American Jews must not be afraid to oppose Israel’s judicial reform, former prime minister Ehud Barak said as he attacked the American Israel Public Affairs Committee for stifling debate regarding the Jewish state.
“I’m a critic of AIPAC in a way,” Barak said, as he addressed a Zoom event organized by the NGO “USA for Israeli Democracy.”
“AIPAC made it a rule to broadcast unison support for the government,” Barak said, adding that he has told them for the last five years that was a mistake.
“I am yearning to hear mature voices from the American Jewish leadership,” he added.
The American Jewish community should be able to voice the same wide array of views that can be found in Israel, he said.
“Under normal situations when you have issues in dispute in Israel, I would expect the American Jewry to represent the same spectrum of voice, it is more mature. We are partners, we should not be immune again hearing criticism,” Barak said.
AIPAC's silence speaks volumes
AIPAC, which has a policy of supporting the Israeli government, has been silent on the issue of Israeli judicial reform. Supporters of the plan believe it will strengthen Israeli democracy, but its opponents fear it will transform the country into a dictatorship.
Barak said that American Jewry should not hold back their opinions.
“There is no reason why the reflection of different views which is the essence of political and public life in Israel would not be reflected in America, it would be much more healthy if you raise your voice with self-confidence. Do not be apologetic,” Barak said.
The Jewish religion itself thrives of debate, Barak said, adding that “Judaism is about pluralism.” One need look no further than the Talmud, which details the debates of the rabbinic scholars, he said.
One should “follow the practices of Beit Hillel because they listen to the other side before they make decisions, not Beit Shammi, who was so confident like AIPAC,” Barak said.
He also attacked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government for failing to build a relationship with Diaspora Jewry. Netanyahu’s coalition “is more anti-diaspora than any previous government,” he said.
Barak also cautioned the anti-judicial reform protestors to overly rely on US President Joe Biden to pressure Netanyahu to halt the judicial reform plan.
“Don’t expect Biden to lie on the barbed wire for us,” he said, adding that “He is a very good friend of Israel.”
Barak urged American Jews to oppose the judicial reform plan, explaining that “you have a moral commitment to stand behind the protests.”