Former ADL Director Abe Foxman Says He Won’t Support Israel if Democracy is Not Upheld - The Jewish Voice
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Former ADL Director Abe Foxman Says He Won’t Support Israel if Democracy is Not Upheld

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Referencing the reports of the incoming government’s plans to implement significant changes to the judiciary and issues regarding religion and state, former Anti-Defamation League director Abraham Foxman told The Jerusalem Post in an interview that, “If Israel ceases to be an open democracy, I won’t be able to support it.”

Foxman added that he is going to have a difficult time trying to get American Jews to support Israel, if the Jewish state should lean towards becoming a theocracy.

The Jerusalem Post reported that Foxman said in the Wednesday interview that, “If they change the Law of Return and Israel’s world-class judiciary system, all these things will impact the relationship with American Jews dramatically.  If Israel becomes a fundamentalist religious state, a theocratic nationalism state, it will cut Israel off from 70% of world Jewry, who won’t qualify into their definition of ‘who is a Jew.’ According to [Religious Zionist Party chairman Bezalel] Smotrich and [Noam chairman Avi] Maoz, I won’t qualify as being a Jew.”

If the demands of the religious parties are met including those made by Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben-Gvir, Foxman told the JPost that it would be difficult for him and for most Diaspora Jews, “to support Israel.”

Foxman  also said during te JPost interview that,  “I never thought that I would reach that point where I would say that my support of Israel is conditional. I’ve always said that my support of Israel is unconditional, but it’s conditional. I don’t think that it’s a horrific condition to say: ‘I love Israel and I want to love Israel as a Jewish and democratic state that respects pluralism.’” He concluded this point, saying that “I want Israel to be Jewish, absolutely. But I want it to be a democracy.”

The JPost reported that Foxman said this isn’t the first time American Jews were anxious about Israel’s government and recalled the 1977 election of Herut leader Menachem Begin as prime minister of Israel. Begin has been the leader of the opposition party since the state of Israel was established in 1948.

Foxman recalled of Begin to the JPost, “It was a  shock to the American Jewish system because they didn’t know him. It was a very scary time. I personally knew Begin and I knew what he believed in. It wasn’t a shock to me, but to the American Jewish community it was horrifying.”

In the pre-state days, Begin was a prominent member of the Irgun Tzvai Leumi ; also known as the Jewish underground that fought for the liberation of the Jewish state from the hands of the British mandatory regime. As a younger man in his native Poland, Begin was a member of the Betar Zionist youth movement and an ardent follower of Zionist visionary, Ze’ev Jabotinsky.

Foxman told the JPost that American Jewry was “blessed at that time with [Reform] Rabbi Alexander  Schindler,” who then headed the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, an umbrella body for Jewish organizations in the US.

“Schindler wasn’t a supporter of the history or the philosophy of Begin and of Revisionist Zionism,” Foxman said. He added that in just two weeks, Schindler “turned the American Jewish community around, basically saying that, as long as Israel is a democracy and as long as Begin was elected by the Israeli public, we will find a way to work with them.”

This led to a deep personal friendship, in which Begin consulted with Schindler at many pivotal moments, including on the eve of Camp David and peace with Egypt, honored Schindler in Jerusalem, and brought him along as his guest on official state visits, the JPost reported.

Even though there are similarities to 1977, Foxman said 2022 isn’t the same situation, according to the JPost report.

“There’s a lot more anxiety today than there was then,” he said.

“If Benjamin Netanyahu changes the nature of democracy in Israel, he will change the nature of Israel’s support in the US, certainly the American Jewish community, probably the general community and the US government if it continues to be Center-Left,” Foxman told the JPost. “Israel has two important allies in the world,” he continued, specifying that they are “America and Diaspora Jewry, which, in effect, is the American Jewish community.

“I don’t need to tell you how politically and strategically American Jewry is critical as a cement to the relationship between the two countries, and therefore it is critical that this new government not do damage to relationships; not tamper with Israel’s democracy, its institutions, its legal systems, its civil rights of Arab minorities; not tamper with the Law of Return and the status of Christians and Muslims,” he stressed.

The JPost reported that Foxman emphasized that he is especially worried about the rights of non-Orthodox Jews and the pluralism of the Jewish state.

The former ADL leader concluded by telling the JPost  that if Israel becomes a “fundamentalist theocratic state,” they’re not going to have relationships with my grandchildren, and that is very, very sad.”

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