A little while ago, we asked you to share your thoughts with us regarding Israel’s recent judicial coup and its fallout, which we’re seeing play out in the headlines now. Now, we’d like to share some selections* back with you.
*some pieces have been edited for clarity and length.
None of us are alone in grappling with the horrors of the Occupation and the right-wing extremist government determined to advance it. Our goal here is to share our collective grief and anger, and most importantly, to allow us to face this grim reality together as a community.
I am ashamed but not merely about this. My son, Sam, started Extend more than a decade ago and his efforts represent my values as well. He has brought hundreds of young [and not so young] Jews into contact with the West Bank and the endless struggles of its residents. We must end the oppression being visited upon Palestinians and re-connect deeply with the values of virtue and inclusiveness, generosity and understanding which form the foundation of our culture. All efforts to make Israel a more totalitarian and authoritarian state must be resisted as must those be here at home.
– Michael H. Sussman, Esq. Orange County, NY
It is like reading the Bible, the cringy parts, where the Israelites are bellicose, insensitive, demanding, and aggressive, both to the tribes around them and to any doubters within. This is not the Judaism that I believe in. I believe in a Judaism in which we love our neighbor, even love the stranger. And this is not the homeland I want for the Judaism I believe in. Ultimately, this kind of aggression leads to destruction without and within. I shudder to think about what might happen, if not now, someday.
– Heidi M Feldman
I feel that democracy in Israel is in real danger. The Legislative and Executive branches essentially joined forces to neutralize the Supreme Court as an independent entity. This will allow for corrupt officials to continue in office, while the extremist agenda the right-wing favors on settlements and the refusal of Ultra-Orthodox to serve in the military will continue unabated.
– Eric Gartman
I think we all know that Biden's voice is needed. I'm sorry that Biden's response so far has been fairly moderate. We need to petition Biden to speak out strongly against the attack on the judiciary (essentially an attack on democracy) and even threaten to limit military aid to Israel. Biden should make clear that he will not meet with Bibi until the legislation of shisha b'Av is reversed and any plans to limit the judiciary are abandoned.
This feels like the inevitable outcome of ongoing Occupation. Injustice anywhere is a threat to Justice everywhere. If Israel continued to live without giving Palestinians government, rights, votes, and freedom, it was only a matter of time before the same oppressors turned on those who would limit their oppression. It’s a very sad time for Israel and Jews everywhere.
– Rabbi Sarah Meytin
As a supporter of Americans for Peace Now for over 40 years, I am horrified by the passage of [last] Monday's law by the Knesset. I do not expect President Biden to do more than express concern between now and the November 2024 election because he will be fearful of losing Jewish votes.
– Stephen Tallackson
The country has turned from a very stressed democratic system to one not democratic.
–Herman Prager III
We need to bring the Palestinian citizens off the sidelines and into the discussion (and the electorate) by
centering the protests and discussion on the Occupation.
As everyone knows, what is happening in Israel is one manifestation of what has happened in other countries--Poland, Hungary, Turkey, et al. And what we are moving toward in the U.S.
– Hank Greenspan
Bibi has created an extreme ethno- and religious nationalist state, which is a polite term for fascism. We can only hope that somehow Israeli democracy can stand firm.
– Richard J. Weisberg
I am feeling profound pain and anger. I want to hear from the pulpits of all our Rabbis and Cantors, that we have to stop defending Israel as a victim, as a way of justifying the abuses that have been tormenting Palestinians since the beginning of the state and are now being used to torment their citizens who oppose the policies of this government. It is time to hold Israel accountable for Human Rights violations.
– Diane Blumson
I feel like the nightmare scenario of Jew vs Jew has arrived. I find it very sad to have foreseen that we are our own worse enemy. Is it time to say Kaddish? Where is the imperfect Israel of my 50s childhood? Is this an opportunity to work together and create a constitution? Can we embrace each other to do that? Certainly, the judiciary is imperfect. Can a diverse group of current and former justices make recommendations on how to better the system? Israel is so creative and dynamic. It used to have a strong sense of integrity. Can it use its strengths to pull together for the benefit of all its citizens?
