Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Thousands of Israelis protest against controversial judicial overhaul

Thousands of Israelis have demonstrated outside the parliament and elsewhere across the occupied territories against a reform plan proposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right cabinet, which seeks to change the judicial system and weaken the supreme court.

In the occupied city of al-Quds, the crowds stretched from the Israeli parliament, past the supreme court building and all along Yoel Zusman Street.

According to Israel’s Channel 12 television network, the main traffic routes into al-Quds were blocked off as convoys of vehicles carrying thousands more demonstrators continued to make their way to the protest site.

“We will not stay quiet,” the leader of the opposition, Yair Lapid, said, adding, “We will not stay quiet as they destroy everything that is precious … to us.”

Thousands more have rallied in other cities and towns around the Israeli-occupied territories.

Parents and students also held a massive protest in the coastal city of Tel Aviv, chanting slogans against the move proposed by Netanyahu’s far-right cabinet. Police closed several roads in northern Tel Aviv as protesters marched in the streets.

Dozens of protesters blocked the entrance to Ben Gurion Airport.

In another rally in Tel Aviv, several demonstrators from a group called Stop the Coup blocked the entrance to the home of Yitzhak Wasserlauf, who is one of Netanyahu’s ministers from Otzma Yehudit far-right political party.

The group issued a statement, denouncing the steps taken by the prime minister’s extremist cabinet, and vowing to take all peaceful steps to stop the ‘judicial reforms plan.’

Hundreds of tech startups, law firms, and other private sector companies allowed their employees to take part in the massive protests, while thousands of doctors and mental health professionals were also expected to join.

Among the almost 300 tech companies and venture capital funds that have expressed support for their workers to join the civil strike are Payoneer, Pitango, Kaltura, Lemonade, Riskified, Wiz, Fireblocks, Appsflyer, Similarweb, IronSource, Natural Intelligence, Plantish, TLV Partners, Econcrete, Team8, Ultrasight, Algosec, Qumra Capital, Vertex Ventures, and Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP).

Leaders of the Monday protest by tech companies said they hoped to “send a message, loud and clear” that they are opposed to legal changes, emphasizing their crucial role in the regime’s economy.

This came after Israel’s President, Isaac Herzog, issued a rare plea for deliberation and compromise on the plan late on Sunday, warning that Israel was “on the verge of legal and social collapse.”

Herzog, who holds a largely ceremonial role, urged Netanyahu’s right-wing administration to stop the legislative process and hold talks with the opposition in hopes of reaching a compromise.

Protests have taken place around the occupied territories since Netanyahu’s move to reform the judiciary.

Opponents argue that the legal changes threaten the independence of judges and weaken oversight of the ruling cabinet and parliament. They also say the plan will undermine the rights of minorities and open the door to more corruption.

Politicians from Netanyahu’s Likud party have long accused the Israeli supreme court of being dominated by leftist judges. They claim that the judges encroach on areas outside their authority for political reasons.

Last December, representatives of Israel’s high tech sector addressed an open letter to Netanyahu, warning him against “making common cause with extremists,” including far-right minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, and far-right politician Bezalel Smotrich.

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