By Ben Murane, Executive Director
On October 15, the Knesset will end its holiday break and return to session. Just before they broke for the summer recess in early August, this Netanyahu-led government, chock-full of extremists, passed a series of dangerous, anti-democratic laws. Key among them was the annulment of the “reasonableness clause,” which eliminated the Supreme Court’s ability to serve as a check on elected officials’ decisions. It was, as government officials themselves stated, the opening salvo of their planned judicial coup. We don’t know yet what to expect from this session, but there’s one thing for certain: whatever’s coming, it probably won’t be good.
But the Knesset reconvening is not the only thing happening on October 15. That day also happens to be the date of NIFC’s annual Shira Herzog Symposium, where we annually celebrate the hard work that we and our Israeli partners have done on the ground defending democracy in Israel and pledge to keep fighting in the year to come. We are, as always, ready to meet the moment.
As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies prepare to open the next chapter of their assault on democracy, NIFC and our allies will gather to prepare to defend it.
This year, our Symposium will feature three main speakers who represent different elements of the work we do. We proudly bring to Canada three key civil society leaders fighting for a truly democratic and shared Israel: Orly Erez-Likhovski of the Israel Religious Action Center; Eran Nissan of Mehazkim; and Amal Oraby of NIF.
Orly is the head of the Reform movement’s advocacy arm in Israel – known as IRAC – and represents veteran organizations that are NIF’s longest and closest friends. Expert civil society NGOs like IRAC were the first to raise the alarms about growing Jewish extremism and populist illiberalism years ago. And now they are the pillars of the pushback for democracy.
Eran represents a new generation of civil society start-ups – like his all-digital organization Mehazkim — using viral videos to mobilize progressive Israelis to the streets and countering right-wing misinformation campaigns. Mehazkim is one of the central protest organizers and a key member of the NIF-funded Anti-Occupation Bloc that has spread to 20 cities.
Amal is the Arabic-language spokesperson for NIF itself – representing a voice of Palestinian citizens who remain unconvinced whether the protest movement means “DE-MO-CRAT-YA” for all Israelis or just for Jewish citizens? NIF’s work fostering grassroots Palestinian leadership and Jewish-Arab partnership will be critical for a pro-democracy movement that walks its own talk.
Joining them onstage as moderator will be columnist Andrew Z. Cohen, whose own bold criticisms of Canadian Jewish silence went viral earlier this year.
These three Israelis are courageous resisters in the face of resurgent racism and extremism. This celebration of defiance is something you will not want to miss.
But more than anything else, the symposium is an opportunity for us to come together as a community to acknowledge, honour, and celebrate the work of our organization and our courageous Israeli partners on the ground during these perilous and difficult days.
From organizing protests to defend democracy, to challenging unjust laws, to demanding an end to the occupation and settlement enterprise, our partners like Orly, Eran, and Amal show up every day. And so does NIFC.
As the next chapter of our struggle for a shared, democratic, and equal future begins, I hope you will take the time to be in community with us on October 15.
(If you’re in Vancouver, then join me and Eran at Temple Sholom on October 11th. Details here.)