JERUSALEM: Every Saturday evening for the past month, thousands of Israelis have taken part in antigovernmental protests across the country.
Their handmade signs reveal the focus of the demonstrations: “Democracy for everyone” read one, in Hebrew and English. Others spelled out the participants’ support for the Israeli Supreme Court, with its independence under threat from the far-right government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and yet, despite the growing movement against Netanyahu’s government, there had been talk of postponing the most recent protest, held last Saturday.
Violence in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem has reached fever pitch, with an Israeli raid on Jenin killing nine Palestinians last Thursday, and a Palestinian gunman killing seven Israelis in an East Jerusalem settlement on Friday, followed by further killings of Palestinians by Israelis, and attacks on Israelis carried out by Palestinians.
The Israeli government has attempted to create a rally-around-the-flag effect in the wake of the violence, and push through legislation that has been labelled as “collective punishment” targeting Palestinians.
What the return to the forefront of the Palestinian occupation will have on the protests remains to be seen.
Some demonstrators, including Palestinians, have taken the opportunity the protests have presented to call for an end to the occupation, and denounced government policy towards Palestinians but ultimately, the focus of most of the protesters has been on the debate over the Israeli judiciary, Netanyahu’s own legal troubles, and the growth of right-wing religious movements within government.
That has frustrated many Palestinians, who, while agreeing with the need to push back against Netanyahu, refuse to whitewash Israel’s political system.
“Note that very few (Palestinian) Arabs participate in the protests, because the protests are only about Jewish democracy not substantive democracy,” Ahmad Tibi, a Palestinian member of the Israeli parliament, and the head of the Ta’al Party, media. “The demonstrators demand not to harm the courts, not to harm the legal advisers, not to harm the committee to appoint judges. But they don’t call for equality between Jews and Arabs. There is no such call by the protesters. Or to end the occupation or against the Jewish Nation State Law or against racism.”
“Nevertheless, I repeat that we oppose the judicial revolution of the Netanyahu government.”
The focus of the protests has primarily been on the government’s plans to overhaul the judiciary. The highly controversial plan unveiled in January by justice minister Yariv Levin includes a bill that will radically limit the Supreme Court’s power to overturn any Knesset (parliament) legislation and government decisions, an “override clause” enabling a simple majority of one vote to re-legislate, a bill to change the selection process for judges by effectively giving it to the government, and a bill preventing the court from using a test of “reasonableness” to gauge Knesset legislation and government decisions.
Levin has also proposed that legal advisers in government ministries be personally appointed by government ministers.
The changes are necessary, according to Levin, because the Supreme Court was harming democracy, as it was “interfering” in government decision-making and parliament legislation, which harms the government’s ability to govern. (Int’l News Desk)