21 January 2011
A Message from Daniel Sokatch
Nafal davar b’Yisrael. Something happened in Israel. These are the words that Bradley Burston used in his column in Ha’artez this week to describe the new hope for the future of liberal democracy in Israel that is emerging there, even as some serious assaults on that democracy are underway.
Burston points to mounting evidence that the ultra-nationalist right has seriously overreached. In its attempts to introduce problematic legislation and witch hunts aimed at repressing speech and equating dissent with disloyalty and, increasingly, “delegitimization,” Yisrael Beitenu and its allies have alarmed the proponents of Israeli democracy. Israelis, he observes, are waking up to the dangers. In response to the most recent wave of attempts to shut down Israel’s social justice organizations, well over 10,000 people marched to defend democracy last Saturday. Across the political spectrum, proponents of freedom of speech and expression have voiced their opposition to the path Israel appears to be on.
And nafal davar b’America, too. Something is changing on this side of the ocean as well. Staunch supporters of Israel like the ADL and the AJC have publicly voiced their concern over recent developments in Israel. And authoritative commentators like Tom Friedman, David Remnick and Jeffrey Goldberg have urged Israel to remain true to its liberal democratic founding principles.
At a time when some would change the nature of Israel into something unrecognizable to those who love her, Israelis and American Jewish leaders are speaking up and saying “no.” For those of us who have been fighting this fight for the last year, this is very good news: we are not alone.