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Over 100,000 Israelis gather for 36th week of protests ahead of crucial High Court hearing on Tuesday

Protest leaders stir controversy, accuse Netanyahu and coalition members of racism and hypocrisy

Anti-overhaul activists protest against government's judicial reform, in Tel Aviv, Sept. 9, 2023. (Photo: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

More than 100,000 Israelis protested the coalition government and its judicial reform legislation for the 36th week on Saturday evening.

With the High Court hearing arguments against the Reasonableness Standard Law on Tuesday, the protests saw renewed momentum. 

As in previous weeks, the primary protest event was held at the Kaplan junction in Tel Aviv. 

This week, former Shin Bet security head Yuval Diskin addressed the current heads of Shin Bet, the Mossad, the IDF Chief of Staff, and the Israel Police, calling on them “to take into question any directive from Netanyahu and his government, with an emphasis on launching military operations.” 

Diskin told the heads of Israel’s defense agencies, “I trust you. You are the last barrier.” 

Israel Bar Association head Amit Becher told the Tel Aviv crowd that the Supreme Court does have the authority “to nullify laws, even if the Knesset labels them ‘Basic Laws,’ when the laws pose a threat to the democratic character of the state.”

Protest leader Shikma Bressler also spoke to those gathered. Bressler caused controversy on Friday by criticizing the efforts of President Isaac Herzog to find a compromise, when she stated, “It is forbidden to talk to Nazis, whether they are Jewish or non-Jewish.” 

Bressler’s statement came in response to a question asking if it is possible to reach a compromise without the Religious Zionism party. 

In her response, Bressler accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of cooperating with racist elements to form a coalition. 

“Netanyahu opened the door to Kahanism,” Bressler stated. “At the demonstration of supporters of the reform there were signs reading 'Kahane was right.'” 

[Kahanism is a form of religious Zionism that is based on the teachings of Rabbi Meir Kahane, who started the Kach party, which was outlawed in 1985 because of its views. Kahane taught that most Israeli Arabs are enemies of Israel and called for the establishment of a rabbinic Jewish theocratic state. Kahane also taught that non-Jewish citizens should not be able to vote. After his death, his followers split into two groups. The current parties of Jewish Power and Religious Zionism both have members who hold to Kahanism, including National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir.] 

At the rally in support of the judicial reforms on Thursday, many younger attendees wore stickers and held banners with statements such as, “Kahane was right,” “Amiram [Ben Uliel] was right,” or “Baruch [Goldstein] was right.” 

Amiram Ben Uliel was convicted of firebombing a Palestinian home in Duma, killing the father, mother, and an 18-month-old baby. Only the 4-year-old boy survived. 

On Feb. 25, 1994, Baruch Goldstein, a member of the Kach party, dressed as an Israeli soldier for the Purim holiday and entered a mosque connected to the Tomb of the Patriarchs where he opened fire on those inside. He killed 29 people and injured 125 before being subdued and beaten to death by others in the mosque. 

Bressler later apologized on social media for her comments in which she called some coalition members Nazis. 

“I made a mistake in my comments. I used a word that has no place in the conversation. I’m sorry, and I apologize for this.” 

Netanyahu released a statement condemning Bressler’s “wild incitement to murder government ministers.” 

“The right to protest is not the right to incite,” he said. 

A reserve protest group slammed Netanyahu for hypocrisy. 

“Netanyahu, when your son and ministers for months called us Nazis, SS troops, and terrorists, you didn’t say a word. Your silence was deafening. So, spare us the hypocrisy,” according to their statement. 

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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