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The extremists in the Israeli government are undermining Zionism

By Rabbi Lea Mühlstein, Arzenu UK, Rabbi Charley Baginsky, Liberal Judaism, Rabbi Kathleen de Magtige-Middleton, Movement for Reform Judaism, Rabbi Jeremy Gordon, New London Synagogue (Masorti Judaism)

We are religious leaders from different denominations of Judaism.

We share a deep commitment to Israel and the goal of reclaiming what it means to be Zionists who are committed and religious Jews.

The extremists in Israel’s new government may claim to be religious Zionists, but we believe they are profaning Judaism and represent the antithesis to the values upon which the State of Israel was founded.

The threats to democracy, women, LGBTQ+ citizens, asylum seekers, Arab communities and Palestinians and indeed all Israelis, posed by far-right and ultra-Orthodox government ministers, oppose central tenets of our Torah and the visions of our prophets.

Micah (6:8) tell us: “You are required to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Yet we see threats to judicial process, spite and arrogance.

Two of our key Jewish values are those of b’tzelem elohim (everyone is created in the image of the divine) and ve’ahavta le’reacha kamocha (love your neighbour as yourself).

The hateful prejudicial actions and policies of Avi Maoz, Itamar Ben Gvir,  Bezalel Smotrich & other far-right and the ultra-Orthodox Israeli politicians disrespect these teachings and harm Israel’s Jewish character.

The homeland for the Jewish people was always understood as both a Jewish and democratic state. Attempts to the undermine the judiciary and the independence of judges mean that Israel’s democratic character is under significant threat.

Without democracy Israel cannot be a ‘Light unto the Nations’. We want Israel to thrive,  as a country which, in the inspiring words of the Declaration of Independence, is “based on freedom, justice, and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel” and ensures “complete equality of social and political rights to all its citizens irrespective of religion, race or gender.”

This struggle for Israel’s character is not just a battle being waged by Liberal, Masorti and Reform Jews – although our status is under attack from this new government – but by Jews of all denominations, and none, both in Israel and the diaspora.

As Israel turns 75, we are distressed but we are not downhearted. We are inspired by the Israelis and lovers of Israel around the world determined to fight for its democratic future. We find hope in the thousands protesting, lending their voices to those directly attacked by extremist policies in solidarity and fellowship. This moment could mark a turning point.

That is why we are proud to be among the leaders and organisations supporting the cross-communal Choose Democracy campaign.

As our shared statement says: “We have a choice. We either remain silent or stand in solidarity with those across Israel fighting for democracy. We choose to stand on the side of Israelis protesting against an extremist government.”

For us this is a moral imperative. We urge you to join us.

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