‘Disruption Day’ on Thursday as overhaul protest groups seek to reenergize streets

Organizers say they will block highways and intersections around the country. ‘Life cannot continue as normal,’ says one protest leader

Jeremy Sharon is The Times of Israel’s legal affairs and settlements reporter

Israelis clash with police during a protest against the Israeli government's planned judicial overhaul, in Haifa, northern Israel, March 23, 2023. (Shir Torem/Flash90)
Israelis clash with police during a protest against the Israeli government's planned judicial overhaul, in Haifa, northern Israel, March 23, 2023. (Shir Torem/Flash90)

The protest movement against the government’s judicial overhaul is set to stage another “Day of Disruption” on Thursday and will conduct numerous acts of civil disobedience around the country as it seeks to reinvigorate its fight against the coalition’s radical reform agenda.

Although the coalition’s legislative program to remake the legal and judicial system is currently on hold, the protest movement is anxious to prevent the ardor of the protests from cooling off, fearing the coalition could resume legislation at any moment, and is seeking to ramp up its anti-government demonstrations once again.

The events will be based on the theme of “equality,” with specific focuses on the coalition’s plans to legislate blanket military service exemptions for ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students, as well as equality for women, the LGBTQ community, Arabs, Druze and other minorities in Israel.

The disruption events will start in the morning with protestors set to block major highways and intersections around the country, including on the Ayalon Highway that runs through Tel Aviv.

“Equality marches” will be held in various cities, including a march in Tel Aviv from the rabbinate offices to a local court followed by a “pink wedding,” as well as “Handmaid’s Tale performances” outside the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem rabbinate offices.

Women’s protest groups will demonstrate outside local branches of the state rabbinical courts and the state rabbinate to demand equality in religious divorce proceedings and against the expansion of authorities for the rabbinical courts which the coalition seeks to enact.

Car convoys and farm vehicle convoys will set out from the Jezreel Valley and other areas in the north, while rallies will be held in front of the President’s Residence in Jerusalem and Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s home in Modiin.

Previous “Disruption Days” have led to clashes between protestors and police in which the police have deployed mounted units, water cannons and other forcible means of crowd dispersal, and also made multiple arrests.

Protest leader Moshe Radman is arrested by police during a demonstration against the government’s planned judicial overhaul on March 23, 2023. (Erik Marmor/Flash90)

During the demonstrations of March 23, several key protest leaders were arrested leading to accusations by opposition parties and the protest movement itself that its leaders were being politically targeted.

One of those leaders was Moshe Radman, a hi tech entrepreneur and lecturer, who has been at the forefront of the protests and organizational efforts behind them, and who was injured while being arrested on March 23.

Although the judicial overhaul has been suspended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in order to facilitate negotiations between the coalition and the opposition, Radman insists that renewed civil disobedience is necessary in light of comments by senior government officials such as Justice Minister Yariv Levin that the coalition intends to pass its reforms one way or another.

“Levin as well as [Minister in the Justice Ministry] David Amsalem and others have said they intend to pass their reforms if they don’t get the agreements they want from the negotiations at the President’s Residence,” Radman told The Times of Israel on Wednesday.

He added that since the government is facing multiple internal crises, including a rebellion by the far-right Otzma Yehudit party and similar threats by the ultra-Orthodox parties, it could decide to get a quick win by passing the overhaul legislation, some of which can now be approved in Knesset very quickly.

Asked if blocking highways and disrupting the lives of ordinary citizens was currently necessary and an effective way of enlisting support, Radman maintained that such activity was important in underlining that the protest movement will not allow the issue to be ignored.

Israelis block the Ayalon Highway and clash with Police in Tel Aviv during a protest against the government’s planned judicial overhaul on March 23, 2023. (Erik Marmor/Flash90)

“It’s not nice to be stuck in traffic jams, it’s not ideal, but this is our way of saying life cannot continue as normal,” said Radman.

“The reform hasn’t disappeared. No one is investing in Israel, no one is initiating new projects, the country is being held captive until we know what is going to happen. We’re being damaged by the delay itself.”

Radman said protests now were also necessary in light of pressure being applied by the ultra-Orthodox parties to pass legislation giving young men from their community blanket exemptions from military service.

Asked if the protest movement was not moving into more political territory by protesting against policies other than the judicial legislation, Radman argued that the military service exemptions were bound up in the legal overhaul program.

“They want to give the ultra-Orthodox a total exemption from all service, military as well as civilian service or any form of contribution, lower the age of exemption and change the rules of democracy at the same time and pass a High Court override law to ensure the blanket exemptions are accepted,” asserted Radman.

Following the various announcements for the new “Disruption Day” activities, the right-wing Regavim organization announced it had petitioned the High Court demanding that the police commissioner and the attorney general stop the civil disobedience and investigate the protest movement leaders “for sedition and incitement to commit crimes.”

Regavim, which more regularly campaigns against illegal Palestinian and Arab Israeli construction in the West Bank and the Negev, said in a statement to the press that it filed its petition after the police commissioner failed to respond to its requests, noting that the planned blocking of roads and intersections, as well as the demonstrations, were being conducted without permits and violated the right to freedom of movement and freedom of occupation.

“The publicity for the ‘Day of Disruption’ encourages people to join protest actions… planned, deliberate illegal activity including blocking roads and intersections and the disruption of public order at dozens of points throughout Israel — with none of it ever having received a demonstration permit,” Regavim argued in its petition.

“This wild and illegal activity has caused, and will cause, a risk to transportation routes and public spaces, confrontations with passers-by who object to the violation of their freedom of movement, and more.”

The High Court rejected the petition outright without holding any hearings or addressing its claims, Regavim stated later on Wednesday.

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