanent agreement that allows both peoples to live in dignity, security, and peace. We worry that the Trump-Kushner proposal makes that possibility ever more remote, especially if it serves to usher in a period of rapid Israeli annexation of West Bank lands – a move on Israel’s part that would likely result in increased international isolation of Israel. The need for sustained US leadership towards achieving a just and lasting peace between Israel and Palestine is real, and we welcome any administration’s sincere efforts to do the hard work needed to bring Israeli and Palestinian leaders back to the table to finish the work that each of the previous four US administrations has tried to bring to fruition. Unfortunately, this plan appears to create new opportunities for the Israeli government to pursue annexationist goals with American backing, while using the language of peace-making in ways that mask the one-sided nature of the proposal.

Public Statements, Israel

Progressive Israel Network Commends Passage of House Resolution 326 Opposing Annexation, Supporting Two-State Solution

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As leading progressive pro-Israel organizations in the American Jewish community, we commend the House of Representatives for passing House Resolution 326. This landmark resolution, which reaffirms support for a two-state solution, marks the first time the House has formally opposed unilateral Israeli annexation of the West Bank and asserted longstanding US opposition to settlements.

The passage of this legislation comes at a critical moment. The resolution sends an urgent message to the region just days after President Trump reportedly spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu about the latter’s plan to annex the Jordan Valley. It is a repudiation of the Trump administration’s attempts last month to legitimize Israeli settlements on occupied territory by declaring that the US no longer views them as a violation of international law, a reversal of decades of bipartisan foreign policy.

With Netanyahu having outlined a detailed West Bank annexation plan and taken steps to put annexation legislation before the Knesset, this threat must be taken as serious and urgent by American policymakers. The prime minister’s proposals would be a disastrous blow to the prospects for peace, would trample on Palestinian rights and international law, and would imperil Israel’s future.

The resolution stresses the importance of a two-state solution as the only viable means of ensuring “the state of Israel’s survival as a Jewish and democratic state” and fulfilling “the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for a state of their own.” As progressive organizations committed to Israel’s democracy and to equality and peace, we welcome this affirmation that there is no contradiction between supporting Israel’s security and supporting the rights of Palestinians.

The Progressive Israel Network is a coalition of ten leading organizations representing Americans committed to pursuing democracy and equality in Israel and to peace between Israelis and Palestinians. The coalition speaks with a unified voice in support of democracy and equal rights, religious freedom and pluralism, and a two-state solution. Its founding principles can be found here. The network’s founding members are Ameinu, Americans for Peace Now, Habonim Dror North America, Hashomer Hatzair, The Jewish Labor Committee, J Street, The New Israel Fund, Partners for Progressive Israel, Reconstructing Judaism, and T’ruah. This statement is further joined by the National Council of Jewish Women.

Response to US Policy Shift on Settlement Legality

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Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association are disappointed by and strongly oppose the recent policy statement by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declaring that the U.S. no longer views Israeli West Bank settlements as inconsistent with international law. Pompeo’s statement overturns decades of long-held U.S. policy by both Democratic and Republican administrations.

In Israel, this news is being received by the pro-settlement movement as a green light for future Israeli unilateral annexation of West Bank lands, and several Israeli right wing political leaders are already proposing swift action to begin such annexation. Meanwhile, the announcement deals a blow to Israeli peacebuilding organizations who have worked tirelessly for renewed negotiations towards a two-state future.

Any unilateral move by the Israeli government to annex lands in the West Bank or build new settlements there would ultimately make the prospect of a viable two-state solution all but impossible. Announcements like Pompeo’s, which appease the Israeli far right and shred American credibility as a possible convener of renewed peace negotiations, are not in reality helpful to Israel’s long-term viability as a Jewish and democratic state. We urge the Trump Administration to reverse its position on this matter, and to focus instead on steps that will help bring the leadership of Israel and the Palestinian Authority back into productive negotiations towards a two-state agreement.

