OPINION: An Israel we – and more importantly Israelis – want

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OPINION: An Israel we – and more importantly Israelis – want

David Davidi-Brown, chief executive of New Israel Fund UK, on this week's Jewish News front page and the possibility of Betzalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir becoming Israeli ministers.

MK Itamar Ben Gvir brandishing a handgun during clashes in East Jerusalem on October 13.
MK Itamar Ben Gvir brandishing a handgun during clashes in East Jerusalem on October 13.

This week Jewish News front page asked where’s the outrage about the possibility of Betzalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir entering power as part of Israel’s next government. Jewish News is rightly critical of the pair’s hatred of Arabs, LGBT people and Jews who don’t share their extreme nationalist ideology.

Jewish News asked: is this the Israel we want?

There has been more racist thuggery seen and heard from Ben Gvir that should terrify us and Israelis going to the polls. As Yaakov Katz in the Jerusalem Post highlighted: “In an interview with Channel 13, he stood in the city of Hebron and spoke about the need to establish a “Ministry to Encourage Migration” that will help convince Palestinian Arabs to leave this land … The interview was just days after he drew his sidearm during a visit to the east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah and called on people to shoot Arabs who throw stones. “Guys, if they throw rocks, shoot them.”

The Board of Deputies vehemently expressed mainstream British Jewry’s opposition when Ben Gvir’s enabler Betzalel Smotrich made a fleeting visit to a handful of people in London. New Israel Fund and organisations representing tens of thousands of diverse members of our community similarly expressed disgust and rejection of his attempt to be embraced by our community.

More than not being the Israel we want; it is not the Israel desired by Israelis.

While concerning that Smotrich and Ben Gvir are polling as the third largest party, it is only because Benjamin Netanyahu has abandoned the principles of his Likud predecessors that these two extremists have been legitimised as potential members of the next Israeli government.

They do not have the support of the vast majority of Israelis.

There is a different Israel being worked for every day by Jews and Arabs; Orthodox, Progressive, and Secular; Ashkenazi, Mizrachi, Ethiopian and Russian; Citizens, Residents and Refugees.

New Israel Fund and our grantees – hundreds of leaders working with tens of thousands of people – are protecting minorities and marginalised groups; defending democracy and human rights; and advancing Arab-Jewish partnership.

Our joint lobbyist working collaboratively with six refugee organisations has stopped the deportation of asylum-seeking minors and their families; challenged de facto segregated schools; opened access to health care for refugees; and ended the draconian Deposit law which financial entrapped asylum seekers granted permission to work.

FakeReporter have stopped groups spreading lies, hatred and organising violence online, whilst also exposing Iranian cyber threats and flaws in apps revealing the location of Israeli soldiers.

Omdim Beyachad (Standing Together) mobilise thousands of Arabs and Jews that refuse to be enemies and embody a genuinely shared society.

While not ignoring issues of inequality or the Occupation, their success comes from recognising shared challenges and working together to redress them, such as raising the minimum wage or expanding social housing.

There are many more renewing Israel’s commitment to its founding vision and striving for a just, safe, and equal Israel. One in five donors to the New Israel Fund in 2021 were Israelis. Supported by a global community, it is Israelis of all backgrounds delivering and increasingly funding their inspiring NGOs to improve Israel for all its communities.

Outrage at Smotrich, Ben Gvir and Netanyahu may be called for. As well as getting angry we can get behind and support these Israelis fighting for the Israel they and we wish to see.

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