| 2 December 2023, Saturday |

Tens of thousands protest against planned Israeli judicial overhaul

Tens of thousands of Israelis attended rallies around the nation on Saturday against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s contentious proposals to tighten restrictions on the Supreme Court, which are now in their 20th week.

The planned revision, which would give the government power over Supreme Court nominees and allow parliament to overturn numerous judgements, was halted when opponents staged some of the largest mass rallies ever witnessed in Israel.

The government accuses activist judges of increasingly usurping the role of parliament, and says the overhaul is needed to restore balance between the judiciary and elected politicians.

Critics say it will remove vital checks and balances underpinning a democratic state and hand unchecked power to the government.

A sea of blue and white Israeli flags, which have become a symbol of the protests, coated a central highway in Tel Aviv. Protestors chanted, “Israel is almost a dictatorship,” as a banner reading “stop them” was held up by the crowd.

“It scares me that we are still a few hours away at any given moment from turning from a democracy to a dictatorship,” Sagi Mizrahi, a 40-year-old computer programmer told Reuters in Tel Aviv. “I’m here because of the judicial system and the laws that are still sitting on the table, it’s just scary.”

Protests garnered lower attendance last Saturday as a truce between Israel and the militant Islamic Jihad group officially came into effect, ending a five-day escalation which was the worst episode of cross-border fire since a 10-day war in 2021. Protests seemed to have been invigorated with Hebrew media estimating some 90,000-100,000 in attendance.

The police force did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“Gradually, myself my kids and my grandkids are losing the hope to live here in a democratic state and to have a normal life like every person deserves,” Hava Golan, 65-year-old biology professor said.

  • Reuters