“Is it too late to bring us back from the brink?” by Gershon Baskin and “Another Step Towards Stifling Dissent in Israel,” by Don Futterman paint ominous but honest and thoughtful pictures of the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians on the one hand and on efforts by Israel’s right-wing political parties to diminish Israel’s democracy on the other.

For those who love Israel and want her to remain Jewish and democratic, these two articles address core concerns  regardless of whether we hold differing perspectives on what Zionism and the state of Israel mean today – see links below.

With this in mind, I invite Los Angeles residents to join my congregation (Temple Israel of Hollywood) on Friday, January 22nd at 6:30 PM when we will welcome Daniel Sokatch, CEO of the New Israel Fund, to speak to us following services and before an open communal Shabbat dinner. He will speak on the theme “The Current State of Democracy in Israel.”

For those interested, please RSVP to RA@tioh.org, and let us know how many will join you so that we can plan dinner accordingly, which we offer to all who attend.

The following are snippets of each article with links:

“Is it too late to bring us back from the brink?” by Gershon Baskin, Jerusalem Post

“As Israeli society moves further away from supporting a deal with the Palestinians, Palestinian society is also moving further away. The voices of moderation on both sides of the conflict are dissipating and the belief that peace is even possible is all but disappearing. I have always said that what each side of the conflict says and does impacts the other. Neither side lives in a vacuum and each side’s discontent with the other has a direct impact across the conflict line. Each side also has the ability to positively impact the other. Recalling Egyptian President Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem, one can easily remember how public opinion in Israel on the question of returning Sinai to Egypt changed 180 degrees almost overnight. Both sides have the potential ability to positively impact the public opinion of the other, albeit given the current reality and the leaders in power, it seems very unlikely that even a very dramatic and unexpected act could change the course of negative events that we are facing. But it might be the only thing that could right now…..

It is not too late the turn the course – to make the shift that will bring us back from the brink.”

http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Encountering-Peace-Looking-into-Palestinian-political-realities-441436
“Another Step Towards Stifling Dissent in Israel,” by Don Futterman, Haaretz

“The External NGOs Law (aka the “Transparency Law”), a draft bill now making its way through the Knesset, is just the latest volley in a campaign to strangle funding sources of civil and human rights organizations in Israel…

The bill is framed in an attempt to insure that it applies primarily to leftist and human rights organizations, but not to right wing organizations, or to entities that receive massive foreign corporate funding…

The underlying strategy is simple; in the guise of promoting transparency, the bill’s sponsors want to convince the public that critics of the government’s settlement and occupation policies, or advocates for greater equality for Arab Israelis, are not patriotic citizens like themselves but rather foreign agents who are not be trusted…

The brilliance of this tactic is that by smearing their critics, right wing leaders never have to engage with the criticism, let alone change their policies. If they can raise doubts about the messenger’s patriotism, the public won’t even listen to what the rights activists are saying…

Transparency already exists. All Israeli NGOs are required by law to list their funders at the Registrar of NGOs, which is open to the public, and most NGOs share this information on their websites…

[Likud MKs] Shaked and Smotrich know this, of course, but their bill has little to do with transparency and everything to do with delegitimization. Their goal is to gut the funding from organizations which criticize their cause – settlement normalization and expansion – or which might strengthen Arab citizens within Israel. And it’s nothing new. …

http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.687183

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