Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Mark Gold, a board member of Partners for Progressive Israel and a former president of Americans for Progressive Israel (a predecessor of PPI). What follows are excerpts from “The nation state that is Israel needs democracy,” which I co-authored with Haim Simon of Ameinu for The Jewish Standard (our Jewish community newspaper in New Jersey):
. . . Grounded in the historical relationship between the people of Israel and the land, recalling the traumas of exile and the Holocaust, and emphasizing the renewal of Jewish settlement and the building of a new physical and social infrastructure, [Israel’s Declaration of Independence] called into being the third Jewish commonwealth, in the land of Israel, and announced that it was to be called the State of Israel. With all the many questions that surrounded the announcement, it was never in doubt that this new democratic government would lead a country dedicated to freedom, justice, and full civil rights for all its citizens:
“The State of Israel will … foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”
. . . These principles of a socially just democracy now are being challenged within Israel. It is no accident that the source of that challenge comes from those whose dream is to expand the Jewish state, to push formal borders to include the “Greater Land of Israel,” an effort that will change the demographic make-up to create a state where the majority of the population no longer will be Jews.
Pending Israeli legislation lays down the groundwork to deny civil rights to select elements of society. These laws serve as an expedient to preserve control within a state already conceived as lacking a Jewish majority. There is a bill to eliminate Arabic as a legal language in Israel. There is a bill that proclaims that “when there is a conflict between democratic law and Jewish law, Jewish law will prevail.”
. . . Israel’s Jewish character emerges from its population. The Jewish state’s ability to serve the nation rests profoundly on its democratic character. The founders understood this, and their vision is enshrined in their declaration, framing a state and civil society for all its residents. For its Jewish character, the Jewish state rested upon the territorial concentration of a Jewish majority. The deviation from the path set by the founders imperils the entire project. . . .