Justice: Israel: Hundreds of thousands demonstrate against judicial reform

Israel: Hundreds of thousands demonstrate against judicial reform

Tens of thousands of Israelis protested in Tel Aviv against the planned judicial reform. photo

© Tsafrir Abayov/AP/dpa

Judicial reform in Israel is progressing despite violent protests from large sections of the population. The conflict is becoming increasingly fierce. There is great concern about the future of democracy.

Around a quarter of a million people took to the streets in several Israeli cities to protest against the controversial judicial reform. In the coastal metropolis of Tel Aviv, a large rally took place for the ninth Saturday evening in a row. According to media reports, around 160,000 people took part. According to police estimates, it was the largest demonstration since the protests began, the Haaretz newspaper wrote on Sunday.

According to the police in Tel Aviv, around 200 demonstrators broke through a barrier and blocked the main road connecting to Jerusalem. A water cannon was used. According to media reports, arrests were made. At a protest in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, there had already been violent confrontations, and several demonstrators were injured. There were complaints of excessive police violence.

First phase already completed in April?

The reform of the judiciary is progressing despite violent protests from large parts of the population. According to media reports, the first phase could be approved in a fast-track procedure by April. According to plans by the right-wing religious government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, parliament should in future be able to overturn decisions of the Supreme Court with a simple majority. In addition, politicians should be given more influence in the appointment of judges.

The proposed law could also play into the head of government’s hands in a corruption process that has been going on against him for some time. Netanyahu caused outrage on Wednesday when he drew a comparison between anti-reform demonstrators and violent settlers who wreaked havoc after an attack in the Palestinian city of Howara.

Critics see the separation of powers in danger as a result of the reform. They warn that Israel could turn into a dictatorship. The government, on the other hand, argues that the Supreme Court currently exercises too much political influence.

Fear of oppression of women

Women in long red coats and white bonnets, dressed up as characters from the television series The Handmaid’s Tale, have been seen at anti-reform demonstrations. First published in 1985, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian tale of a dictatorship in which women in particular are oppressed. With the disguise, the demonstrators express their fear that Israel could go in such a political direction in the course of weakening the judiciary.

Police Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and other government officials denounced the demonstrators as “anarchists”. Netanyahu’s son Jair even called them “terrorists” after protests broke out outside a hair salon in Tel Aviv where his mother Sara had her hair dyed.

It is striking how much the demonstrators use classic Israeli state symbols, such as the blue and white national flag, in their protests. On Saturday evening, the demonstrators in Tel Aviv also sang the Israeli national anthem “Hatikva” – hope. It invokes the hope of the Jews to be “a free people in our country”. Many of the demonstrators belong to what is often described as the “salt of the earth” in Israel – pilots, doctors, IT entrepreneurs.

resistance in the military

There is also resistance to the judicial reform in the Israeli military. 37 of the 40 fighter pilots of Fighter Wing 69 refused to start their reserve training, Israeli media reported on Sunday. Instead, they wanted to protest against the reform this week in front of government institutions. Reservists from other units also threatened to refuse service if the initiative were to be implemented.

There was also harsh criticism of Netanyahu from veterans of the elite unit Sayeret Matkal, in which the 73-year-old also served. In an open letter, the veterans wrote that Netanyahu’s brother Jonatan deliberately sacrificed his own life for the state and people of Israel during a rescue operation by the unit at Entebbe Airport in Uganda in 1976. The team then rescued Israeli passengers on a hijacked Air France plane. “It’s sad, but you, Bibi (Netanyahu’s nickname), are consciously and open-eyed sacrificing the state and people of Israel for your own interests,” the letter said.


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