(JNS) On Thursday evening in Tel Aviv, supporters of judicial reform—about 30,000 by some estimates (one police official put the number as high as 100,000)—rallied in Tel Aviv. Photos and videos on social media depicted masses of people and seas of Israeli flags.
Although judicial reform has been shelved until the beginning of May, those in favor of the effort nonetheless gathered publicly to express support for the government.
Israeli Justice Minister Yariv Levin wrote in Hebrew on Facebook that “photos of throngs of dear citizens demonstrating in favor of judicial reform strengthen me and warm my heart.” He encouraged those rallying to remain peaceful.
“Our justice and truth are stronger than anything,” he added.
Attorney and political commentator Daniel Tauber told JNS “the fact that supporters of the government, who would typically be thought of as the silent majority, are coming out to the streets is a real show of support for the reforms.”
The demonstrations are driven by millions who voted for the current government feeling “rightly” that their say in society counts for less, said Tauber, who is a member of the Likud Central Committee that approves changes to the party constitution and primary rules, and elects a portion of the list for Knesset.
“Instead of the Parliament deciding the laws and destiny of the country, based on the democratic process of open debate, elections and legislation, we have vetoes being cast by various unelected and undemocratic bodies, from the Supreme Court in its current composition, elite units in the army, the Histadrut, not to mention pressure from the Biden administration and the open prejudice against the reforms from the media, much of which is state-funded,” he added.
“In the face of all that, it’s important that demonstrations of support like this be held to ensure that the reforms, especially on the selection of judges, don’t get compromised to smithereens and actually get approved,” he added.
‘A delicate and sometimes chaotic balance’
Daniel Pomerantz, CEO of RealityCheck Research and former HonestReporting head, told JNS that those following the protests from afar may not realize that they are “democracy in action.”
“They are free, safe and incredibly patriotic,” he said. “At the same time, there is a legitimate need for certain judicial reforms—but to preserve Israel’s democratic character they must be carried out properly. Both sides focus on different concerns, but both sides are characterized by patriotism and a genuine disagreement on what is best for Israel.”
Israel does not have a constitution, so it has to navigate a “delicate and sometimes chaotic balance between the judiciary and the legislature,” according to Pomerantz.
“The current pause in the rush to pass judicial reform legislation indicates that a compromise may be possible, but it’s not clear what form that compromise might take,” he said. “Whether it would preserve and strengthen Israel’s delicate balance or disrupt it and endanger fundamental rights as provided in Israel’s Basic Laws. For this reason, there is a feeling among the protesters that to ensure the former, a degree of sustained pressure is necessary.”
“Israeli internal disagreement has come a long way since the sinking of the ‘Altalena,’” in 1948, “and the country may very possibly be on its way to becoming a more mature, stable and free democracy even than it was before,” stated Pomerantz as modern-day Israel approaches its 75th year.
Knesset member Simcha Rothman, who chairs the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee, said in Hebrew in a recent television interview: “There is a huge public here with a voice that wants the judicial system repaired.”
“When there was a concern that it would be shelved, this public came out to protest,” he said.
Also on Twitter, Miki Zohar, Israeli culture and sports minister, said the demonstration “expressed the pain of an entire camp that won the elections and feels its voice is being disrespected.”
“We promised reform, and God-willing, we’ll bring it,” he added.
James Marlow, an Israel-affairs and political analyst, shared images of the rally on Twitter. “At least 30,000 pro-government, pro-reform supporters are on the streets of Tel Aviv from across the country,” he wrote. “Sadly, some news networks are calling this a far-right demonstration, but I know many normal, mainstream government supporters who traveled to Tel Aviv to show support.”
At least 30,000 pro-government, pro-reform supporters are on the streets of Tel Aviv from across the country.
Sadly some news networks are calling this a far-right demonstration, but I know many normal, mainstream government supporters who traveled to Tel Aviv to show support. pic.twitter.com/pxUuqnmMfN
— James J. Marlow (@James_J_Marlow) March 30, 2023
Lost Orthodox Jews couple attacked by reform opponents in Tel Aviv
An ultra-Orthodox couple driving through Tel Aviv on Sunday night found themselves trapped in an anti-judicial reform protest. Demonstrators attacked and wounded the husband.
The couple was returning from visiting their son in the city when they found their way blocked by protesters, they told the Kikar Hashabbat Hebrew-language haredi news site.
Video footage of the incident could be interpreted as showing that the couple was trying to run over protesters, something the couple flatly denies. They were only trying to exit from the crowd, they insisted.
“They started knocking on our car while screaming curses and tried to smash the window. My husband continued to drive. What’s interesting is that the footage released on social media does not show what happened before or after the lynching. I screamed from the first moment we entered the street. Everyone could see that we were a lost couple and not a threat, God forbid,” the wife told Kikar Hashabbat.
The husband, who was driving, stopped the car when he realized he couldn’t continue through the crowd and opened the door to talk to the protesters. Protesters responded by punching him. One jabbed him with a flag pole, gashing his cheek. The husband staggered back.
“He said to me, ‘I’m fainting. Take me to a nearby hospital. I can’t see,’” the wife said.
She begged protesters to help but they refused. In a video, a protester can be heard shouting, “Take the engine out of the car so he’ll bleed to death.” Finally, one young protester agreed to drive the couple in their car to the nearest hospital.
The wife said the gash required stitches and her husband would have a permanent scar. “He’s still undergoing tests. He’s in a very bad mental state. My 19-year-old daughter is shaking all the time. It shook up [our] home,” she said.
“It was a lynching in every respect,” she said. “We didn’t want to publicize it, but friends said we must. It’s an unprecedented event. It’s important that the police deal with the rioters and bring them to justice.”
The “outrageous thing” is that dozens of protesters filmed the incident with their cellphone cameras, but no one took their footage to the media, she said. “Everyone could see that we were a lost couple. My husband has a yarmulke on his head, a beard. I have a wig. You can’t mistake our appearance and our intentions and yet they chose to rain blows on him.”
The couple’s lawyer, Raphael Asulin, told Kikar Hashabbat: “The continuous incitement and the pointing of an accusing finger at the ultra-Orthodox community as if it is the one leading the people to dark times, something that is also expressed by ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ street theater shown in every corner of Israel and the world, causes people to commit unthinkable acts. My client’s entire fault is his ultra-Orthodox appearance, for which he was mercilessly attacked to the point of endangering his life.
“The police did nothing during the incident and even afterwards,” the attorney said, adding that his client found it necessary, despite his condition, to go to a police station to lodge a complaint.
The police said in a statement: “Every complaint received by the police in which suspicion is raised that a criminal offense was committed is examined and investigated in relation to the existing evidence, and so it is in this case.
“After an investigation and in accordance with the evidence, it was decided to close the case. Following new information received, the case will be reopened. We will continue to thoroughly investigate the case with the aim of arriving at the truth,” the police added.
Israel Today Membership
Save 18% Per Month.
Six Months Membership
Save 9% Per Month.