The Jewish Americans protesting Israel's new government
Jewish leaders and citizens across the US are speaking out against the Israeli government like never before.
In reaction to the new far-right coalition, hundreds of US rabbis have signed letters expressing their concerns about the direction the Israeli government is taking, while mainstream Jewish organisations have spoken out and many others who would otherwise support Israel are making their voices heard.
For many, voicing their disapproval seems like a duty in the face of a government that they feel has given them no other choice and has openly promoted policies that go beyond the norms of a modern democratic society.
"It's not huge numbers, but for American Jews who aren't used to demonstrating against things going on in Israel... it's significant"
The beginning of a new era of dissent?
"Overreach amounts to revolution. There's a large portion of the population that has woken up to understand that. You can see that in the [Israeli] protests," Ori Nir, vice president for public affairs with Americans for Peace Now, the sister organisation of Israel's Shalom Achshav, which advocates for a two-state solution, told The New Arab.
As an Israeli expatriate and longtime US resident, Nir has been able to observe the evolution of dissent and public opinion in both countries over the past few decades. These days, he is hopeful about the protests in Israel, and to a lesser extent in cities across the US, in protest of what is being called Israel's most extreme right-wing government ever.
Since the new Israeli government came to power, he has organised several demonstrations in Washington DC aimed at bringing together Israelis and American (non-Israeli) Jews, with the attendance reaching around 200.
"It's not huge numbers, but for American Jews who aren't used to demonstrating against things going on in Israel," he said, it's significant. "They're not used to airing this dirty laundry in public. I'm seeing more interest in people doing more," he added.
"The way we frame it, we're demonstrating for democracy, and against the anti-democratic practices of the new government. We're demonstrating against the components of the new government that stand in contradiction to the founding vision of the country's democracy."
For democracy, but what kind of democracy?
As much as the demonstrations and public statements against Israel's new far-right government might feel like a new era, organisers and observers are quick to point out that current protests make little mention of Palestinians, the occupation, or Israel’s system of apartheid.
This, say critics, is problematic when talking about saving Israel's democracy, a system that has never been democratic for the Palestinian population, both in the occupied territories and for those with Israeli citizenship.
Last week, a public debate between two US rabbis arose following a sermon by Sharon Brous, who passionately discussed the need to speak out against what was happening with the new government in Israel, including how Palestinians have been historically affected.
While her words were widely praised, another rabbi, Brant Rosen, who describes himself as an anti-Zionist, took issue with some of her statements relating to democracy in Israel.
Though he praised much of her sermon, he criticised what he described as the myth of Israeli democracy now being under threat by an extreme government.
In his written response to her widely shared sermon on YouTube, he argued that "the very idea of a Jewish state predicated on a demographic Jewish majority is itself inherently illiberal".
Joel Beinin, an emeritus professor of Middle East history at Stanford University, himself a member of a liberal synagogue, told The New Arab that when people talk about saving Israeli democracy because it might be lost, there are two ways of looking at it.
"One way of thinking about it is that these demonstrations, because they don't answer fundamental questions, won't go anywhere," he said.
"For now, criticisms of Israel from the American Jewish community in the mainstream are largely confined to the deterioration of the rights of Israeli Jews"
On the other hand, he said, "When you get tens of thousands of people on the streets, maybe some of them will start to ask broader questions".
For now, he said, "I don't see yet among Israeli or American Jews that too many people are raising broader questions". If it does happen, he expects the change will be gradual.
"Is there some kind of change in the works? Yes, probably. But it will take some time. It's not going to happen right away. Palestinians are still not at the centre of discussions," Beinin explained.
The future of Jewish American views of Israel
For now, criticisms of Israel from the American Jewish community in the mainstream are largely confined to the deterioration of the rights of Israeli Jews.
At the Israeli American Council conference earlier this month, former head of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman, told The Times of Israel that Israel's tampering with its democracy will affect US Jewish support, considered a rare statement for Foxman.
Last month, US Senator Jacky Rosen of Nevada, considered pro-Israel, reportedly refused to meet with newly elected far-right Israeli leaders. It is believed that it was due to their policies toward women.
At US synagogues, some rabbis have stopped saying a prayer for the state of Israel, a longtime practice at conservative synagogues.
"With centrists, it's new that they're speaking out against the government, but the reasons they're doing it is to protect a mythology," James Zogby, a pollster and president of the Arab American Institute, told The New Arab. "It's interesting that they don't connect the dots."
As for policies toward Palestinians, there remains little said by centrist and conservative Jewish leaders and organisations.
"Year after year, surveys show that young American Jews are increasing their support for Palestinian human and civil rights"
For left-wing American Jews, concern for Palestinians has long been growing. Year after year, surveys show that young American Jews are increasing their support for Palestinian human and civil rights, resulting in left-wing voting patterns.
This is in contrast with many Israelis, whose political ideologies have grown more conservative over the years, manifesting in today's far-right government.
"Among American Jews, there is much more traction with anti-occupation," said Nir of Americans for Peace Now. "The crux is a fight for the character of Israel and the nature of its democracy, or whether it's going to be a democracy at all."
Brooke Anderson is The New Arab's correspondent in Washington DC, covering US and international politics, business, and culture.
Follow her on Twitter: @Brookethenews