 

Statement on Recent Rocket Attacks on Israel

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Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association condemn the 300 rockets indiscriminately launched at Israel from the Gaza Strip over the past few days. We are grateful that, as of this moment, no Israelis have been seriously wounded or killed by these attacks. We reaffirm our solidarity with Israelis living under this bombardment. Our hearts and prayers are with civilians on both sides of this escalation and we mourn the loss of life of Palestinian civilians at the same time as we worry about and pray for the health and wellbeing of Israelis. 

Terrorism is never justified and attacks like these increase the potential for escalating violence as Israeli forces respond with intensified measures in Gaza. Rocket attacks will not end the blockade of the Gaza Strip nor the Occupation of the West Bank. This cycle of violence will not pave the way to a lasting, fair peace agreement that will allow Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace and security.

May Israelis and Palestinians alike have the strength and courage to fulfill our dreams of peace, mutual respect and shared prosperity in Israel and Palestine. May those who work for peace, justice, and reconciliation throughout the region be strengthened in their work and their ideals.  

Letter to Israeli Political Leadership Opposing Annexation

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No to Annexation - Progressive Israel Network

Today, thirteen organizations – the coalition members of The Progressive Israel Network (PIN), the Israel Policy Forum, the National Council of Jewish Women, and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association – sent a letter to the heads of Israel’s political parties calling on them to refuse any kind of unilateral annexation of the West Bank or parts of it.

As heads of American Jewish organizations who care deeply about the State of Israel and are committed to safeguarding its future as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people, we implore you to consider the costs of any unilateral annexations in the West Bank, and ask that you refuse to support annexation as a policy guideline for any government that your party may join.

We recognize that political parties are currently immersed in the process of negotiating the makeup of, and determining the policy guidelines for, Israel’s next governing coalition. We are also aware that in recent months, leading parties have proposed annexing parts of the West Bank as a possible policy of Israel’s next government. Our own government, under President Donald Trump, has broken with prior administrations from both major parties in signaling that it may endorse such unilateral actions by Israel. 

Mistaking such a “green light” from the president for any type of consensus on the part of either US political party would be a dangerous error for Israel. Annexation, and any actions that pave the way toward annexation, threaten not only Israel’s security and its hopes for peace, but pose a grave threat to its democratic character and international standing. Many of the leaders of Israel’s own military and intelligence communities have warned of their likely ramifications. They would push Israel further down a path to endless conflict and permanent occupation — a path that runs counter to the shared democratic values and commitment to the pursuit of peace that have long formed the heart of the US-Israel relationship. Simply put, the approach of this president does not represent the long-term interests and likely future policy of the United States. 

The vast majority of American Jews support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Our organizations represent this majority. We believe that achieving an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the occupation via a negotiated two-state agreement is the only viable pathway to peace for Israel, to secure Israel’s future as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people, and to ensure its standing as a respected member of the family of nations.

For the sake of the State of Israel’s security, its democracy, its global standing, its relationship with the United States and with the American Jewish community, we urge you to reject annexation and refuse to participate in any government that would support it. 

Sincerely,

Ameinu*
Americans for Peace Now*
Habonim Dror North America*
Hashomer Hatzair*
The Jewish Labor Committee*
J Street*
The New Israel Fund*
Partners for Progressive Israel*
Reconstructing Judaism*
T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights*
National Council of Jewish Women
Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
Israel Policy Forum

*Progressive Israel Network member organizations

The Progressive Israel Network is a coalition of ten leading organizations representing Americans committed to pursuing democracy and equality in Israel and to peace between Israelis and Palestinians. The coalition speaks with a unified voice in support of democracy and equal rights, religious freedom and pluralism, and a two-state solution. Its founding principles can be found here. The network’s founding members are Ameinu, Americans for Peace Now, Habonim Dror North America, Hashomer Hatzair, The Jewish Labor Committee, J Street, The New Israel Fund, Partners for Progressive Israel, Reconstructing Judaism, and T’ruah. 

**

Signatories to the letter released the following statements:

Kenneth Bob, President of Ameinu: “It’s a moral and practical imperative for all supporters of Israel, regardless of their political stripes, to reject calls for unilateral annexation of any part of the West Bank. The only way to ensure Israel’s continued existence as a democracy and a Jewish state is through a negotiated two-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians. 

