Dear friends, it’s an honor and privilege to be here.
Our common goal is not yet achieved. Ending occupation and promoting the two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians seem far and difficult. You’re trying to harness American foreign policy to that end and that is essential. In order to succeed in this important battle we fight, we must see the bigger picture, and the bigger picture is about democracy.
We are fighting to save democracy. We are fighting to stop racism, discrimination, lies, and deception. We are fighting to stop fascism. All over the world, in Europe, in Latin America, in Asia, and yes, in Israel, and in the United States, we face a tsunami of hatred and bigotry led by rulers who have no redlines. These are people and political movements full of contempt to democratic values.
For them, these values in the institutions, the free media, the rule of law, the free-spirited culture, the freedom of speech, equality, all this for them is a nuisance, an obstacle which should be pushed out of the way. All these values are regarded by them as limiting, whereas they strive for power without limits. For us, Israelis and American Jews, this is my friends a crucial battle.
In Israel, Netanyahu and his extreme right-wing allies are pushing aggressively for annexation of all of the Palestinian West Bank, for religious coercion, for racist legislation, and of course, for securing themselves endless term in power. We should not allow it. Because the very essence of this Zionist vision of our great dream, a Jewish and democratic state is in danger. Annexation, coercion, and racism would be the end of Israel as a Jewish and democratic nation.
Let me tell you that what I see concerns me and worries me a lot. The Jewish community here in this country, this prosperous and amazing Jewish community is facing growing and unprecedented anti-Semitism and violence.
This passing year alone was the most violent in the history of this community. Twelve people were murdered in two synagogues, many others wounded. Can we really close our eyes and say that there is no connection between all this hate and what happened in American politics since the last presidential campaign? Can we say that?
Those people attacking synagogues in Pittsburgh and Santiago and people attacking a synagogue in Halle, Germany on Yom Kippur are one and same. It is the same people, same criminals who burn a Palestinian boy in Jerusalem to his death. There aren’t many sides to that, as your president put it after Charlottesville, Virginia. There’re only two sides, either you are for democracy, for human rights, for peace, or you’re against it. Each and every person in the US, in Israel, in France or in Brazil, should ask himself and herself, “Where do I stand, which side am I supporting?” This is the same fight and the same challenge in Israel and in the US. You cannot separate the fight against anti-Semitism from the fight for democratic values. It’s the same front. You cannot fight against anti-Semitism and be quiet when Muslims or gay people are targeted.
An average American Jew cannot say, and I hear this a lot unfortunately. “I’m against racism in New York, but I keep quiet about racism in Israel.” No, this is the same battle. An average Israeli cannot say, “I feel strongly for freedom and tolerance and for my free secular lifestyle in Tel Aviv, but I don’t care about diminishing freedoms elsewhere in the world.” No, this is the same battle everywhere. The same forces are in motion here and in Israel, sometimes even, by the way, the same people and the same money.
In order to counter and defeat them, we have to be much more active and do it together. It’s a two-way street my J-street friends. Israelis should be active, present and vocal in your struggle here, against racism and anti-Semitism. We should not follow Netanyahu’s foreign policy in putting all the eggs in one right-wing republican basket.
All those tweets and statements by President Trump, that glorified nationalists and insulted American Jews. He said, “Voting democrat was disloyal.” And Israeli leadership, what did they do? Mumbled some words of sympathy, but took pains to shield Trump and his incitement from any blame. No, we should act differently. By-partisan support is essential to Israel, always been.
Let me say something about the US Democratic Party. The US Democratic Party is a valued friend of Israel, regardless of what Netanyahu is saying.
The US Democratic Party is a party of civil liberties and thus, a home for so many Jewish Americans over the past century. Israel must bridge the gap with the Democratic party, a gap created under Netanyahu. By the way, banning the American Congresswomen from entering Israel is not the way to do it.
At the same time, American friends of Israel should not follow Trump’s lead in giving Netanyahu and the settlers a green light for annexation and discrimination. What should be done? Work together with the Israeli left, be who you are, let us be who we are; progressive left-wing defenders of democracy together here and in Israel.
Let us work together on the two-state solution but also minority rights, on LGBT rights. I’m going to tell you a secret. As it happens, I am the first head of a party in Israel who is openly gay.
Let’s work together on freedom of religion and freedom from religion. There are so many things we can do and we can achieve mutually.
Finally, maybe there is a light at the end of this dark tunnel. Here and in Israel, we see strong movements resisting hate and corruption. So many young people here at your convention, amazing people, activists, volunteers, amazing people. We have to seize the opportunity and form a new government in Israel based on the center-left parties, including the Joint Arab List, yes.
I’m telling this to you as head of a Zionist Party, as an Israeli wishing to achieve Jewish-Arab partnership in Israel based on equal citizenship, and yes, Netanyahu and all the right-wing racist parties must realize there is no future to Israel without Jewish-Arab partnership. This is the cornerstone to us.
I’m an Israeli, I’m patriotic, I love my country and I want it to be equal and just and peace with our neighbors. This is the Israel, this is my Israel, I think this is also your Israel. Friends–
Many people are skeptical and they have doubts, they don’t know what will happen. They’re frustrated with the situation here and in Israel and around the world, all those dark forces raising. I tell you my friends, we shall overcome. Because as Martin Luther King said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” And he said this, for the first time I think in a sermon at Temple Israel in Hollywood, 1965.
Let me conclude with the words of Rabbi Max Nussbaum on that day with Reverend King at Temple Israel in Hollywood. He said, “I hope that together we may move away from the mountain of hatred and prejudice toward the large and glorious valley of human brotherhood.” That’s our ambition, that’s our goal and we will achieve it. Thank you very much my friends.
This is an edited version of Head of Meretz, MK Nitzan Horowitz’s remarks given on October 28, 2019 at the J Street Conference.