UnXeptable Vancouver has been rallying for Israeli democracy for 28 weeks. Here they are on 41st Avenue near Oak Street. (photo from UnXeptable Vancouver)
It has been many months since we first wrote to the Jewish Independent with our plea to voice our concern for democracy in Israel.
On Jan. 17, when the new government came to power, we saw the writing on the wall: the end of Israel as was envisioned in its Declaration of Independence – that Israel “will uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens, without distinction of race, creed or sex; will guarantee full freedom of conscience, worship, education and culture; will safeguard the sanctity and inviolability of the shrines and holy places of all religions; and will dedicate itself to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations” – meaning Jewish and democratic.
Hundreds of thousands of Israelis have been going to the street for 31 weeks, holding flags and demanding democratia, democracy. And we have been echoing this outcry in Vancouver for 28 weeks – we joined 64 other cities around the world, as part of UnXeptable.
You might have seen us at Robson Square or, lately, around 41st Avenue and Oak Street. As we gather for our weekly rallies, holding Israeli flags, we try to hold onto the fabric of the Israel that we know and love. We try to hold onto one another in this ongoing rollercoaster, and we end each rally with Hatikvah (The Hope). We hope that Israel’s forces of liberty, freedom and diversity will overcome the agenda of this government – a government that is working towards its own personal interests rather than the good of the Israeli people.
We are fully aware of what happens when good people are silent, as bad things are happening. We cannot be silent as we see Israeli democracy crushed in front of our eyes. Dictatorship, orchestrated by a government that has lost its legitimacy, is turning out to be the biggest existential danger to our country.
We fear for Israel. We fear a civil war, as the rift and hatred that was stoked by the prime minister is growing. We fear for the security of Israel and its ability to defend itself, as soldiers no longer feel that they can commit to a government that does not adhere to the basic agreement, based on the accountability of the government to the judicial system.
The Knesset’s passing of the clause limiting the Supreme Court’s power to rule on the “reasonableness” of government decisions was a fatal blow to Israeli democracy. This clause provides the temporary majority of 64 members of the parliament (out of 120) the ability to legislate any unreasonable law. The government has more than 200 laws in its queue as the beginning of sweeping changes that will make Israel unrecognizable to us, or anybody that has any reference to Israel.
Day after day, things are getting darker for Israeli democracy. We fear that a constitutional crisis is looming. In the past week, the prime minister of Israel, Binyamin Netanyahu, when approached, would not guarantee to the Israeli people that he would obey the ruling of the court if this law were to be struck down.
What illuminates the darkness is the rising of the Israeli liberal forces, protesting and reviving the spirit that brought about the “Israeli magic” – Israel’s economic, political, cultural and scientific rise. Their nonviolent, spirited and creative protests, week after week, are the engine that drives the locomotive of hope. It carries the young and the elderly, Sephardim, Ashkenazim, religious and secular people to resist, sometimes facing the violent response of police acting under government orders. Our group seeks to resonate this protest and, at the same time, provide support to our families and friends in Israel.
After many efforts, the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver agreed to set up a meeting between chief executive officer Ezra Shanken and Nico Slobinsky of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and members of our group, UnXeptable, plus a limited number of people of the community at large. Our members addressed the meeting, illuminating different concerns we all share, as Israel is facing these contentious times. The meeting took place on July 24, just two days before Tisha b’Av, and we could hear the wings of history. We reiterated our two main requests:
- A town hall meeting, open to the whole community, not limited by the size of the room, with the objective of clearly bringing forth the complex issues Israel is facing.
- A clear and public statement from the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver to the community that outlines where they stand, as our leaders, on the judicial overhaul.
If not for the amazing protest movement, Israel would already be a dictatorship, a government in which a small group possesses absolute power without effective constitutional limitations.
UnXeptable voices Israel’s cry for democracy all over the world. Recently, the Philadelphia UnXeptable group, through its continued protests, succeeded in getting billionaire Arthur Dantchik – a main contributor to the Kohelet Policy Forum – to withdraw his donations to the organization, one of the designers of the judicial coup in Israel.
At the moment, 64 members of the Knesset are derailing Israel from being a strong country, of law and order, with a strong economy and a strong army, to being a dark, weak country – economically, militarily, internationally – ruled by a prime minister indicted on three charges, an MK convicted of bribery, Haredim trying to legitimize their refusal to serve in the army and, last but not least, religious zealots seeking to legitimize the occupation and to govern Israel by religious law. There have been warnings from all sectors, including the previous head of Israel’s General Security Service and Israel Defence Forces, banking professionals, the International Monetary Fund and many heads of state.
We believe that the Federation, based on its support of human rights and Jewish values, should take a stand supporting the protesters in Israel and the values they are trying to protect, helping us save the national homeland of the Jewish people, which was established, after thousands of years in exile, with a vision to be Jewish and democratic. In historian and philosopher Yuval Harari’s words: “either a messianic dictatorship will rise or a democracy for all [will be established]. It is in our hands.”
We call for our local leaders to stop sitting on the fence. Come to Israel’s defence to prevent it from becoming a messianic, poor state that discriminates against minorities. Help us protect and keep Israel Jewish and democratic as per the Israeli Declaration of Independence.
– The UnXeptable Vancouver team (Rina Vizer, Dalite Har Toov,
David Berson, Edna Leyland, Ornit and Ron Haber,
Noga and Gideon Levit, and Daphna Kedem)