Suspect held overnight, sent to house arrest after 2nd hearing

Citing ‘Islamo-Nazi ideologies,’ judge refuses to free anti-overhaul demonstrator

Tel Aviv court’s Menachem Klein claims protesters aim ‘to destroy our country,’ recalls trip to Holocaust sites in call for Jewish unity; lawyer slams ‘political statements’

A protester lies on the ground and acts dead during demonstrations against the judicial overhaul in Tel Aviv, March 23, 2023. (Jack Guez/AFP)
A protester lies on the ground and acts dead during demonstrations against the judicial overhaul in Tel Aviv, March 23, 2023. (Jack Guez/AFP)

A judge on Thursday refused to release a protester arrested during nationwide demonstrations against the government’s judicial overhaul, citing the anti-government activists’ alleged “Islamo-Nazi ideologies” that he said want to destroy Israel while decrying the “suffering” caused by the months-long rallies.

The decision, which Judge Menachem (Mario) Klein of the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court sent to the demonstrator’s lawyer, also hit out at the protesters while citing his tour of Nazi death camps and Jewish ghettoes in Poland several years ago.

The suspect was arrested outside the police headquarters in Tel Aviv after he and other demonstrators poured red paint on the stairs outside the building before laying down on them and playing dead, in an act of protest art.

Following his arrest for harming governing symbols and disturbing the peace, the protester’s lawyer asked that his client be released instead of remaining in custody overnight, a request rebuffed by Klein.

“If the petitioner and his friends succeed in their missions after months of repeated disruptions; blocking main roads; causing damage to citizens who just want to get to work, school or a medical appointment; refusing to serve [in the military] or pay taxes, etc.; and then let’s say at the end of three months of suffering [caused] to the country’s citizens, the government surrenders and cancels all the initiatives and legislation. Then what?” Klein wrote.

The judge then speculated that after a two-week pause, the opposing side would adopt similar attacks, leading to another “three months of suffering” ending with the government again folding by agreeing to advance the legislation it just scrapped due to protests.

“And it happens again, God forbid, and on and on we go,” he said.

Judge Menachem (Mario) Klein

Klein went on to recall his visit to Poland several years ago with Supreme Court Chief Justice Esther Hayut.

“This is the first time I set foot on Polish soil, which is soaked with Jewish blood. This tour strengthened my sense that without a strong IDF and independent judicial system that safeguards human rights, we will not survive for long,” he said.

He then recalled his astonishment that “the Jews were still not united” even as they were faced with the Holocaust, saying they continued to squabble among themselves as if nothing had changed.

“It was there that it dawned on me that we here in Israel depend on each other and if we do not internalize this, ultimately we will be hung up alongside each other,” he said, in a play on the Hebrew word for “hang” which also means “depend.”

The judge concluded: “The State of Israel is contending with Islamo-Nazi ideologies that openly declare their hope to destroy our country… We must not help them with this.”

Following another hearing, the suspect was released Friday morning to four days of house arrest, as his lawyer slammed Klein’s decision and reasoning.

“It is expected of a judge to stick to the sphere of judicial dispute before him,” Nir Alfasa was quoted as saying by the Ynet news site.

“The judge’s decision clearly and unnecessarily deviates from the sphere of the ruling, while using political statements against the protest and overall expressing a general view not related to the case before him” the attorney added.

Students clash with police during a protest against the Israeli government’s planned judicial overhaul, near the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, March 9, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The suspect was among at least 92 people across the country during Thursday’s protests, dubbed a “day of paralysis,” amid nearly three months of mass demonstrations in opposition to the government’s judicial overhaul plans.

As it stands, the legislative package will — among other things — allow the Knesset to override court decisions with the barest majority, preemptively shield laws from judicial oversight, and put the selection of judges in the hands of coalition politicians.

While supporters say the judicial overhaul will rebalance power away from an overly activist court, critics argue the moves will remove essential checks on executive and legislative power, putting democracy in peril and leaving the rights of many undefended.

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