Press Release

Jewish Dems Defend Israel’s Democracy on the Streets of DC

March 12, 2023

WASHINGTON – Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) CEO Halie Soifer delivered remarks Sunday at a rally organized by UnXeptable protesting Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s visit to Washington, DC. The following are her remarks:

“Thank you. I’m Halie Soifer, CEO of the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA), and I’m here today to voice the deep commitment of Jewish Democrats to the US-Israel relationship and the shared values on which that partnership is based, including pluralism and democracy.

This is an unprecedented development for JDCA – protesting an Israeli government official – but these are, in many ways, unprecedented times. For the past six years, our democracy here in the United States has been under threat – for four years, by an extremist president who encouraged a violent insurrection, and since then, by extremist members of his party peddling election denialism and other dangerous conspiracy theories, including some targeting the Jewish community.

In response to the rise of right-wing extremism in the United States, the overwhelming majority of American Jews stood up, spoke out, organized, and helped to defeat extremists – including the one in the White House – at the ballot box. We did it in 2018, in 2020, and again in the 2022 midterms, when the number one issue for Jewish American voters – according to national polling – was the future of our democracy.

Today, Israel is at a similar inflection point, with its democracy at a precipice. Israeli Finance Minister Smotrich is part of a group of democratically elected Israeli government officials directly threatening the power of Israel’s judiciary and its democratic system of checks and balances. In response, JDCA has stated its concern about Israel’s proposed judicial overhaul, and support for President Herzog’s calls for compromise and consensus.

While American Jews respect the right of Israelis to elect whomever they choose, we have the right to express support for democracy, whether here or in Israel. We also have the right – indeed the obligation – to speak out when Israeli officials express views that are antithetical to the very foundation of US-Israel relations. This includes – but is not limited to – Finance Minister Smotrich’s recent endorsement of violence targeting innocent civilians. These remarks were abhorrent, dangerous, and racist. They don’t represent the Israel that we know and love, they don’t represent the views of a majority of Israelis, and they don’t represent the values of the overwhelming majority of Jewish Americans.

No one who uses such dangerous rhetoric should be given an honor simply because of their role in government, certainly not by a Jewish American organization. Israel Bonds is wrong to have provided Minister Smotrich this platform, and we are here today to make it clear that his rhetoric is an affront to our Jewish and democratic values, which Jewish Dems will continue to defend in Israel and in the United States.

Last night, half a million Israelis took to the streets, some of whom spoke directly to members of the coalition, including Minister Smotrich. They chanted – ‘you forgot that the country is not yours alone; it is ours as well and we will fight for it.’ There is hope in this refrain – Israelis are fighting for their future as a democracy, and Jewish Dems stand with them in this fight.”

To speak with a JDCA spokesperson, please contact [email protected].