In 2010, we launched The founding Appeal of JCall because, as European Jewish citizens, we were deeply concerned for Israel’s existence. We wrote that “underestimating the threats from its external enemies“ against Israel, “that danger also lies in the occupation and the continuing pursuit of settlements in the West Bank and in the Arab districts of East Jerusalem“. In fact, only the end of the occupation and the creation of a Palestinian State alongside Israel will be able to ensure its survival as a democratic state with a Jewish majority. The ongoing occupation would eventually lead to an illusory choice between two intrinsically flawed situations : a binational Judeo-Arab state the permanent horizon of which would be civil war, or an exclusively Jewish state drifting towards an apartheid regime against Palestinians.
Twelve years after that appeal, the danger we were denouncing has only worsened. And today, an immediate threat to the Israeli democracy adds to that danger. Indeed, the legislative election of November 1st, 2022—held in accordance with democratic rules and the freedom to vote—gave a small but indisputable majority to a coalition in which certain elements question the very foundations of the Israeli democracy.
Since its creation, in spite of a a war situation and of ongoing external threats, Israel has managed so far to respect the spirit and the letter of values on which its declaration of Independence is based. But if a government supported by the new Parliament decides to put in place all the measures included in the agreements between the parties of the majority coalition, Israel risks to deviate from these foundations.
A democracy is not defined only by the power of a majority elected after free elections. It is also defined by the existence of counterpowers responsible for controlling it—a Constitution, and a Parliament composed of one or two chambers. In Israel, where the Parliament has one chamber only (the Knesset), there is no Constitution, but there are fundamental laws the texts adopted by the Knesset must comply with. The only body empowered to judge this conformity is the Supreme Court : as long as an actor of civil life addresses it, it can declare that a law passed by the Knesset is contrary to a fundamental law and that this law is therefore null and void. However, members of the new majority coalition have declared their intention to modify as soon as possible the Supreme Court’s power of control by allowing a simple majority of MPs (half plus one) to reinstate a law that the Court would have rejected. Other projects aimed at the Supreme court have been outlined, in particular questioning the procedures for appointing judges.
A democracy does not only define itself by the power of its majority, but also by the respect of the rights of its minorities. The founding fathers of Israel had foreseen it when they inscribed in the declaration of Independence that the new State would ensure “full equality of social and political rights for all its citizens, without distinction of belief, race or sex”. Yet the new majority of people who have multiplied racist statements against Arabs and made homophobic statements are in the foreground.
The founding fathers had also made sure to write in the Declaration of independence that their State would be “open to the immigration of the Jews from all the countries where they are dispersed“, avoiding to define what a Jew was. That principle led to the the vote of the Law of Return that allowed during 74 years millions of Jews from all over the world to reach Israel. However, members of the new majority demand a revision of this law in order to deny many immigrants (and immigrants already settled in Israel) their Jewish identity. They would also like to enact legislation to allow separation of men and women at publicly funded events, which would effectively prohibit gender diversity in much of the public space. If these projects were approved, they would undoubtedly lead to a divide between Israel and the Diaspora, calling into question the very foundation of the Zionist project at the origin of the country.
In addition, the project to break the status quo existing since 1967 on the Temple Mount by allowing the Jews to pray there, announced by the minister of public security who is responsible for “national security”in Israel and in the occupied territories could ignite the West Bank and possibly the entire region.
For all those reasons, we have decided today to launch again our call to reason addressed to Israeli leaders in order for them not to forget the fundamentals of the country they are today responsible for. Of course, Israel belongs to all its citizens. But all the Jews of the Diaspora, who are, like us, unwaveringly committed to the existence and the security of this State, may also and must, in the name of the bond forged with it and of the support they give it whenever necessary, express concern about its future, if such anti-democratic abuses challenging its identity were to be applied. They would truly endanger the future of the country. This is why we support the citizens and the movements of the civil society starting to mobilize in Israel. We call all those who recognize themselves in the principles of this appeal to sign it and have it signed.
To sign, go to the page of our Appeal on the French site which includes all the signatures