URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs: “Israel’s Decision To Bar U.S. Representatives Is Wrong. Democracies Do Not Hide.”

August 15, 2019; New York, NY – Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) President Rabbi Rick Jacobs released the following statement in response to the Israeli government’s decision to bar entry to members of the United States Congress:

Israel’s decision to bar U.S. Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar from entering the country is wrong, full stop. Democracies do not hide; they can protect their security and well-being and also celebrate robust debate and engagement in the public square.

One need not agree with Reps. Omar and Tlaib on BDS (I certainly don’t) to know that the strongest response to their challenge is to meet it head on, rather than to draw the curtains and hide. Israel should use the opportunity afforded by the representatives’ visit to demonstrate why BDS is wrong and fails to offer a reasonable path forward in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

It is hard to know who is acting more recklessly today – Prime Minister Netanyahu by sacrificing Israel’s commitment to democracy and openness or President Trump by injecting himself into a highly political argument just weeks before the upcoming Israel election. The consequences of their actions today will, I fear, reverberate for years both in undermining Israeli democracy and in making Israel a “wedge issue” in American politics.

We call on Prime Minister Netanyahu to reverse his decision, welcome Representatives Tlaib and Omar as sitting members of Congress, and use this opportunity to demonstrate Israel’s thriving democracy to the world. 


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