My Speech at the Pro-Democracy, Pro-Israel Rally in New York

Jeremy Ben-Ami Image
Jeremy Ben-Ami
on September 22, 2023

Good evening.

My name is Jeremy Ben-Ami.

I’m President of J Street – the political home of pro-Israel, pro-peace and pro-democracy Americans.

I am here today – as are all of you – out of my deep care and concern for the state of Israel and its people.

Our family. Our brothers, sisters and cousins.

We are called to be here at this moment because a radical government and its Prime Minister are confronting Israel with its most fundamental threat since the founding of the state.

I say this as an American Jew with roots in Israel that go back a century and a half to my great-grandparents in the first Aliyah.

Whose father worked closely with the father of this Prime Minister here in the US on the rescue of Jews in World War II and in the fight for independence.

Jewish Americans and Jewish Israelis are one people, with one history.

Our families lived together in the lands of others almost always without the same rights as our non-Jewish neighbors.

Our parents, or theirs, left or were expelled from societies where they were not protected by the rule of law.

And – over the last century, our families found safety, freedom and prosperity in Israel and in the United States.


It all comes down to one word – DEMOCRACY in English

And in Hebrew: DE – MO – KRA – TIA.

Both countries – Israel and the United States – are built on a foundation of democracy, equal rights and the rule of law.

Here in the United States – Donald Trump and his MAGA supporters have tried for years to tear apart the fabric of American democracy.

And throughout the Trump years, Jewish community leaders were among his most outspoken critics.

We saw the dangers of white nationalism and ethnonationalism.

We experienced the shock in Charlottesville of white nationalists chanting “Jews will not replace us”.

Our communities and friends experienced the horror of synagogue shootings and bomb threats and a rising tide of hate.

The Jewish community speaks out in support of democracy because we know how essential it is to our health, security, prosperity and well-being.

So too – democracy is vital to the state of Israel.

For decades, our community reveled in extoling the shared DEMOCRATIC values at the heart of the US-Israel relationship.

Israel – we said – is the only democracy in the Middle East.

Our shared democratic values justify the massive assistance the US provides to assure Israel’s security.

That is why our community leaders must not be silent as Prime Minister Netanyahu and his band of nationalists, racists and thugs pursue legislation that will undermine the independence of the court.

Legislation that threatens the equality of women, of Palestinians, of the LGBTQ community.

Legislation that makes all Jews who don’t practice the strictest form of orthodox Judaism second class Jews.

American Jews must say to Prime Minister Netanyahu – as we said to Donald Trump – do not tear down our democracy.

Shame on you for trying.


We must stay to Prime Minister Netanyahu – do not shred the founding principles of the state and its commitment to freedom, justice and equality for all, regardless of race, creed or gender.

Shame on you for trying.


We must say to Prime Minister Netanyahu – do not destroy the very basis of Israel’s security and prosperity.

Shame on you for trying.


And we must say as well that there will never be true Israeli democracy until all who live under the control of the state of Israel have freedom and rights – because there cannot be democracy with occupation.

Together, let’s call on every American Jewish communal institution to say clearly and without any reservation that only in a full and true democracy – one with checks and balances, independent courts and protection for minorities – can the Jewish people truly fulfill our dream lehiyot am chofshi b’artzeinu – to be a free people in our own land.

American Jews stand with the protesters fighting for Israel’s democracy.

It is time for our communal leadership to do the same.