“While Trump’s ‘peace plan’ has yet to be unveiled, it is extremely unlikely that it will help advance the cause of peace. Regardless of what’s in the plan, the American Jewish community remains committed to the two-state solution and rejects any unilateral action that will make it more difficult for the parties to achieve a durable peace that will satisfy the political aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians. We call on Israeli political leaders to do the same.”

Aviva Meyer, Americans for Peace Now Acting President & CEO: “Together with our sisters and brothers at Israel’s Peace Now movement and our US partners, we call on Israel’s leaders to form a government that strives for peace and rejects settlement construction and annexation, policies that threaten Israel’s future.”

Jeremy Ben-Ami, President of J Street: “Carrying out unilateral annexations in the West Bank would ultimately destroy Israeli democracy and lead the country down a disastrous path to permanent conflict. It’s vital for Israeli leaders to recognize that whatever the dangerous and deluded policies of the Trump Administration, the vast majority of Americans and American Jews are strongly opposed to annexation and remain deeply committed to the achievement of a peaceful two-state solution.”

Daniel Sokatch, CEO of The New Israel Fund: “We have said for years that there is a choice to be made between Israel’s Jewish character, its democracy, and its control over the Palestinian territories. A future government of Israel that unilaterally and illegally annexes Palestinian territories would not only dynamite decades of peacemaking aimed at a two-state solution, but would also sell out the hope so many of us have for a democratic future for Israel.

“The cynical settler right that peddles annexation wants the world to believe that there are no costs to their plan. But we know the costs, and they are steep. They will be borne by Israeli and Palestinian people. Annexation will lock Palestinians into the intolerable reality they have lived in for 52-years and Israeli democracy will not endure.

“Israelis of all stripes want to live in a democracy. This is why all those who care about Israeli and Palestinian people, all those who support Israeli democracy around the world, must stand firmly against annexation.” 

Rabbi Jill Jacobs, Executive Director of T’ruah:  T’ruah brings the moral voice of more than 2,000 North American rabbis, cantors, and their communities to standing up for human rights, both in North America and in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. Annexing the settlements would violate international law and will further codify the denial of basic human rights, including civil and political rights, to the millions of Palestinians living under Israeli military rule. Those of us working toward a long-term two-state solution that guarantees the self-determination of both peoples must oppose any unilateral moves that place a roadblock in the path toward peace.”  

Oren Zukierkorn, Secretary General of Hashomer Hatzair World Movement: “The future of our two peoples depends on finding a path built on the hope that one day we can live in peace together. Any unilateral actions of this sort builds another obstacle that stands in the way of that hope. The annexation of any land that is currently occupied territory is a step that takes us further away from reaching a just and peaceful solution.” 

“Hashomer Hatzair’s ideology states that ‘Zionism stems from the belief that all peoples deserve a right to self-determination, and that Israel is the expression of Jewish self-determination.’ Each nation has the right to define their story, their home, and their future. This is true for all peoples, including both the Jewish people and the Palestinian people. We cannot be a free people as long as we oppress others and Israel cannot be an exemplary society as long as we promote injustice. The morality of our actions directly impacts the morality of the world around us. If we expect other nations and peoples to be in solidarity with us, it is our duty to stand in solidarity with others; the Palestinian people in particular.”

Paul Scham, President of Partners for Progressive Israel: “Partners for Progressive Israel urges that this statement be taken seriously by all who care about Israel and especially the next Israeli government. Going down the path of annexation will doom any prospects for peace for Israelis, Palestinians, and their neighbors.”

Sheila Katz, CEO, National Council of Jewish Women: “At the National Council of Jewish Women, we fight for the security and safety of women and all families, both in the US and Israel. In signing this letter, we are stating loudly and clearly that unilaterally annexing lands is in direct opposition to the promise of a negotiated two-state solution, peace, and a democratic future for Israel. In the search for an end to cycles of violence and a future in which all peoples can thrive, we stand together with our Israeli feminist partner organizations in calling for fair and just diplomatic solutions that foster both security and also respect and dignity for all involved and for generations to come.”

Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Jewish Labor Committee:  “Working men and women on both sides of the Green Line will not have their lives improved by annexation of land by the State of Israel - on the contrary, such moves will embitter many of those most directly affected, and make any fair, just, and mutually agreed-upon resolution all the more difficult. Bold steps towards peace and security, not short-term political maneuvering, must be the priority of all Israeli leaders and their supporters in that country and abroad.”

Leah Schwartz, Secretary General of Habonim Dror North America: “As a youth movement, we are uniquely invested in Israel’s future. We need Israel to live up to the Zionist dream — to actively work towards a two-state solution built on peace, justice, and coexistence with the Palestinian people.”

Statement Opposing Netanyahu’s Annexation Pledge

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Responding to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s announcement of his intent to extend Israeli sovereignty over large parts of the West Bank, the Progressive Israel Network released the following statement:

A democratic and peaceful future for Israelis and Palestinians requires national self-determination for both peoples. Any step to unilaterally impose Israeli sovereignty over Palestinian people and territory in the West Bank is a step away from the two-state vision and toward the formalization of two separate and unequal legal systems. Both Israelis and Palestinians want and deserve to live in peace, with justice and dignity. Israelis deserve to live in a healthy and vibrant democracy. Palestinians deserve to live free from occupation.

Netanyahu’s suggested move would entrench Israel’s military occupation in the West Bank. It harms millions of Palestinians living under occupation and poses an existential threat to Israeli democracy. Israeli democracy cannot endure without putting an end to the 52-year occupation.

Our vision for Israel and its relationship with the U.S. includes:

  • A strong and democratic Israel that ends its 52-year occupation and that provides for all its citizens justice, dignity and equal rights. An Israel that seeks peace, rather than entrenching occupation and inequality.
  • Strong US leadership towards a two-state solution, which opposes unilateral Israeli annexation of the West Bank.
  • A US-Israel relationship that reinforces our countries’ shared democratic values and institutions.

 


The Progressive Israel Network is a coalition of the ten leading organizations representing Americans committed to pursuing democracy, equality in Israel and to peace between Israelis and Palestinians. The coalition speaks with a unified voice in support of democracy and equal rights, religious freedom and pluralism, and a two-state solution. The network’s founding members are Ameinu, Americans for Peace Now, Habonim Dror North America, Hashomer Hatzair, The Jewish Labor Committee, J Street, The New Israel Fund, Partners for Progressive Israel, Reconstructing Judaism, and T’ruah. This statement is further joined by the National Council of Jewish Women.

Statement on Israeli Government Decision to Bar Entry to Reps. Omar and Tlaib

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Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association strongly oppose the decision of the Government of Israel to deny entry into Israel to U.S. Congressional Representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib. To quote Daniel Sokatch, CEO of the New Israel Fund, “When the Prime Minister of Israel uses political litmus tests at the border, he abandons Israeli democracy.” Knesset member Stav Shaffir writes, “A country with smart foreign policy invites Members of Congress with positions we don’t like and we make sure they’re exposed to the complexity of the conflict, see our narrative and show the world we are strong and open.” We hope that the Israeli government will reconsider this mistaken and damaging decision, which stands to harm the longstanding relationship between the US and Israel, and which contributes to growing anti-democratic trends in Israeli society.

We also condemn President Trump’s tweet claiming that Representatives Tlaib and Omar hate all Jewish people. As the American Jewish community continues to face ongoing threats from violent white nationalists, it is painful to hear the president badly misuse and distort the very real problem of active antisemitism in the U.S. 

Rabbi Deborah Waxman co-authors op-ed on xenophobic dangers and democratic hopes in Israel and U.S.

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By Rabbi Deborah Waxman, Ph.D., Rabbi Jill Jacobs and Libby Lenkinski on behalf of the Progressive Israel Network

Originally published in the Forward on July 24, 2019

For American Jews, the recent resurgence of American nativism recalls the worst moments of the last century. American nativism brought us the Immigration Act of 1924, a racist law that closed America’s borders to Jews and other “undesirables,” and that ultimately barred our forebears from escaping the Nazis and finding refuge in America.

Jews then were considered by nativists to be dirty, racially inferior, and unassimilable. We were not welcome on American shores. President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” hearkens to those times, and his cruel immigration policies are inspired by them. This is not what democracy looks like.

