They Say, We Say: "Any democracy is imperfect "

They Say We Say We know that pro-Israel does not mean blindly supporting policies that are irrational, reckless, and counter-productive. Pro-Israel means supporting policies that are consistent with Israel's interests and promote its survival as a Jewish, democratic state.

You've heard the arguments of the religious and political right-wing, and so have we. They've had their say. Now, we'll have ours.

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But Israel is a democracy...

They Say:

Any democracy is imperfect - including America's, where there are still serious racial inequities and other problems. The Left is exploiting these problems just to criticize Israel and promote its own anti-settlement agenda, when in reality the problems in Israel are just minor anomalies that have nothing to do with settlements or the Palestinians.

We Say:

The anti-democratic trends in Israel today are inextricably linked to the broader challenge facing Israel - achieving a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

This link can be seen clearly in the targets of much of the anti-democratic legislation being introduced in the Knesset: Israeli non-government organizations, like Peace Now, that are working to stop the occupation and achieve a two-state solution. It is not a coincidence that such organizations are targeted, while organizations that actively support the settlers and promote a "Greater Israel" agenda are not.

Likewise, today we are witnessing growing contempt for rule of law in Israel - a trend that is directly and openly linked to settlers and their supporters, many of whom treat Israeli law as something to be invoked when it supports their cause, and something to be ignored and challenged when it impedes their efforts. This trend goes hand-in-hand with growing lawlessness by settlers and their supporters, evident in settler attacks not only on Palestinians, but in attacks and threats against Israeli peace activists, the Israeli army, and the Israeli police. The parallels between these trends and the trends that preceded the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin - at the hands of an extremist opposed to Rabin's peace efforts - are unmistakable and must not be ignored.

Israelis and American Jews alike are coming to see that the fight is on for Israel's soul. This is a fight to determine whether Israel will survive as a pluralistic, tolerant, democratic nation - a nation that doesn't occupy another people, where women are not marginalized, where minorities enjoy genuinely equal rights and protections as promised to them by law, and where progressive voices aren't persecuted by their own elected officials. It is a fight for Israel as a state with rule of law, not rule by law; a democracy, not a tyranny of the majority. We are struggling for an Israel in which "hasbara" denotes the unabashedly positive impulse to tell the world about the myriad accomplishments of this remarkable nation, not a defensive tactic to distract the world from actions that cannot be defended or explained.

The occupation has been in place for nearly five decades. It has deepened with each passing year, as successive governments have aided and abetted the settlement enterprise. Today, it is an Israeli reality that has penetrated deeply into Israel's government and Israel's society, and threatens to hollow Israel's own democracy from within.