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Knesset Decision Undermines Israel's Democratic Values

Contact: Annette Powers
apowers@urj.org
212-650-4154   

January 11, 2011, New York -- In response to the Knesset's decision last week to form a parliamentary committee investigating Israeli groups critical of the Israel Defense Forces, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, and Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism issued the following statement:
 
We in the Reform Movement are deeply concerned by the recent initiative approved by Israel's Knesset that calls for a parliamentary investigation of Israeli organizations that have been critical of Israel's military operations.
 
The recent initiative undermines Israel's place in the global community and is a source of concern to the Jewish community throughout the world and to Israel's friends everywhere. 
 
Israel has always been a vibrant democracy that supports the right of every citizen to speak freely and that encourages volunteer organizations to express their views, critical or otherwise, about all aspects of Israeli society. The activity of human rights organizations in Israel is a tribute to Israel's democratic values and strengthens her democratic character.  
 
The Reform Movement takes great pride in the State of Israel and in her democratic traditions.  We join with those in Israel – including Cabinet Minister Benny Begin and Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein – who have expressed concern about this legislation.  We urge that political and partisan considerations not be permitted to intimidate potential government critics from the left or the right or to discourage the vibrant debate of which Israel and her supporters are justly proud.
 
We urge the Knesset to reconsider its actions.  If action should be necessary to assure transparency and accountability of volunteer associations in Israel, we urge that it be done in a non-partisan manner and include review of all organizations across the political spectrum.
 

Comments

Louis

January 13, 2011
03:48 AM

Statement on Knesset Committee: Good but not enough

I am a human rights worker and live in West Jerusalem. Over the past year, here in Israel, I have learned to fear, very much so what is going on esp. over the past year. I fear for what is left of democracy. Therefore, as far as I am concerned the URJ statement is welcomed but to tell the truth it just does not say enough or reflect the real urgency of the situation here, given the very real fear that so many of us in the human rights and democracy movement feel and experience.

Furthermore, I can only plead that the contemporaries of those academics and intellectuals in Israel who spoke out against the Knesset committee, in the movements, and academies to speak out - Esp. the most respected Jewish Studies academics at HUC, JTS, RRC, Hebrew College, etc. demand that the attack on the NGOs and on human rights and democracy come to an end. They need to start saying that their support for Israel is conditional: on Israel being democratic!

The sad truth is that the American Jewish establishment has for too long fed the occupation (and this is not about the Occupation, though I argue it is undemocratic and unJewish, plenty of Jews in my Reform minyan in Jerusalem may argue the opposite)... failed to think critically and independently, for a large part, and operated as if the State of Israel is their Torah - worrying more about the Jewish than the democratic... Now it is time for those, esp. those who besmirched the rise of JStreet, for example, to speak out loudly and clearly and say democracy first otherwise they can forget about the Jewish, at least the image of Jewish that they think about... the enlightened light unto the nations will be if it is not already being, extinguished and left with a Judaism that is anything but...

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Roger

January 23, 2011
09:29 PM

Even in the US we exercise our sovereign right to limit domestic activities of foreign entities including governments and terrorist organizations. Israel is entitled to do the same. The Knesset’s concern is not unfounded and its decision to approve establishment of a commission of inquiry is legitimate.

Israel faces outside forces which fund anti-Israel activities within its borders. A recent third-party report has produced evidence that Arab and other foreign money funds groups working to delegitimize and destabilize the State of Israel.

While the URJ leadership claims to speak for the entire movement, it does not.

There are many in the movement who do not agree with the URJ’s selective use of political issues that create divisions between Jews and paint a generally negative picture of Israel.

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