Something impressive is happening in Israel right now. The shift in government policy – to force more and more African asylum seekers to choose between deportation and indefinite imprisonment – has driven more and more Israelis to speak out against this injustice.
There was a group of nearly 100 Israeli rabbis who wrote to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to express their opposition. They were followed by a group of prominent writers and intellectuals, and then by hundreds of doctors.
And then there are the Holocaust survivors, rabbis, and Israelis of every walk of life who have offered to shelter the asylum seekers from authorities, should the need arise. One Knesset Member took to the Knesset dais to announce that he would open up his own home.
It has gotten to the point where Israeli government spokespersons are struggling to defend their policy to their own public.
This wave of outrage — the call for Israel’s leaders to act more morally — is what can happen when the politicians governing Israel today misjudge the Israeli public and put forward such atrocious policies. When the extremists overreach, it can create a moment that galvanizes Israelis to take a stand for democratic values.
You will read in this newsletter about some of the work being done to try to force the Israeli government to rethink or scale down their plans. The New Israel Fund is committed to supporting this work. This week we approved $60,000 in emergency funding to various organizations that are either leading the public campaign against the deportations or providing services to the asylum seeker community.
Other groups we’ve invested in are also helping Israelis speak out in smart ways. The campaign by Zazim – Community Action to ask Israeli pilots to refuse to take part in deportations is built on a successful precedent from Germany, and it has already prompted a handful of pilots and 130 crew members to speak out publicly against the deportations. Zazim is the Israeli equivalent to MoveOn.org, which NIF incubated and is now a full-fledged organization in its third year of operations.
I am inspired by all that’s happening on this issue. Just like Americans showed up at airports when President Donald Trump tried to implement his Muslim Ban, Israelis are showing up right now on this issue.
I cannot guarantee that this outcry will succeed in stopping the deportations. I do not know whether the Israeli government will back down. And I cannot say whether the High Court will have the courage to block their plans.
What I can promise you is that we will support this work. The moral imperative is clear. The opportunity to support those Israelis working to make their country live up to the best of Jewish and universal values is undeniable. And at the end of the day, we must help progressive Israelis use this moment to build a larger, better networked, more effective movement that can help Israel embrace the values of equality and democracy.