Democracy and civil society depend upon the commitment to two principles: objective truth and democratic process. Regrettably, both have come under assault in recent months, through baseless conspiracies of election fraud and a concerted effort to overturn the will of the majority of Americans who voted in the recent election. Tragically, last week those efforts fueled a mob of insurrectionists that stormed the U.S. Capitol, causing death and destruction, and threatening the lives of many elected representatives.
Like so many across the country, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Phoenix is deeply troubled with what happened and those who bear responsibility for it — the violent mob, those in power who egged them on and those who sat silent.
As part of the Arizona community, the JCRC is particularly disturbed by the actions of our elected representatives, notably, U.S. Representatives Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar, and state legislators Mark Finchem, David Livingston and Kelly Townsend. Each of them, along with Arizona Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward, has promoted the Big Lie that the presidential election was decided by fraud, and then used that lie to reject what the clear majority of American voters chose. This is not an exhaustive list of those culpable for spreading mistruths about the election, and many more in the Arizona Republican Party deserve blame as well.
We are further saddened that it took the shocking videos of attacks on the seat of government to shake people from their silence. Jews know all too well how silence can allow evil to prevail. As the Talmud states in Yevamot 87b, “Silence is akin to complicity.”
This is not about policy, liberal or conservative, good-faith disagreements about how best to solve the problems facing our nation — economic hardship, a public health crisis, environmental degradation. Rather, this is about first principles without which we don’t have a democratic government.
We either believe in democracy or we do not. If we do, we must pledge ourselves to protect and promote that which is true. Equally important, we must ensure that the bedrock rule of any democracy — that of majority rule — is preserved. Surely, we must protect minority rights, but the majority decides in an election who represents the people.
The JCRC will continue to fight for these fundamental principles, and will continue to create spaces for civil society to conduct education and dialogue around these core values. It will continue to take actions that reinforce the Jewish community’s commitment to the democratic values of pluralism, tolerance and the rule of law. And it will continue to speak out against those who do not hold these principles to be sacrosanct. JN
Paul Rockower is the Executive Director and Adam Goodman is the Board Chair of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Phoenix