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Confirmed Cases of Antidemocratic Infection

Haaretz Editorial
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Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi of Kahol Lavan in the Knesset, Jerusalem, June 15, 2020.
Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi of Kahol Lavan in the Knesset, Jerusalem, June 15, 2020.Credit: Adina Velman/Knesset
Haaretz Editorial

Forty-six MKs supported the amendment to the Corona Authority Law passed Wednesday. These MKs, which include the leaders of Kahol Lavan and most if its members, thusly gave the government the freedom to bar attendance at demonstrations beyond one kilometer (0.6 miles) from one’s home, to suppress dissent and incriminate anyone who dares to oppose the regime.

One can no longer be disappointed by the antidemocratic behavior of Benjamin Netanyahu, because there are no expectations of him. That he is a man who knows no restraint, who is convinced that his evading the law justifies all means, is well known. We need no further proof of how much scorched earth he’s willing to leave in order to save himself.

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By contrast, there is great aggravation at the fact that his plots and ploys are succeeding solely due to the support of Kahol Lavan. The backing of senior party members Benny Gantz, Gabi Ashkenazi and Avi Nissenkorn, along with most of the party’s MKs for the denial of the basic democratic right to demonstrate, and their collaboration with the suppression of protest, is a blow to the hundreds of thousands of people who voted for them, who were deceived by their promises to replace the criminal suspect at the country’s helm.

The Movement for Quality Government petitioned the High Court of Justice against the amendment, which it said, “empties of content one of the clear basic rights of a democratic regime.” The petitioners justifiably argued that the restrictions the Knesset has imposed on demonstrations are tantamount to banning them. What is the point of demonstrating against the government if you cannot protest in front of its institutions or in some other public place? What power or value does a demonstration with a handful of people have?

Despite Netanyahu’s false claims, the demonstrations – which take place outdoors with participants wearing masks – make only a marginal contribution to the spread of the coronavirus. The battle against the virus is being utilized by Netanyahu to suppress dissent against him and to silence his critics. This is criminal exploitation of a true emergency situation to take politically repressive steps against those who oppose the government, and against those who are protesting, among other things, the government’s failure to cope with the pandemic.

What’s worse is that Netanyahu has found partners to this crime against democracy among those who entered politics in an effort to put an end to his corrupt and corrupting regime. Those who were counting on Kahol Lavan to stop the chain of infection of the antidemocratic virus must digest the bitter realization that its members have also become infected.

The High Court did not issue an interim injunction against the law, but ordered the state to respond to the petition within a week. One hopes that the court will rule that the law is unconstitutional and restore the public’s right to demonstrate against tyrannical rule.

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