The mass demonstrations in Israel that are now in their 16th week are said to be about preventing dictatorship in the Jewish state. But for those protesting, judicial reform is just one facet of this perceived authoritarianism, which is why the demonstrations are now shifting focus.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s judicial reform is currently on the shelf, but that hasn’t stopped some 200,000 Israelis nationwide from continuing to hold their weekly post-Shabbat anti-government gatherings.
Some argue that the continuation of the protests is evidence that the issue wasn’t really about judicial reform in the first place. That was just a convenient trigger to oppose Netanyahu in this manner. [It is notable that many of the judicial reforms now being proposed were also on the agenda of the previous government led by Yair Lapid.]
For those with a keen eye, the demonstrations are about an issue that’s bigger than judicial reform. Those now taking to the streets by and large believe that Israel is going the way of the Islamic Republic of Iran, or at least of the more authoritarian regimes in Eastern Europe. A judicial reform that curtails the Supreme Court is but a part of this phenomenon, which also includes the “occupation” of a so-called “Palestine” and legislation enshrining the ethnic and religious Jewish character of the State of Israel.
And for these demonstrators, Benjamin Netanyahu personifies this overall phenomenon in all its aspects.
That’s why the demonstrations have not abated despite the government acquiescing to opposition demands that it engage in dialogue aimed at a consensus-based judicial reform.
And that’s why you are increasingly seeing at the demonstrations flags and slogans that have nothing to do with judicial reform, at least not directly.
For instance, at the main gathering on Kaplan Street in Tel Aviv on Saturday, Palestinian flags made a big showing, as did printed posters declaring Israel in its current form, and certainly under its current government, to be a “racist” and “apartheid” state.
Judicial reform? That’s just one aspect of why the opposition in #Israel is protesting.
For many in the opposition, the Jewish state is in its current form already “racist” and “dictatorial.” pic.twitter.com/yrxV2yatnz
— Israel Today (@israeltoday) April 23, 2023
The crowd chanted “the occupation will not pass” and “[Jewish] settlement will not pass.” Little mention of judicial reform, because that’s just one part of why they believe Israel is in danger.
Make no mistake, the battle being waged on Israel’s streets these days isn’t about judicial reform alone. That’s just one piece of a much larger puzzle.
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