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President Stuart Appelbaum at NYC's Rally for Democracy in Israel

NYC Rally for Israeli Democracy photo by Jacob Kornbluh Forward for web.jpg
JLC President Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union,
addressed those at the rally. Photo by Jacob Kornbluh/Forward.

February 21, 2023: New York, NY - Jewish Labor Committee people were among the 200 in New York, many associated with groups connected to the Progressive Israel Network, at a rally in Midtown Manhattan during afternoon rush hour across the street from the Israeli Consulate in Manhattan. We were there to show support for democracy in the State of Israel, to protest the Netanyahu Government’s proposed court reforms, and express solidarity with the hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in that country. Below are President Appelbaum's remarks:

I am standing here today as a proud Jew, as a proud New Yorker, as a progressive, and as head of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, and President of the Jewish Labor Committee.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a proud, and at times critical, supporter of the State and people of Israel. And the values that have guided my choices over the years are the same values that are bringing all of us together now.

We are not alone – and we are joining hundreds of thousands of people who have rallied in over 60 locations across the State of Israel, speaking up against the threat to Israeli democratic traditions, not from an external threat, but from an internal one.

Demonstrators have been turning out for weeks, carrying the flag of the State of Israel, in support of its democratic ideals, and in support of a bedrock feature of that society – its independent judiciary. And we too - here in New York - are demonstrating, against those in the highest positions of the current Israeli Government, who have pushed Israeli policies far to the extreme right, seeking to muzzle the very institution that protects the civil rights for those whose beliefs and actions do not accord with the ideology of the Netanyahu Government.

We must stand with those who are working to protect and strengthen the rights of the non-Orthodox in Israel, of Israeli and Palestinian workers, of women in Israel, of the Israeli LGBTQ community, and indeed of all in that country.

We must stand with those who speak out against violence and provocation, on both sides, and with those who seek to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with fairness, justice, dignity and security.

And - even here in America, we must stand with those who are seeking to protect Israel’s democratic nature and its independent judiciary.

Just like those who have taken to the streets in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and throughout the State of Israel, we must not allow extremists, and their political enablers, to transform Israel into a country that betrays what should be its central values of democracy and freedom.

Now is not the time to mute our criticism. Now is precisely the time to make our critical voices heard. We can and must speak out, loudly – lending our support to all those progressive forces in Israel who are determined to fulfill its promise and secure its democratic future.