The president of the World Jewish Congress has criticised Israeli leaders for “sowing division” and provoking a “summer of disharmony” in the Jewish world.
Writing in the New York Times, Ronald Lauder expressed concern about the possible discriminatory effect of Israel’s new ‘Nation State Law, ’ and warns Israeli leaders that they risk losing the younger Jewish generation by their actions.
Lauder, who originally backed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has recently expressed similar concerns, and this week urged Israeli leaders to “rethink their destructive actions” that risked worsening a “generational divide”.
His intervention comes after several high-profile walk-outs of young Diaspora Jews from the ten-day Birthright trip to Israel, as complaints have risen about the reluctance of the trips’ sponsors to show the reality of Israel’s occupation.
Describing new Israeli laws, Lauder said Israeli leaders risked “creating the impression that the democratic and egalitarian dimensions of the Jewish democratic state are being tested”.
Among Israel’s new laws is the Nation State Law, which specifies Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, demotes Arabic from an official language, declares all of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and says the development of Jewish settlements is a national value.
Echoing British Jewish grandee Sir Mick Davis, Lauder said the vision of Zionism should be of a “pluralistic Judaism that respects every human being,” adding that it is a movement that “has been unwaveringly democratic from its very start”.
In a nod to the arrest of Conservative American rabbi in Israel last month, Lauder said: “Orthodoxy should be respected, but we cannot allow the politics of a radical minority to alienate millions of Jews worldwide.”
Israeli leaders have recently ditched a law to provide an egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall, while another law has denied the option of surrogacy to same-sex couples.