Israelis protest outside the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, March 27, 2023. (Photo/JTA-Jamal Awad-Flash90)
Israelis protest outside the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, March 27, 2023. (Photo/JTA-Jamal Awad-Flash90)

JCRC Bay Area asks public to lobby Congress on Israel pro-democracy resolution

A version of this article originally appeared on HaaretzSign up here to get Haaretz’s free Daily Brief newsletter delivered to your inbox.

The Jewish Community Relations Council Bay Area is urging people to lobby their congressional representatives in favor of a resolution affirming Israel’s pro-democracy protest movement and condemning Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul.

While 17 leading U.S. Jewish organizations sent an open letter in August to members of Congress on the issue, the JCRC Bay Area letter represents a new level of attention on the matter.

JCRC Bay Area’s letter, released on social media platforms Sept. 1, calls House Concurrent Resolution 61 an “affirmation of U.S. support for a strong and democratic Israel and opposes actions that undermine its future as a Jewish and democratic State.”

The letter stresses the importance of the bipartisan U.S.-Israel relationship, while “sharing our alarm over recent efforts by Israel’s governing coalition to weaken the judiciary and separation of powers.”

JCRC Bay Area added that these efforts are “having a negative impact on the cohesion of Israeli society, and there are early signs they are undermining its national security and military readiness.”

The number of co-sponsors on the House resolution has nearly quadrupled since its introduction over the summer from 12 to 47 Democrats, demonstrating the well-established and growing displeasure within the Democratic Party concerning the judicial overhaul.

Eight of these 47 co-sponsors are from Bay Area communities, including Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Santa Clara), who warned Israel President Isaac Herzog in July about the overhaul’s impact on Silicon Valley and future investment opportunities. In addition to Khanna, seven other Bay Area lawmakers — all Democrats — have signed on as co-sponsors: Reps. Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, Jared Huffman, Kevin Mullin, Zoe Lofgren, Eric Swalwell and Jimmy Panetta.

JCRC Bay Area flagged three local lawmakers — Reps. John Garamendi (D-Fairfield), Mike Thompson (D-Napa) and Mark DeSaulnier (D-Walnut Creek) — who have yet to co-sponsor the legislation, encouraging their constituents to contact them about the resolution.

JCRC Bay Area previously called on the Netanyahu coalition to abandon its so-called reasonableness bill, which abolished the High Court’s authority to strike down government decisions it deems unreasonable, prior to its final passage. This came months after JCRC Bay Area released a joint statement with the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund calling upon Israel to reach a “broad consensus” on the judicial overhaul.

“We’re trying to hold up a mirror to where the Bay Area Jewish community is on these issues,” JCRC Bay Area CEO Tye Gregory told J. earlier this year. “People are looking for direction on how to connect with an [an Israeli government] that doesn’t share our values. We’re telling people, don’t despair; get engaged. Let’s invest in peacemakers rather than focus on radicals on the fringes.”

The letter was sent less than two weeks before Israel’s Supreme Court convened on Sept. 12 to hear petitions on the new law, and three weeks before Netanyahu is set to visit the U.S. for the United Nations General Assembly and a probable Sept. 18 visit to the Bay Area.

A version of this article first appeared on Haaretz and is reprinted with permission.

Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels

Ben Samuels is U.S. correspondent for Haaretz. Follow him on Twitter.