– Jordan Shifriss
It is a worldwide challenge when people vote for the limitation of their own liberties. There is a cultural rot spreading where deep religion and fascism are chosen, the mental and spiritual laziness demands it. In Israel, with the most moral (though imperfect) army, and a commitment to Jewish values, this disintegration and passivity is so likely because it is a rich country, and life is generally good. The country has held on to the belief there is an existential threat when there hasn't been one for about 25 years. The government has fed this to the population for ease, scapegoating the Arab problem as a clear and present danger, and facing that threat with chauvinist excessive force. We think we are under threat - unity, and support for the right-wing factions. We see a demonstration of our might - baruch hashem and aren't we wonderful. The dismantling of checks and balances is a natural last step, the climax of the drama we gobble up. When I used to tell my family 20 years ago that the enemy is the Haredim, not the Arabs, I was told I am an anti-Semitic Jew. I am not for Peace Now because I believe or care about the Palestinian cause; frankly, I do not. I am for Peace Now because of what the ugliness of occupation does to our own children, the danger it poses to us, the direct threat to our consciousness. I am proud of the men and women who have stood up to the coalition, to those who refuse to serve this government, to the population who stands for something. I am, however, not optimistic. As long as people worship the false idols of war and religious extremism, and choose to limit their own freedom, we have a problem. Hitler was elected democratically in 1933, not because the entire German population is evil, but because they couldn't see around the corner. There was an enemy, the show of power was intoxicating, and they were fed a drama they gobbled up. I am sure most regretted it, but it was too late.
– Dani Lainer-Vos
I am horrified and, of course, so sad that a country I have loved since I visited and lived there for the summer at the end of the '67 War has changed so drastically into what I abhor. That said, it seems like that is the way of a lot of the world, including my own country (U.S.A.), these past few years. It makes me want to lead a revolution to sweep out the corrupt and the power-hungry and put in place those who want a true democracy with the rule of law, but, alas, I don't have it in me to do that.
– Alice Selfridge
I am saddened and angry at what we have seen happening in Israel, even as I have been moved and heartened by the courage of the protestors. At the strategic level, I think we need to do two things. One, work more and more with Palestinians inside Israel and on the West Bank. Progressive and liberal-minded Jews now share many interests with Palestinians inside Israel, and they should vote together to build a new majority. Two, we should redouble our efforts to end the occupation, which is unjust to Palestinians and corrosive to Israeli democracy, and continuously point out the links between the occupation and the virtual coup underway in Israel.
– Robert W. Snyder
My thoughts aren't about the Israelis but about American Jews. What is our role in this aside from giving money? American Jewish organizations have spoken out, some more clearly than others, but no one in the Israeli power structure is listening or cares. It's enough that the voices of the protesters in Israel are not being headed. Less so, ours. We need a plan that can make our voices collaboratively powerful.
– Gary Wexler
I am in Jerusalem right now. I was marching with the Israelis Saturday & Sunday, knowing full well that it was not going to impact Bibi or his cronies at all. They couldn't care less what Americans think. I am traveling to Tel Aviv tomorrow to see my relatives and basically to say goodbye, unless things reverse themselves, I will not be returning to Israel. I can no longer support what this country has become, and it is a crime what they have done to this country over the last 20 years. This could have been such a wonderful country, and now they are turning it into an abomination.
– Michael Rahimi
I'm feeling devastated! Never did I believe I'd see the day when Jews fight other Jews and some don't share the values of equality, and democracy. I'm looking for hopeful signs but I fear they may not exist.
– David Diskin
Ultimately, the Judaism I live out each day is a Judaism based on protecting the dignity of every human being. In our sacred Creation story, the Torah begins by proclaiming that God created each human being b’tzelem Elohim, “in the image of God” (Gen. 1:27); in systems of government that Divine dignity is expressed in the preservation of basic rights, assured by law and by the courts. I will never give up fighting for that value here in the United States, and in the Jewish State as well. I continue to stand with the protesters in Jerusalem. We must remain engaged with Israel as a vital center of Jewish life in the world, and we must support Israelis who share our vision for a just and lawful democracy there, even as we recognize that there is a long road ahead to achieve it.
– Rabbi Andy Vogel
I was a journalist in Israel in the early 1980s. We felt things were terrible back then. They are far worse now, worse than imaginable. And I don't know how Israel will emerge, or not, from this. Sorry to be downbeat. I fear for all my good friends still in the Unholy Land.
– Jane Friedman
The Occupation of territory conquered in the six-day war has proven to be a disaster not only for the Palestinians but also for Israel. At the same time, I’m also upset with large sections of the American left seem to think that the fight for democracy and Israel is not important because it doesn’t expressly mention the Palestinians. So much for internationalism.
– Harlan Baker
I am feeling great sadness to see the ease with which a young nation with so much potential for its future has acquiesced to forces of intolerance. The people. of Israel, in their hour of crisis, now must demand a clear democratic path forward. A political process that can allow the minority to legislate and decide the future of the nation must be changed by the Israeli people. We cannot do that for them.
– Tom Banks
We are past the time when rhetoric can suffice. Israeli actions must have consequences. The Biden Administration could begin by rolling back the Pompeo Doctrine. It could open a consular office in East Jerusalem. It could reallocate some of the military aid to Israel to rebuild Palestinian homes and communities and infrastructure. It could register a more vigorous objection to Israel's equivocation over Ukraine. Actions now do and would speak louder than words.
