Thousands rally in Tel Aviv to protest against planned changes to judicial system

Israel’s new government has been met with unprecedented civil resistance in the country


Israeli left wing protesters demonstrate against Israel's new hard-right government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on January 7, 2023 in Tel Aviv. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP) (Photo by JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images)

Thousands of Israelis gathered to protest the country’s new right-wing government on Saturday night, days after Justice Minister Yariv Levin unveiled plans to overhaul the country’s judicial system.

The rally, estimated by its organisers to be well over 10,000 individuals strong, assembled at HaBimah Square in Tel Aviv before marching to Tel Aviv Museum where speeches were given.

Organisers of the protest said it was for all those “against the coup d’etat carried out by the criminal government which threatens to harm all citizens whoever they are.”

The protestors, waving Israeli and LGBT pride flags, were a mixture of concerned citizens and individuals affiliated with left-wing organisations such as Standing Together and the anti-Benjamin Netanyahu Black Flag movement.

A statement released on Saturday from peace-activist NGO Standing Together, said: “Extremists and dangerous actors in the newly established government are already planning how to hurt all of us,

“How to deepen racial discrimination against Arab citizens, how to cut social budgets, how to discriminate based on gender. We won’t sit home and hold hands and give in to despair and frustration.”

The Black Flag movement said the new government would “encounter a nation of Israel determined to guard our democracy.”

Labour Party chairman Merav Michaeli took part in the demonstration, later tweeting: “Together with thousands of amazing demonstrators we went out to demonstrate and shout in a clear voice – our country cannot be destroyed! We will continue to fight for our democracy.”

Later, she added: “They will try to divide us and delegitimise the protest. Tonight’s massive demonstration was a huge show of strength [from] tens of thousands of citizens who love the State of Israel.”

On Wednesday, Israel’s justice minister Yariv Levin announced an overhaul of the country’s judicial system, reportedly aimed at curbing the power of the Israeli Supreme Court. The reforms also limit the power of Israel’s High Court of Justice to block legislation it deems discriminatory or undemocratic.

Critics have said the changes will negatively impact institutional checks and balances in the country by undermining democratic institutions and shifting power to the ruling party coalition.

Before Saturday’s demonstrations, hundreds of activists rallied outside the home of Mr Levin on Friday.

The Black Flag movement vowed to continue demonstrating next weekend.

Israel’s new religious coalition led by Benjamin Netanyahu is thought to be the country’s most right-wing government in its history. National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir drew widespread condemnation last week when he visited Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.

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