It is for this reason that last June, we helped form the Progressive Israel Network — a coalition of ten leading organizations committed to building a vision of a democratic and progressive future for Israel. This week, we are laying out an affirmative, values-based vision to guide the Israel-America relationship into a strong, free and democratic future.

President Trump’s nativism is not new, but it recently found newfound furor, as he cast aspersions on the loyalty of whole categories of American citizens — women of color, immigrants, refugees, Muslims. Dangerously, he has attempted to drag Jews and the State of Israel into his racist tirades.

For Trump, Jews are synonymous with Israel, and Israel is synonymous with a right-wing expansionist vision shared by Prime Minister Netanyahu and his allies. That’s why Trump referred to Israel in a roomful of American Jews as “your country” and to Benjamin Netanyahu as “your prime minister.” It is how he could say that he was defending Israel as he engaged in a racist screed against those four Democratic Congresswomen of color last Wednesday.

Trump has fashioned the terms “anti-Jewish,” “anti-Semite,” and “anti-American” into a political weapon to use in the service of his neo-populism and then handed off that blunt cudgel to his right-wing base to use with reckless abandon.

On a visit to America, David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, noted that, “From the first, Americans everywhere have understood Israel’s democratic hopes and ambitions.” But a White House with a narrow, corrosive vision of citizenship that threatens the core of American democracy is not a vantage point for understanding and furthering “Israel’s democratic hopes and ambitions.” Quite the contrary. Trump’s vile racism is a toxin as poisonous to the American body politic as it is for Israel’s democracy.

Benjamin Netanyahu has joined the list of illiberal populists around the world seeking to dismantle multi-racial, liberal democracy piece by piece. This has included inciting against human rights organizations, passing legislation that creates inequality between Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel, and pursuing legislation that would restrict the power of the Supreme Court and that would prohibit the removal of a sitting Prime Minister (as Netanyahu is facing indictment on multiple corruption charges).

This list of xenophobic, fearmongering leaders certainly includes Trump, but it neither starts nor ends with him. Putin in Russia, Orban in Hungary, Morawiecki in Poland, Salvini in Italy, and Bolsonaro in Brazil, Erdogan in Turkey are all birds of a single populist feather.

These demagogues sow fear and stoke racial tension. They promote an exclusivist, chauvinist white nationalism. But they will not win. Jewish history teaches us that tyranny cannot sustain itself. From Pharaoh to the Roman Emperors to the monarchs who expelled us from multiple parts of Europe, Jews have outlasted the tyrants who have sought our destruction. And we American Jews know that the only way for the Israel-America friendship to survive — and not be tossed out along with these demagogues — is to center our democratic values.

We encourage all presidential candidates to stand behind these values and articulate a proactive and constructive vision of the best of what each nation can be, and what the most robust partnership between them can advance.

We hope that they will gather the fortitude to speak clearly and confidently on this issue, and not stand idly by while two troubled democracies continue down the same disturbing path. We believe that a clear-eyed, values-based alliance between America and Israel demands the following:

— A recognition that Trump-era policies have damaged prospects for peace and that any new American president will need to repair.

— An end to Israel’s 52-year occupation of the West Bank and a recommitment to the rights of all citizens who deserve justice, dignity and equality.

— Strong US leadership towards a two-state solution and opposition to any unilateral steps by Israel that would annex parts of the West Bank and thereby formalize two separate and unequal legal systems.

— Reinforcement of our countries’ common democratic institutions - a strong judiciary, a strong civil society, and free and fair elections - such that both countries are empowered to resist the erosion of these institutions by xenophobic and populist movements and leaders.

American democracy today is in uncharted waters. And American Jews know, in our bones, that when the government conditions civil rights for some, the civil rights of all are at risk. We know what is at stake. This is the governing principle that keeps us all safe: strong protections for minority and individual rights.

Rabbi Jill Jacobs is the Executive Director of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights. Rabbi Deborah Waxman Ph.D. is the President of Reconstructing Judaism. Libby Lenkinski is the Vice President for Public Engagement at the New Israel Fund.

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