Judicial reforms in Israel delayed amid massive protests

Palestinian activists and organizations have questioned what kind of democracy Israeli protesters were defending, especially as over 70 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces this year with little pushback from Israeli citizens

March 27, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
Israel protests against judicial reforms
(Photo: Carrie Keller-Lynn/Times of Israel)

Benjamin Netanyahu has announced in a televised address that his government would delay the implementation of the controversial judicial reforms in Israel. The reforms had sparked mass protests in the Israeli capital Tel Aviv and a multi-sector national strike on Monday March 27 called for by the country’s largest labor union Histadrut.

Following the strike call, public transport, banks, and several other business activities were reportedly shut on Monday, The Times of Israel reported.

The protests gained further momentum Monday after the sacking of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant after he openly asked the government to halt the so-called reforms. On Saturday, claiming that the proposed reforms are dividing the country and threatening Israeli security, Gallant had asked for negotiations with the opposition. He had also asked for the implementation of the proposed legislation to be temporarily halted.

If passed in the Israeli parliament (Knesset), the proposed judicial reforms would give the legislature more power to appoint judges in the country’s highest courts, and will allow the government to overrule court rulings. 

Joining the protest, Ayman Odeh, Member of Knesset (MK) from the Hadash party, said: “we will do everything, in the Knesset and on the streets, to stop fascism.” He asked “all citizens, Jews and Arabs, to take to the streets.” 

Israeli President Isaac Herzog had also asked the government to halt the reforms. 

The proposed changes to the judiciary have been strongly backed by Religious Zionism and Jewish Power, two extremist right-wing parties in Netanyahu’s Likud-led coalition. The leader of Jewish Power, Otzman Yehudit, and Israel’s National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir were reported saying that they will resign from the government if the proposed judicial reforms are halted.

The protests have been met with skepticism from Palestinian activists and organizations who have pointed out the double standards in the treatment received by protesters from the security forces, as well as the motivation of people to take to the streets. Over 70 Palestinians have been killed in just 2023 by Israeli forces and settlers in violent raids and attacks, and no massive protests were organized.

Regarding the treatment of protesters by police, Palestinian activist and lawyer Diana Buttu wrote, “There has been no bloodshed because the protesters are Jewish. When Palestinians protested in Gaza (with an electrified fence and hundreds of meters between them and the soldiers) Israeli soldiers had no problem gunning Palestinians down.

Furthermore many have called out the hypocrisy of protesters saying they’re defending “Israeli democracy”, reminding that this democracy is an ethnocracy based on the ethnic cleansing and oppression of Palestinians.