Thousands rally in Tel Aviv against new government, judicial overhaul plans

Thousands rally in Tel Aviv against new government, judicial overhaul plans

Thousands of people turned out Saturday night to protest in Tel Aviv against the new government, after Justice Minister Yariv Levin unveiled plans to overhaul Israel’s judicial system earlier this week.

According to organizers, more than 10,000 protesters gathered for the rally in the coastal city’s Habima Square.

Several demonstrators, affiliated with the left-wing group Standing Together and other organizations, marched on the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and held a rally there. Others held a torchlight march through the streets of the city.

The organizers advertised the protest to all those who were “against the coup d’état carried out by the criminal government, which threatens to harm all citizens, whoever they are”.

On Wednesday, Justice Minister Yariv Levin announced a controversial legal reform package that would drastically limit the Supreme Court of Justice’s authority to block legislation and government decisions deemed discriminatory and/or undemocratic, give government control over judicial selection and eliminate the ministry law. advisors appointed by the Attorney General.

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In a joint statement on Saturday, Standing Together and the protest group “Minister of Crime” charged that “extreme and dangerous elements in the new government” are trying to “harm us all”, accusing the ruling coalition of targeting Arabs and discrimination based on gender and sexuality.

“We will not sit at home twiddling our thumbs and perish in despair and frustration. Wherever there is a battle, there is hope and we will go out and fight for our home,” the statement said.

People take part in a protest against the current Israeli government in Habima Square in Tel Aviv on January 7, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The coalition deals signed before the new government’s swearing-in on legislation that would allow service providers to refuse service because of their religious beliefs – an initiative seen by critics as legalizing discrimination against LGBTQ people and sectors other targets.

“This evening, friends, we have built a new democratic camp. One that includes Jews and Arabs, men and women, straight people and LGBTQ people, secular and religious — united against a bad government and for the sake of a better future in this country,” Yael Lotan and Avner Gvaryahu, leaders of Breaking the Silence told protesters on Saturday.

Lotan and Gvaryahu emphasized that human rights were not exclusive to Jews and should be extended to Arabs as well – including non-citizens living in areas Israel occupied in the 1967 Six-Day War.

Some of the protesters in Tel Aviv chanted “the incitement begins in the halls of government” and “Netanyahu is dangerous, corrupt and racist,” according to the Ynet news site.

Israelis protest against the government in Habima Square in Tel Aviv, January 7, 2023. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

A number of MKs attended the rally, including Merav Michaeli and Gilad Kariv from the center-left Labor party, as well as Aymen Odeh, chairman of the predominantly Arab Hadash-Ta’al alliance. Former minister Tzipi Livni was also present at the gathering, who gave a speech.

Odeh in a tweet claimed he was verbally and physically assaulted after delivering a speech at the rally.

A video circulating online showed a man confronting Odeh and his entourage, and in a separate video, the same man told a reporter that he had slapped the lawmaker.

There was no immediate comment from police on the incident.

ח”כ אימן אודה בישם בנאומו הראב לושיט יד למובק דמוקראטי ישראל ובלבד שוא אישיק בנאומו הארב לושיטינ

הנאום הופרע על ידי קומץ מפגינים ובסיומו אחד אחורעם עפק אגת אודאד. This is how it looks like before the attack:

— ישראל פריע (@freyisrael1) January 7, 2023

“Together with thousands of amazing demonstrators we came out to protest and shout out loud: we will not allow the destruction of our country! We will continue to fight for our democracy,” Michael, who leads Labour, wrote on Twitter.

The Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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