Israelis Gather in Masse to Protest for Democracy

Hadash leaders denounced the government on Tuesday after the far-right coalition led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu passed, in the first of its three readings, a milestone bill in the divisive effort to overhaul Israel’s judiciary. The government celebrated the effort after the legislation passed by a vote of 63-47 with no abstentions. Some lawmakers, including the opposition Israel Beytenu party, boycotted the vote in protest.

A quote from Karl Marx in front of the Knesset, Monday, February 20, 2023 (Photo: Zo Haderech)

The vote came after tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered outside the Knesset waving Israeli flags and chanting “de-mo-cra-cy” as they demanded the far-right government halt its efforts to radically transform the judiciary.

Masses gathered outside parliament waving blue and white flags and chanting “De-mo-cra-cy” as they demanded the government halt its efforts to remove most judicial oversight on legislation and assert full political control over judge selection. According to organizers over 100,000 people took part in the demonstration outside the Knesset. Among the demonstrators Hadash and Communist Party of Israel activists.

Physical and mental healthcare professionals staged a mass casualty incident outside the Knesset in which they give medical attention to cardboard cutouts that represent the Declaration of Independence, The basic human right to dignity and freedom, the Invalids’ Rights Law, the law for treating mental health patients, the national medical insurance law and the people’s health order. “The men and women in healthcare and mental healthcare in Israel are preparing for a national emergency on Monday,” said the Doctor’s Struggle – the White Coats and the No Mental Health without Democracy movements in a joint statement. “By virtue of our role, we will arrive to supply first aid so as to treat those who are injured by the Knesset’s vote. We are all recruited to do everything to prevent the collapse of Israel’s public health.”

On Monday morning, protesters blocked key roads around the country. Thousands of parents and students demonstrated in the morning outside schools and educational institutions across the country. Some surrounded the homes of several far-right members of Knesset and attempted to stop them from leaving, drawing condemnations from Netanyahu, who said the protesters are “anarchists:. Responding to the road blockages from Haifa in the North to Beer Sheva in the South, including on the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway and near the Azrieli Towers in Tel Aviv, racist National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir held what he said was an “urgent” situational assessment at a police command center in Jerusalem. A statement from Ben Gvir’s office said “anarchists are going wild,” with protests going “out of control” and blocking roads in contravention of his policy.

A majority of Israelis oppose the government’s push to subvert the judiciary, including a substantial minority of voters who supported coalition parties, according to a survey released on Tuesday. More than half of all voters oppose each of the main proposals put forward by the government, the survey said. A slight majority of Israelis agree with warnings that the plan will harm Israel’s economy, while only 35% agree with Netanyahu, who has disputed those warnings, the survey said.

More than half of Israelis said they fear damage to their personal savings, restrictions on freedom of expression, politicization of the civil service, restrictions on public transportation during Shabbat and harm to gender equality.

Forty-three percent said they were concerned about harm to LGBTQ rights, and 45% feared a negative impact on the rights of Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, including 87% of Arab respondents. The poll by the Israel Democracy Institute found that 66% of Israelis believe the High Court should have the power to strike down laws that are incompatible with the quasi-constitutional Basic Laws, a central tenet of the government’s judicial plan.