– Elliot J. Feldman
I am not Jewish and while I admire so much of what Israel has accomplished, I have always felt compassion for the plight of Palestinians who have lost so much and continue to lose so much. I have been to the West Bank, to a settlement there, and to a few Israeli cities. This only hardened my views as to the cruelty of the Occupation and the inhumane treatment of the Palestinians. However, the demonstrations by the hundreds of thousands of Israelis in opposition to Netanyahu and the far right’s determination to gut the power of the judicial system have given me hope and reminded me that half of the Israeli citizenry is determined to fight to keep Israel democracy and hopefully to one day unseat those who want to continue the occupation and seizure of more and more of the occupied territories.
Shocked but not surprised. Worried for my family who live there (daughter and her husband, granddaughter, brother and sister-in-law, nieces and nephews). I'm so angry. And I want to say this is what happens when you tolerate the oppression of others (Palestinians) it ALWAYS comes back to also hurt the ones who perpetrate it or tolerate its perpetration.
– Eva Hutt
The vote limiting the power of the Israeli judiciary is a betrayal of everything that being Jewish means to me. I have to turn away in horror from the increasingly fascist behavior of right-wing politicians and settlers. I don't want to be identified with anything they claim they are entitled to.
It is with a profound sense of sadness that I watch what has happened to the government of Israel. Israel and the diaspora are two sides of the same coin. Its accomplishments provided a sense of security and pride for Jews as well as respect from the non-Jewish world. This has been debased and will be hard to recover.
– Cedric Suzman
I think there needs to be more application of the Israeli pro-Supreme Court movement outrage to how the Palestinians are treated in Israel and the West Bank and Gaza. justice cannot just be for Jewish people in Israel but also Palestinians. I still believe in the 2 State Solution with aspects of Confederation worked in. I can't imagine Israeli Jews being willing to be a minority in their own country - nor the Palestinians either.
– Jenny Amanda Hurwitz
It is a sad and dangerous time. Amazing that so many thousands came out to defend democracy but as my cousin in Tel Aviv texted me, "It didn't matter." She meant in the immediate future. There is still hope that the worst of the "reforms" will be stopped. It's also sad to see Jewish Israeli cops attacking other Jews. How did it come to that? And, I agree with many others that the demonstrators came out when democracy for Jewish Israelis was threatened. The Palestinians haven't had any for a while. Will people start to notice that? Will people challenge the illegal settlements on Palestinian land? Israel can't be democratic until the Palestinians living under Occupation have a say in their destiny.
I've spent most of my adult life deeply connected to Israel and hopeful about creating a better future for Jews/Israelis, and Palestinians. But today [7/26] was not a good day, a step towards something dark and foreboding for everyone. So today, I'm just sad. Deeply, profoundly, utterly sad.
– David Bergman
As someone new to the anti-occupation movement and still learning about the full history of the conflict, this week has been both demoralizing and reaffirming. While I could see it coming, the passage of the "reforms" was such a gut punch and made it seem like the decades of activism by Americans, Israel's and Palestinians warning about the deepening occupation and true intentions of the far-right, ultimately amounted to little. It's enough to make someone give up on peace altogether and give further into cynicism like many other young people of my generation already have. Yet I have also been encouraged by large-scale protests and the growing presence of the anti-Occupation bloc at demonstrations (still not enough, but a start), it makes me slightly hopeful that we can now finally shift the conversation towards peace/ending the occupation again. I am a cynic by nature and remain slightly skeptical that the protests will be able to fulfill their true potential, but in the spirit of my ancestors, the odds may be against me, but I still keep fighting.
– Joseph Hillyard
I can't see anything reasonable about the current government. Israelis and Americans face somewhat similar challenges, also unique. I am burnt out on Israel, too disillusioned to offer much except for support for justice and peace.
– Lee Diamond
Although the situation in Israel is very grim at the moment, it is very encouraging to see Israelis coming together to protest against Netanyahu's attempt to muzzle the judicial system.
– Beverley Dight
In looking to the future, The Israeli Supreme Court will examine petitions against the anti-reasonableness law when it reconvenes in September after its summer break. Whether it will reject the law, or even if it does, whether the ruling coalition will respect the Supreme Court‘s decision are very open questions. In sum, unless this process is stopped either by a general strike which will bring the country to a halt unless the anti-reasonableness law is rescinded, or even by a military coup by Israeli generals who don’t want to see the deterrent power of the IDF dissipate, the future of Israel looks quite grim.
– Robert O Freedman