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Disturbing developments within Israeli body politic

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This letter is written on behalf of the Jewish Democratic Initiative (JDI) – a movement which strives for an inclusive and tolerant South African Jewish community that is committed to social justice. We advocate for a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
by David Bilchitz, Barbara Miller, Neville Sweijd, and Basil Dubb on behalf of the JDI Steering Committee | Feb 28, 2019

Last week, Benyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, brokered a deal to merge two political parties. A religious settler party, Habayit Hayehudi, is to merge with Otzma Yehudit, an explicitly racist grouping whose extremist anti-Palestinian platform was previously banned from the Knesset.

In order to encourage the merger, Netanyahu promised two cabinet positions to the merged grouping in a future governing coalition (provided Netanyahu wins the 9 April election).

Said Michael Koplow, the Policy Director of the Israel Policy Forum, “Netanyahu’s frenzied actions designed to boost a racist, neo-fascist party made up of anti-Arab activists whose previous political vehicle was banned by Israel’s Supreme Court and is internationally designated as a terrorist organisation – and to explicitly promise that it will be part of any government he forms after the election – damages Israel on every front...”

Through this move, Netanyahu has demonstrated his lack of commitment to any form of peaceful, equitable accommodation with Palestinians. This alignment encourages ruptures within Israeli society, and runs counter to any efforts towards a peaceful and just resolution of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

Condemnation of Netanyahu’s legitimisation of Otzma Yehudit’s policies has reverberated around the Jewish world. Sharp denunciation from across a wide spectrum of Jewish factions followed the move. An unusual consensus comprising religious groupings, policy institutions, Israel advocacy organisations, nongovernmental organisations, and individual rabbis all concluded that this is an indefensible move.

Typically, Netanyahu rejected these criticisms, citing the “hypocrisy and double standards of the left”.

As South African Jews who are acutely aware of how racism can insidiously become a powerful legislative force leading to legalised and systemic oppression, we join Jews from around the world in condemning these developments.

The JDI calls on the South African Jewish community and all official South African Jewish community structures to publicly and prominently condemn this development.

We cannot align ourselves in any way with racists. Silence is not an option.

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