“This is a sad and unnecessary day for Israeli democracy. The damage that will be done by this new Nation-State law to the legitimacy of the Zionist vision and to the values of the state of Israel as a democratic—and Jewish—nation is enormous.”
Rabbi Rick Jacobs made a clear statement a few weeks ago on the legitimacy of a democratic Jewish state after the passing of the Nation-State bill. The reality we must realize, however, is that this is but one more rock being added to the pile that has caused alarm and discomfort among the Reform Jewish community. The pile is unbalanced, and seems to be tipping in a direction that is difficult to lean towards. How can we, as a progressive diaspora, support the current Israeli administration, while simultaneously claiming to support a democratic, pluralistic Jewish state?
The Druze-led rally in Tel Aviv, in response to the new Nation-State law, drew over 50,000 protestors. From across the globe, we as NFTY feel obligated to contribute our voices to this conversation.
To do so, we must be supportive in a way that isn’t always seen as a clear – or traditional – form of support; as progressive Jews, to support Israel, we must be critical of its actions.
Just as one can consider themselves a patriot, and consider a critique of their own government to be one of the most patriotic things they can do, as Reform Jews, we always work to challenge and build upon our relationship with Judaism. Following our values, a critique of Israel is one of the most Zionist things about us. To truly support our homeland, we have to make it ours by sharing our voices, and making it a place that has just as much our Reform values as it does any other sect or community; otherwise, we lose our right to consider Israel “pluralistic.”
For us to support Israel, we can no longer support its leaders unconditionally. We must understand the difference between the idea and hope of Israel, of Zion, and the reality of what our internationally controversial land has developed into.
Regardless of your previous knowledge, struggling with Israel is often an integral part of our Jewish identities. No matter how vast or limited you consider your knowledge of Israel to be, now is the time to start asking questions. Question unwavering commitments, question every source of information, and question those around you. Voice your concerns, advocate for more open dialogues, and engage with your peers and your community.
We can no longer stand idly by in the face of oppression. We call upon NFTY and the reform Jewish community to voice their critique of Israel, for the sake of true, critical Zionism, and to push Israel back into the sight of our vision for a democratic, pluralistic Jewish state.
NFTY North American Board 5778/5779