It seems silly at first.
100 men and women are planning to blow shofars outside the UJA-Federation office in New York this evening. They're calling on the UJA to exclude NIF, Partners for a Progressive Israel, and B’Tselem from New York's Celebrate Israel Parade based on the phony charge that we support the global BDS movement.
The protestors seek to narrow the margins of debate about Israel. They can't seem to come to terms with the notion that, for many thousands of us, loving Israel means not sweeping Israel's problems under the rug, but rather helping Israelis overcome the most difficult challenges Israel faces: from ending the occupation, to preserving democratic freedoms, to upholding women's rights.
So what's the big deal about 100 protesters in New York City, especially when the UJA, the JCRC, and so many in the organized Jewish community are standing with us?
Sadly, the shofar blowers are getting support from Israeli extremists, including those in positions of real influence. Just yesterday Knesset Member Yariv Levin -- chairman of Prime Minister Netanyahu's coalition and the author of anti-democratic legislation -- wrote them a letter of support.
What I have come to understand is that there is a visceral connection between those protesting the UJA and the ultra-nationalist settlers who hold so much influence in the current Israeli government. Both seek to narrow the scope of acceptable discourse. Both are emboldened by the collapse of the peace process. Both want to rip Israel away from its heritage as a liberal democracy.
NIF is committed to the proposition that Israel can be simultaneously a Jewish homeland and a democracy where everyone participates in a shared and just society. You and I know, however, that this vision of Israel is jeopardized by the rise of political forces bent on delegitimizing progressive Israelis, marginalizing Israel's Arab minority, and shutting out women's voices.
We also know that the answer to this threat is to help ordinary Israelis fashion a better Israel. This has been the core of NIF's work for more than 30 years.
The time has also come for us to step up our investment to change the public discourse in Israel and to rebuild the pro-democracy, progressive camp. You will be hearing more from me soon about the bold steps we are initiating to shift the national direction from greater exclusion toward greater openness.
The noisy extremists will not deter us. Not from marching in the Celebrate Israel Parade, nor from pushing for social change. We will continue to provide the support that Israel's champions of democracy need to build a better Israel.
Also, please take a second and forward this message to any of your friends or family in New York who are committed to Israel and to progressive values.
Thank you for your partnership.