Do Israeli protesters really want democracy?

Do Israeli protesters really want democracy?

Orly Noy writes:

After 13 weeks of fiery, unprecedented public protests, Sunday night and Monday morning brought with them historic developments: not only a continued escalation in the demonstrations themselves, but also the announcement of a general strike by Israel’s powerful labor union; additional strikes by the country’s universities; and shutdowns at Israeli embassies around the world. Those scenes, coupled with a potential announcement by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he is putting his judicial coup on pause, have given Monday’s protests — especially those outside the Knesset in Jerusalem — a different atmosphere: less fear and rage, and more a rare sense of achievement. And rightly so.

The fact that the protests might succeed at putting on hold the judicial coup, if not preventing it entirely, is a critical moment for Israeli civil society. The knowledge that such a large public is rightfully revolting against their rights being threatened greatly strengthens the very idea of democracy.

On the other hand, it is difficult to ignore the sense of déjà vu accompanying these protests. Less than two years ago, an entire political camp celebrated the fall of the Netanyahu government, after weeks of protests that went on almost as long as the current wave of demonstrations. Then, too, the protests were united by being against something — the Netanyahu regime — as opposed to being for something. And then, as now, the protesters believed the very character of the state to be at stake.

But the most critical point of all is the protesters’ understanding of the term “democracy” — an idea they have so intensely mobilized around. In both the so-called Balfour protests and the current ones against the judicial coup, democracy was a central demand; only a limited, albeit persistent, group of anti-occupation demonstrators sought to emphasize the connections between the violation of Palestinian rights in the occupied territories and Israel’s ability to maintain a democratic regime. [Continue reading…]

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