New Israeli law is shock to U.S. Zionists, who fear break with American Jews – Mondoweiss

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Today the Israeli parliament approved a measure that would undermine the power of the courts to overturn government policy by a vote of 64-0. The opposition walked out amid large demonstrations and threats by reservists not to serve in the armed forces.

The “reasonableness law” is a victory for Netanyahu’s far-rightwing government. The settler leaders of that government aim to use it to advance Jewish colonization of the West Bank, effectively annexing large portions of Palestinian territory.

The new law represents a huge crisis for American Zionists. The ADL and the American Jewish Committee today both expressed sharp disappointment over the government’s defiance of American Jewish opinion.

The extremist measure has prompted agonized debate among American Jews that Israel’s longtime persecution of Palestinians never has. That debate includes calls by liberal Zionists to withdraw U.S. military aid to Israel, and support for economic punishments, divestment, and boycott of the country. (Palestinians have called for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel for nearly 20 years over Israeli human rights violations and have been smeared as antisemites for the demand).

Let’s look at the shock the measure is creating in the United States, especially among Zionists.

Joe Biden gave a statement to Axios yesterday urging the government not to go forward.

“It looks like the current judicial reform proposal is becoming more divisive, not less. Given the range of threats and challenges confronting Israel right now, it doesn’t make sense for Israeli leaders to rush this — the focus should be on pulling people together and finding consensus.”

The center-right Zionist organization ADL issued a “deeply disappointed” statement, expressing grave concern that the law will alienate American Jews. “[I]t’s incredibly painful to see such deep divisions in our community.”

The American Jewish Committee issued a similar statement of great dismay. Much of its concern was the effect on Israel’s Jewish political supporters in the U.S.:

American Jewish Committee (AJC) today expressed profound disappointment over the passage of the Reasonableness Standard Law in Israel.

The new law was pushed through unilaterally by the governing coalition amid deepening divisions in Israeli society as evidenced by the hundreds of thousands of Israelis who have taken to the streets. Of particular concern to AJC, the continued effort to press forward on judicial reform rather than seeking compromise has sown discord within the Israeli Defense Forces at a time of elevated threats to the Jewish homeland and has strained the vital relationship between Israel and Diaspora Jewry.

Prominent Zionist institutions, including the Jewish Federations and the Jewish Agency, urged the Netanyahu government to compromise with the opposition in an urgent letter that was ignored. “We must make every effort for unity and Shalom Bayit – peace in our home. We, representatives of the National Institutions and World Jewry, partners in outlining the future of the Jewish people, wish to express the concern of the entire Jewish people and aspire to strengthen the foundations of our national home.”

The right-wing Zionist group AIPAC is spinning the news. There couldn’t be a better sign of Israeli democracy. “The intense debate going on back home, even as we speak, is the clearest tribute to the fortitude of Israel’s democracy.”

The law is especially shocking to liberal Zionists. The Israel of their dreams is openly vanishing, as the two-state solution is being destroyed in plain view.

Some assert that they feel energized, fighting for Israel’s future. Amy Spitalnick of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs vows that Netanyahu’s overreach will engage American Jews.

More than ever, the Israelis fighting for democracy need to know that American Jews are with them. We are. This is our fight too – and the vast majority of us believe in a Jewish, democratic Israel that lives up to its founding values of equality, freedom, and justice. [heart, fist, and Israeli flag emojis]

Ori Nir of Americans for Peace Now made a similar comment:

How should Americans who care about Israeli democracy react to this development? What is the best reaction? Support Israelis who work to advance democracy, liberalism and peace!

Polling suggests that many American Jews will just walk away from this Israel rather than support an apartheid state.

Liberal Zionists are aware of those attitudes, and they pledge that some of the fight means finally punishing Israel. Nadav Tamir of J Street is hopeful that the dramatic step will lead to international efforts to deprive Israel of support for its colonization project in the West Bank:

I am actually full of hope because the worst government in Israel’s history has managed to awaken liberals who, for many years, have enjoyed their siesta and waited for the exit of their start-up company. We were in complete denial of the fact that we have abdicated the governance of our country to the jewish supremacy of the messianic settlers, the mysojenic and hatred of LGBTQ, and the corrupt Likudniks who manipulate the ethnic divides in our society The situation in which all the political energy was generated by the anti-liberal camp is over…

Now that the masks have been removed, more liberal countries are beginning to realize that providing diplomatic support to Israel’s government, while it deepens and expands the occupation, should stop.

Boycott and divestment by Israeli Jews against the government are underway (as it has been throughout the Jewish protests to save a Jewish democracy). From Jewish Insider today:

A leading business forum representing 150 of Israel’s largest companies announced a strike today, shuttering banks, shopping centers and gas stations, as well as other businesses. Israel’s biggest labor union, the Histadrut, is weighing a national strike that would shut down government offices and public transportation. Nearly 70% of Israeli startups have begun taking steps to relocate parts of their business outside Israel, a survey released yesterday found.

Over the weekend, several longtime Israel supporters came out in a New York Times column for reducing U.S. aid to Israel–among them Martin Indyk, Daniel Kurtzer, Aaron David Miller– for a variety of reasons, including the unending occupation.

Tom Friedman of the Times hints at a withdrawal of US aid over the new law. He tells Joe Biden that “this Israeli government needs another dose of your tough love.”

Friedman worries that the new measure will end the pretense that the U.S. and Israel are pursuing a two-state solution. The Israeli government, he says, aims “to dismantle the Oslo peace process and its road map for a two-state solution, in order to pave the way for a unilateral Israeli annexation of the West Bank…. the Jewish supremacists in Netanyahu’s cabinet need to get the Supreme Court out of the way in order to carry out their plans to annex the West Bank.”

J Street also sees the judicial overhaul as a means to rally its members to stand up for the supposed ideals of the Jewish state: “As a pro-Israel, pro-peace, pro-democracy American, I am proud to stand in solidarity with the Israeli protesters struggling for their future, and to stand against the government’s plans,” it wrote in recent days.

Ori Nir at Americans for Peace Now shares a map showing how buses carrying pro-reform demonstrators to Jerusalem originate almost entirely from illegal settlements in the West Bank. Dylan Williams of J Street explains that the government has been captured by the occupation:

This map shows with compelling clarity how the actual existential threat to Israel emanating from the West Bank is the antidemocratic settlement movement that seeks expansion and annexation at any price. The occupation is poisoning Israel’s democracy and jeopardizing its future.

Paul Scham of Partners for Progressive Israel also says the law will advance the “trampling” of minority rights, “especially Arab” rights. He called on Americans “who care about Israel to make their feelings about these repressive measure known in every available forum, including to their elected representatives.”



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