Open Letter to Canadian Jews Concerned about Democracy in Israel

Dear fellow Canadian Jews,

It is with sadness – but not surprise – that we watch in real time as the state of Israel moves to gut its judiciary. In doing so, it destroys the primary internal check on its government’s power, now more radically right-wing than ever. 

Senior members of the cabinet like Jewish Power party leader, Itamar Ben-Gvir, and self-identified “fascist homophobe” Bezalel Smotrich, who have long trafficked in racism and violence, will now be able to act unopposed by the courts.

This brazen attack on the judiciary is the inevitable result of a state that regularly demonstrates that it values some lives over others. This unequal treatment is reflected in over 65 laws that discriminate against Palestinians in Israel, the occupied territories and the diaspora, including the 2018 nation-state law which affirms that “the right to national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish People.”

It is all connected. The weakening of the judiciary; the discriminatory laws; the coddling of racists and their rise to power; the now-widely acknowledged system of apartheid, which according to the head of Israel’s preeminent human rights organization B’Tselem, means that there is “not a single square inch in the territory Israel controls where a Palestinian and a Jew are equal.

We understand the Jewish desire to protect Israel as a safe haven from global antisemitism. But we cannot be kept safe in a place that does not recognize nor protect the humanity of everyone who lives there – Jews and non-Jews alike, Israelis and Palestinians. 

Jewish safety should not cost Palestinians their homes or their lives.

We understand the pressures against saying a harsh word about Israel. But now is the time to speak out. Not only about Israeli democracy, but the fundamentally unequal structure of the state. There cannot be democracy for Jews and military dictatorship for Palestinians in the same territory and under the same regime. 

In January of this year alone, 35 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces or West Bank settlers. The current government is only accelerating the expansion of illegal settlements with little to no accountability for settler violence towards Palestinian communities. How many more need to suffer or die before we stand up as a community and say, “not in our name”?

For Palestinians in Israeli-occupied territory, with no right to vote for the government that rules over them, the high court has been the only place they could go to challenge Israeli government decisions and seek justice, however elusive. Now the government wants to take even that away from them.

As other nations increasingly speak out, Canada has stood behind Israel as it has further entrenched violent rule over Palestinians and acted to shield it from international sanction. Now more than ever, our voices are needed to push for justice for Palestinians and hold the Israeli government to account.

The time is now to speak out. 


Independent Jewish Voices