You can’t save democracy in a Jewish state

By | February 20, 2023

Peter Beinart writes:

The warnings come every day: Israeli democracy is in danger.

Since Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government announced plans to undermine the independence of Israel’s Supreme Court, hundreds of thousands of Israelis have demonstrated in the streets. All of Israel’s living former attorneys general, in a joint statement, have warned that Mr. Netanyahu’s proposal imperils efforts to “preserve Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.” Liberal American Jewish leaders are cheering on the protests. Earlier this month, Alan Solow, the former head of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said he and other American Jewish notables “share the concerns of tens of thousands of Israelis determined to protect their democracy.” In a public declaration, Mr. Solow and 168 other influential American Jews warned that “the new government’s direction mirrors anti-democratic trends that we see arising elsewhere.”

On the surface, the battle between Mr. Netanyahu and his critics does indeed look familiar. In recent years, from Brazil to Hungary to India to the United States, anti-government protesters have accused authoritarian-minded populists of threatening liberal democracy. But look closer at Israel’s political drama and you notice something striking: The people most threatened by Mr. Netanyahu’s authoritarianism aren’t part of the movement against it.

The demonstrations include very few Palestinians. In fact, Palestinian politicians have criticized them for having, in the words of former Knesset member Sami Abu Shehadeh, “nothing to do with the main problem in the region — justice and equality for all the people living here.”

The reason is that the movement against Mr. Netanyahu is not like the pro-democracy opposition movements in Turkey, India or Brazil — or the movement against Trumpism in the United States. It’s not a movement for equal rights. It’s a movement to preserve the political system that existed before Mr. Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition took power, which was not, for Palestinians, a genuine liberal democracy in the first place. It’s a movement to save liberal democracy for Jews. [Continue reading…]

CNN reports:

Tens of thousands of protesters blocked roads in cities across Israel during demonstrations Monday, hours before the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu introduced a controversial judicial overhaul bill.

Demonstrators in Jerusalem turned the streets around the Supreme Court and Knesset into a sea of Israeli flags, which organizers were handing out before the event began.

Among the protesters were a few dozen women dressed in long red dresses and white head coverings, like handmaids in the Margaret Atwood novel “The Handmaid’s Tale,” along with drummers, horn-blowers and at least one juggler balancing an Israeli flagpole on his nose. [Continue reading…]

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