Israelis Abroad to Protest New Government’s ‘Coup D’état’

Israeli expatriates opposed to PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government’s plan to weaken the judiciary are planning a series of demonstrations in major cities including New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Berlin, Sydney and Toronto

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Israelis protesting against Netanyahu from Manhattan's Washington Square Park on August 2, 2020.
Israelis protesting against Netanyahu from Manhattan's Washington Square Park on August 2, 2020.Credit: Danielle Ziri

Eager to “take part in the fight to stop the coup d’état,” Israeli expatriates opposed to the new government’s plan to weaken the judiciary are planning a series of demonstrations across Europe and the United States this weekend in solidarity with the massive demonstrations held on Saturday nights in Israel in recent weeks.

Rallies are slated to be held in Barcelona, Berlin, Munich, Oslo, Paris and Rome, among other places in Europe — as well as in Sydney, Australia. In the United States, protests will take place in Boston, New York, Chicago, Miami, Seattle and Los Angeles. In Canada, Israelis will take to the streets in Toronto and Vancouver.

“The people of Israel protested en masse against Dictatorship. Israeli ex-pats and Jewish people around the world will join around the world to Save Israeli Democracy,” UnXeptable, one of the two groups behind the initiative, wrote on Facebook.

“The basis of Israel’s existence is under attack — it’s democracy,” the co-organizer of Defend Israeli Democracy, explained, calling on people “from Vancouver to Sydney to take part in the fight to stop the coup d’état, to make our voice heard in the war for democracy.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition has said that it intends to enact legislation that would permit the Knesset to override Supreme Court decisions by a very slim majority of 61 votes in the 120-seat parliament, as well as legislation to tip the balance on the Judicial Appointments Committee in favor of politicians. Currently, the judges on the committee effectively have veto power over the appointment of Supreme Court justices.

Justice Minister Yariv Levin also intends to put an end to the reasonableness standard that the High Court has invoked to overrule government decisions that it found to be “unreasonable” — such as the recent appointment of oft-convicted Shas party leader Arye Dery as a cabinet minister.

UnXeptable was previously behind a series of demonstrations in 2020 in which Israelis living in the United States and other countries around the world joined the wave of protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, denouncing the corruption charges against him and his government’s failed handling of the coronavirus crisis.

In its third consecutive week, some 130,000 demonstrators came out on Saturday to oppose the new government’s judicial overhaul in one of the biggest protests the country has witnessed in the last decade. About 120,000 protesters blocked key roads in Tel Aviv, while thousands of others demonstrated in Jerusalem, Haifa, and Be’er Sheva.

Organizers of the demonstrations will hold two separate protests in Tel Aviv this weekend as well — with a number of sources familiar with the groups stating that they intend to ramp up activities and block major traffic arteries and call for a general strike.

On Thursday, hundreds of lawyers, former judges and legal professionals demonstrated outside of courts across Israel in opposition to the new government’s plan while employees at several Israeli high-tech companies and startups demonstrated on Tuesday near the Sarona complex in Tel Aviv.

During a one hour “warning strike” the high-tech demonstrators blocked the central Kaplan Street despite police threats to make arrests. They lifted Israeli flags and banners, many reading “There’s no high-tech without democracy.”

In a joint op-ed published in Yediot Aharonot earlier this week, former Bank of Israel Governors Karnit Flug and Jacob Frenkel warned that Levin’s plan “could deal a severe blow to Israel's economy and its citizens” and “lead to a decrease in the willingness of foreign investors to invest in Israel.”

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