Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – WAFA reports that on Saturday evening some 250,000 Israelis are estimated to have come out in numerous cities to protest plans of the government of Binyamin Netanyahu to gut the judiciary. It is the ninth week in a row that rallies have been held, and they appear to be growing ever larger.
An estimated 160,000 people came out for the central demonstration on Kaplan street in Tel Aviv. The issue of neutering the Supreme Court dominated this and previous rallies, according to Al Jazeera.
WAFA says, however, that the current government’s complicity in pogroms against Palestinians finally began making an appearance as an issue for some protesters. They raised placards that said things like, “Where were the police when Huwwara was being burned?” They were referring to the rampage of Israeli squatters on Palestinian land in the Palestinian West Bank in the small town of Huwwara near Nablus last Sunday, in which they set fire to houses, cars and trees and some shot up the place, killing one Palestinian aid worker, Sameh Aqtar, who had just come back from helping victims of the Turkish earthquake, and who was shot in the belly. Over 100 Palestinian residents were wounded, some badly.
Other posters depicted two fascist ministers in the government, Itamar Ben-Gvir, minister of national security, and Bezalel Smotrich, minister of finance, with Huwwara burning behind them. One said, “Yesterday in Huwwara, tomorrow in Israel,” a warning that the extremists would happily set fire to Israel itself to achieve their extremist goals. The Israeli Right has referred to the protesters as “terrorists.”
The demonstrations grew in the port city of Haifa in comparison with past weeks, with 35,000 attending the rally there. They demanded Netanyahu’s resignation. Some raised placards saying in Hebrew, English and Arabic “Palestinian Lives Matter,” “A people that occupies another people cannot be free,” “The time has come to pull down the dictatorship,” “A Government of Shame,” and “Apartheid does not stop at the Green Line.”
The green line is the border between Israel proper in its 1949 borders and the Palestinian West Bank, which Israel seized in 1967 and which major human rights organizations have said is being ruled under Apartheid laws and procedures.
In Netanya north of Tel Aviv about 20,000 protesters came out, about 10% of the resort city’s population.
In upscale Herzliya, 12,000 rallied, which is more than 10% of the city. 6,000 came out in Be’er-Sheva in the Negev. Thousands protested in other, smaller towns and cities all around the country.
For the first time this Saturday, demonstrations were held in Bat Yam south of Tel Aviv, which is known as the stronghold of the far right-wing Likud Party that Netanyahu leads.
A thousand police were assigned to try to control the Tel Aviv crowds. At Ben-Gvir’s urging, police had used military-grade tear gas and stun grenades against Tel Aviv crowds on Wednesday’s “March of Disruption,” which saw many strikes and work stoppages. On Saturday, the protest in Tel Aviv was largely peaceful, but toward the end demonstrators blocked a main artery and clashed with police.
In his 1748 work Spirit of the Laws, eighteenth-century French thinker Montesquieu (Charles Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu, d. 1755) wrote,
- “When the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person, or in the same body of magistrates, there can be no liberty; because apprehensions may arise, lest the same monarch or senate should enact tyrannical laws, to execute them in a tyrannical manner.
Again, there is no liberty, if the judiciary power be not separated from the legislative and executive. Were it joined with the legislative, the life and liberty of the subject would be exposed to arbitrary control; for the judge would be then the legislator. Were it joined to the executive power, the judge might behave with violence and oppression.
There would be an end of everything, were the same man or the same body, whether of the nobles or of the people, to exercise those three powers, that of enacting laws, that of executing the public resolutions, and of trying the causes of individuals.”
Montesquieu’s division of powers was one basis for the U.S. constitution and this key concept has been central to democratic thinking.
By involving the ruling party more in the selection of supreme court justices and in allowing the legislature to overrule the supreme court with a simple majority, Netanyahu plans to subordinate the judiciary to himself and his parliamentary coalition. The Israeli public understands that if Netanyahu succeeds “there can be no liberty.”
Remarkably, since the Palestinian issue is a third rail in Israeli politics and many Israelis initially thought it would be a distraction to bring it up, some protesters at least have become more vocal on the extremist Religious Zionism and Jewish Power parties’ plans for deepening Apartheid in the Palestinian West Bank.
And some at least of these Israelis have clearly gotten the message that if the extremists succeed in crushing the Palestinians, they will next proceed to crush the centrist and leftist Israelis, as well.