I am pleased to share that Senate Bill 664, which would mandate Holocaust and genocide education in our public schools, passed out of committee and will be sent directly to the Senate floor for a vote. The goal is to implement the legislation in the 2020-2021 school year should it pass.
The Jewish Federation is partnering with Sharsheret , a national organization supporting Jewish women and their families facing breast and ovarian cancer, for two free workshops this Monday, March 4. Cancer is a Jewish communal issue and this is an opportunity to learn the impact of BRCA mutations and to empower ourselves to take action. Register here , but walk-ins are welcome!
Several weeks ago I wrote about the upcoming Israel elections on April 9. Well, the chaos has begun!
Let’s work backwards .
Yesterday, in a major announcement, Israel’s Attorney General stated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be charged with criminal wrongdoing in three separate cases against him, including bribery, fraud and breach of trust ( Case 4000, Case 1000, Case 2000 ) . The decision to press charges, pending a hearing, six weeks before the elections could have major impact, a Times of Israel poll published earlier Thursday showed. The ruling Likud party could lose both a significant chunk of support, as well as its ability to form a coalition after the vote. Netanyahu has been notified that he can request a hearing to contest the planned indictment, in a process that could take up to a year, during which time he is not legally obliged to step down. Israeli law only requires that a prime minister step down if convicted.
Yaakov Katz, Editor of theJerusalem Post wrote, “Thursday will be remembered as a sad day, not just for the people who support Benjamin Netanyahu and believe he is innocent and the victim of political persecution, but also for those opposed to Netanyahu and the policies he has led for the last 10 years as Israel’s powerful prime minister. For all Israelis, no matter where they stand on the political spectrum, this is not a day to be proud of. Yes, it shows that no person is above the law; but it will have a long-term negative impact on the country and its electoral process.”
Earlier this week, we learned the disturbing news that Netanyahu agreed to include the racist party, Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power), in the Israeli election process. This party is the heir to Kach, the party of the late Meir Kahane, who preached the expulsion of Arabs and violence. As one person wrote, “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu crossed every moral line for political gain in Israeli politics.” Another said, “He obviously has some political calculation that drove him to it, but politics can’t dictate everything.”
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the umbrella group for 125 Jewish community relations councils (of which our JCRC is a member) and 17 national organizations, wrote this letter to the Prime Minister that included:
Otzma Yehudit’s detestable policies run counter to the spirit of Israel’s Declaration of Independence, which states that the country will “ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex.” Indeed, Otzma Yehudit’s words and deeds are irreconcilable to Israel’s founding values.
Mr. Prime Minister, we worry that the inclusion of Otzma Yehudit provides legitimacy for the party’s views, sending a message to racists that they can gain a foothold into the democratic process to advance their odious agendas.
Noted Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt publicly announced she would resign her membership in her synagogue after its national body, National Council of Young Israel, endorsed Prime Minister Netanyahu’s inclusion of Otzma Yehudit. Although, her rabbi disavowed his congregation’s support for the stand taken by their national movement, she wrote:
At this time of rising anti-Semitism, Jew hatred, and prejudice of all kinds, each of us – and not just our spiritual leaders – must speak out and act individually and collectively. We must become the unwelcome guests at the dinner party, speaking out when we hear something hateful, prejudicial, and wrong.
Doug Kahn, executive director emeritus of the San Francisco Jewish Community Relations Council, wrote the following Op-Ed , which includes:
If Otzma Yehudit is part of the next government, it will create a toxic effect. No longer marginalized, this party will have been legitimized with mainstream credibility and a measure of power.
The American Jewish community consistently calls on friends in other communities to distance themselves from extremists within their communities. From the virulent anti-Semitism of Louis Farrakhan to a terrorist attack perpetrated in the name of Islam, we ask others to condemn hate in their communities because it is imperative to stand up against extremism and hatred lest it spread.
One reason Netanyahu reached out to the Otzma Yehudit party was the news that former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff Benny Gantz created the Blue and White party. This center-left coalition group now includes Yair Lapid, former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe “Bogie” Yaalon, and another former head of the IDF, Gabi Ashkenazi. This combined party certainly will be formidable in the elections.
To learn more, mark your calendar for a JCRC-sponsored lecture on April 3 at 7:00 p.m. at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center featuring Herb Keinon, chief diplomatic correspondent for the Jerusalem Post . His talk is titled, “ The Israeli Elections: Status Quo or Political Upheaval? ” Right now, it is anything but the status quo. We will find out the ultimate answer on April 9.
On a final note, join our community for Interfaith Advocacy Day on March 4 from 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. There will be briefings and workshops on advocating for legislation on climate, criminal justice, health care, housing, hunger and immigration. Then join in a march to the State Capitol to have our voices heard with our state legislators. We provide the necessary talking points. Sign up here to join us!