Since our VP Jen Gorovitz was briefly detained and questioned at Ben Gurion Airport on Wednesday night, we’ve seen a groundswell of support from Israelis who are horrified that their government is questioning people about their political beliefs as they arrive in Israel. And they’ve been joined by many more NIF supporters worldwide.
Most of these people don’t even know Jen, but they get what’s going on – they get that the demonization of those of us who stand up for human rights is so intense that passport control can’t tell fact from fiction, traitor from patriot. They get that and they are giving their Shekels to NIF to show their support for Jen. They don’t want American Jews to receive this treatment when they land in Israel.
Many of us do know Jen. We know all that she has done for Israel over the years — we’re talking about the former CEO of the San Francisco Jewish Federation, the former student leader of the UJA’s Operation Moses campaign on Stanford’s campus, and a woman who has raised millions of dollars for Israel in her career. If this is how the Israeli government is treating somebody like Jen, what are they doing to ordinary Israelis and Palestinians whose political views are out of tune with the ruling coalition?
There is, of course, a bigger story at play.
What happened with Jen is not unrelated to other news we’re seeing from Israel. Just this week in Jerusalem government officials announced they will shut down an art gallery that “dared” to host a talk by IDF veterans associated with Breaking the Silence. And that news came on top of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s much publicized efforts to get European governments to stop funding Israeli human rights champions.
For years we’ve seen a sustained campaign to demonize Israelis who believe in democracy. What happened to Jen is just the latest outcome from that campaign.
The good news is that the public pressure that came out of the story breaking has had an impact. The Israeli government has backtracked. They’ve jettisoned their patently false — not to mention laughably absurd — initial claim that Jen was detained as a matter of national security. And they’re acknowledging that a mistake was made, even as they have yet to apologize for the officers’ actions.
We must press forward. I have no doubt that our community will not stand silently by as Israel is transformed. We will continue to come together as a community and stand for our vision of a better Israel. We will not back down. We will persevere.