We Have to Fight—and We Need Your Help.

2 August 2023

We are living in a time of political and therefore emotional chaos. Last week’s government vote to repeal the court’s power to declare a government decision “unreasonable” was a blow to the rule of law and to the foundations of our fragile democracy here in Israel. Every night since, I go to sleep half depressed, thinking that this is the end, that the country is headed into the abyss. But when I wake up, I am energized and ready to fight, and I know that hundreds of thousands of compatriots are with me. We know—we all know—that we, the people, are all that stands between us and a very dark future for Israel.

Democracy is not something we can sit back and hope will be there in the morning when we wake up. We need to fight for it. It’s a long haul, but our camp is strong—and growing.

We, the pro-democracy camp, know very well what this government would like to do. Their next order of business—when the Knesset session begins again, after the Jewish high holidays—is to once again try to alter the makeup of the committee to select supreme court justices. To be clear: this is the real thing, the real game. Because if the same politicians who run the government can appoint whomever they want to the judiciary, *all* branches of our government will be under the thumb of 64 populist-messianist-ultra-nationalists, led by Netanyahu. As Itamar Ben Gvir, the extremist Minister of National Security who was convicted of inciting racism, has said, annulling the reasonableness clause was just the “salad”. The main course is yet to come. But with your help, we will be ready.

Here’s what we know. We know that for now foreign and Israeli corporations are rethinking their investments in Israel. We know that many IDF officers have stopped volunteering for reserve duty. We know that over 60% of Israelis oppose the government’s assault on the judiciary and feel like they’re part of the pro-democracy movement, and that some significant percentage of Likud voters are not supportive of the so-called “judicial reform.” But we don’t know how all of this will impact the protest movement, whether there will be a constitutional crisis, and how this puzzle will ultimately play itself out.

In the meantime, however, we will not sit on our hands. As our wonderful CEO, Daniel Sokatch, is fond of saying, these are the times NIF was built for. We have the tools to inspire, to move people, and to fight for social change now, and that’s precisely what we are doing.

We have fully activated our Hub for the Protection of Civil Society and are now providing key services and support to protesters—legal, psychological, and otherwise. In particular, we are  supporting the activists who are helping the public connect the dots between the agenda of those who would like to see the occupation deepen and Israel annex parts of the West Bank and the agenda of those who would like to diminish the power of the supreme court. They are one and the same. 

And we are holding the authorities accountable for their treatment of protesters. After reports that the Shin Bet had been monitoring pro-democracy activists, our flagship grantee, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), contacted the head of the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, and made it clear that this was not acceptable in a country that calls itself a democracy. The Shin Bet had allegedly picked up a key activist in the protest from his home and taken him in for questioning for no other reason than being an activist in the protest movement; he was released without charges. After ACRI took action, the Shin Bet pledged not to do that again.

It is beyond clear that the passage of this one law to weaken the Supreme Court is only one brick in the wall. Every day more delusional and crazier laws emerge; even if only some of them pass, we will not be living in the same Israel. Our lives will change beyond recognition. We have to fight—and we need your help.

It’s gotten so bad that I (like so many of us here in Israel) am living with a sense of deep dread that Israel may be headed in the direction of civil war. That’s one of the reasons we are supporting a new, nationwide initiative called “Let’s Talk,” which trains volunteers to engage with pedestrians in right-leaning areas, handing out flowers and starting conversations about the judicial overhaul and liberal democracy. The initiative is based on similar, successful work in the US, and we are hoping it brings Israelis closer together in this moment when we feel so far apart from each other. 

I go to demonstrations with my children and my granddaughters and grandsons—we are three generations fighting together. And there, I see more and more new partners for the multi-front war we are fighting. On those days, I am optimistic. I am more optimistic than ever that Israel will be a home for them too, these young men and women, these small, growing children. It will take a lot of work to get there—but together, I know we will.