Today’s Jewish Insider Interview with Stav Shaffir – the hope of young Israel.
JI PROFILE — Can AOC’s Israeli counterpart build Israel’s version of the Democratic Party? — by JI’s Amy Spiro: Israelis have a choice in this week’s election between an anarchist halachic state and a liberal democracy, argues left-wing Israeli lawmaker Stav Shaffir. “I think today, the differences between the democratic Israel and those on the right is very clear,” Shaffir told Jewish Insider during an interview last week at a cafe in south Tel Aviv. “On the right, what they want is an anarchist revolution, a libertarian halacha state and annexation of the West Bank.” Those on the left, she continued, “understand that we need to have a border between us and the Palestinians, we need a two-state solution to keep Israel Jewish and democratic — to all of its citizens, Jews and Arabs — and we need to stop the Orthodox monopoly on every bit of our religion.”
Liberal luminary: Shaffir, 34, is one of the more recognizable figures on the Israeli left, and it’s not just because of her fire-red hair. She first rose to public fame as one of the leaders of the 2011 social justice protests, which oversaw tent cities popping up across Israel to protest high housing costs. In 2013, at age 27, she was elected to the Labor Party, becoming the youngest female member of Knesset in history. After the April elections, Shaffir competed in the Labor leadership primary, and lost to former Defense Minister Amir Peretz. Several weeks after that vote, Shaffir left Labor and resigned as an MK to join with Meretz and former Prime Minister Ehud Barak to form the Democratic Union, taking the party’s number two spot.
On the U.S.-Israel relationship: Netanyahu has “made Israel a partisan issue in the United States,” she said. “He failed to create that sense of brotherhood with our brothers and sisters in the United States… An Israeli prime minister needs to have a good relationship with every American president,” Shaffir said, but Netanyahu has burned bridges with Democrats, including with his “stupid move” to bar Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI). “I completely disagree with what [those congresswomen] say, but every congressman and woman should be invited to Israel regardless of their opinions,” Shaffir said. “It’s better to have them come and visit, and meet Israelis, to see how things are here. To see that Israel is not exactly the way that the BDS people describe it to them.”
Regarding BDS on college campuses: “I hear the same things in colleges — they think that all of Israelis are like Netanyahu, they think that Israelis are racist. But when young Jewish Americans get the real picture of what Israel is, then they understand the complexity that we have here in the political discourse… Those who are now in college, in 10 years will be in Congress. And we need them to understand Israel and the complexity of it.”
On building a Democratic Party: “I’m trying to do everything in my power to build connections with the [U.S.] Democrats as well… I think that we have a lot in common. I think that we and Democrats all around the world are now facing a threat to democracy. And that threat comes from the populist front on the right, which uses racism, incitement and fear as their main political tools.” Shaffir says her party will reach out to the Democratic Party and “do everything to keep Israel a bipartisan issue in the States.”
On comparisons to AOC: “I see everything that she’s doing because people send it to me and say ‘look what your sister is doing,’” joked Shaffir. “I think she’s doing really important work, and I think the young generation of Democrats [around the world] should work together on many issues.” Shaffir said while she’s heard Ocasio-Cortez speak about Israel, “I would like her to visit Israel and see what Israel really is — not just through the lens of those over there who try to portray Israel in a certain way.”