A Year After the January 6 Insurrection at the Capitol, the U.S. Must Shrug Off the Notion of American Exceptionalism and Deepen its Efforts to Safeguard Democracy at Home and Abroad

American Jewish World Service (AJWS), the leading global Jewish human rights organization, is calling on the U.S. and international leaders to take bold action to protect democratic rights and the rule of law to combat the growing threat of authoritarianism around the world.


“One year ago today, the world watched in disbelief and disgust as thousands of rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol in a violent attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election by stopping Congress from counting the electoral college votes as mandated by the U.S. Constitution. The insurrection was incited by then President Donald Trump, who for months lied about the integrity of the election process, a common tactic of authoritarian leaders desperately seeking to hold on to power.  His actions not only unleashed an unprecedented assault on our democratic institutions but undermined a key tenet of democracy: the peaceful transition of power.

“While the will of the people prevailed that day, the assault on democracy and the rule of law continues – at home and around the world. The slow pace of accountability for the events of Jan. 6, 2021, and the continued attacks on voting rights remain sobering reminders of the fragility of democracy and the insidious nature of authoritarianism. As an organization inspired by Jewish values and guided by the lessons of Jewish history, we are all too familiar with the ugliness of fascism, white nationalism and hate. We have seen what authoritarian leaders are capable of when allowed to go to the extreme and fester unchallenged. We must not remain silent as this threat continues to grow even today. As the leading global Jewish human rights organization that supports activists fighting for democratic rights, we must remain unflinching in our efforts to secure and safeguard democratic rights, both in the U.S. and around the world.

“With that in mind, we were heartened by President Joe Biden’s Summit for Democracy last month, which convened global leaders from government, the private sector and civil society to defend against authoritarianism, promote human rights and fight corruption. Among the initial outcomes was the Presidential Initiative for Democratic Renewal, which promises to shore up core pillars of democracy both at home and abroad. Now, as we enter the Summit’s planned “year of action” during which world leaders will work to advance the Summit’s goals, we call on President Biden to deepen the U.S. vision for democracy – both domestically and internationally – by centering the rights of those most harmed by oppressive regimes, including indigenous communities, ethnic and religious minorities, genocide survivors, LGBTQI+ persons, women, and stateless and displaced populations.

“Further, we call on governments and other institutions to be bold in their commitments to protect democracy around the world and allow it to thrive. Democracies, including the U.S., must stand up to those who flout international laws and human rights standards by imposing significant financial and political consequences for human rights abuses, coups and sham elections. And we must work with allies and in multilateral forums such as the United Nations and regional bodies to support human rights advocates worldwide. In the words of the late freedom fighter Archbishop Desmond Tutu, ‘If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.’

“Indeed, democracy is not passive. It requires all of us to do our part to protect it and ensure its success. Rather than cling to the notion of American exceptionalism, all of us in the U.S. must acknowledge the imperfect nature of our own democracy and see ourselves as part of a larger fight for global justice, rule of law and dignity for all people. As an organization grounded in Jewish values, we stand united alongside human rights defenders, civil society activists and the most marginalized people around the world fighting for a better, more equitable future. There are countless lessons we can learn from their work – and so much more we can do to support them.”

For More Information

If you are a member of the press and wish to obtain information about our work or speak to a member of our global team on deadline, please contact Tanyanika Davis, Director of Media Relations, at tdavis@ajws.org.