Ex-chief justice Barak moved to tears as thousands rally in support outside his home

Protest comes a day after pro-overhaul demonstrators gathered at the elderly justice’s residence in Tel Aviv, hurling insults and ill wishes

Former chief justice Aharon Barak in tears as supporters sing Israeli national anthem outside his Tel Aviv home, April 20, 2023. (Screenshot, Twitter/ Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Former chief justice Aharon Barak in tears as supporters sing Israeli national anthem outside his Tel Aviv home, April 20, 2023. (Screenshot, Twitter/ Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

A day after hundreds of people rallied outside the Tel Aviv home of former chief justice Aharon Barak, hurling insults and wishing him ill over his vocal opposition to the government’s planned judicial overhaul, large crowds showed up outside the 86-year-old’s home on Thursday evening in support.

Barak went out to meet the supporters at one point in the evening as they chanted “thank you” to the judge, who was accompanied out of the residential building by Professor Uriel Reichman, the founder of Reichman University in Herzliya, and others.

“I want to tell all of you, thank you. You have exercised your right, your great right — that I as a judge fought hard for — to protest; the right to say things that are in opposition to those who rule.”

“Today, when the tyranny of the majority rules, you are the shield,” Barak told the protesters, who numbered in the thousands according to Hebrew media estimates.

“With the right to protest, it will be within our strength to stop this sovereign tyranny. Today, thousands show up [to protest against the judicial overhaul] and I hope that number grows and we will even see millions in the streets,” he said to wild applause and chants of “democracy!”

Videos circulating on social media Thursday showed Barak moved to tears as he joined the crowd in singing the national anthem “Hatikva” before heading back into the building.

On Tuesday, as Israel was marking its annual Holocaust Remembrance Day, Barak gave an interview with Channel 13 in which he called on anti-government protesters to keep up their demonstrations, which have been held regularly since January.

“The demonstrations need to continue, it needs to grow,” he said, crediting the rallies with having compelled the government to pause the legislation and hold negotiations with opposition parties. He noted that the power to demonstrate is what minorities hold against the power of the majority in the Knesset. Barak was born in 1936 in Lithuania and his family was forced to flee the invading forces of Nazi Germany.

A day later, hundreds of protesters gathered outside his home, in a demonstration against the former chief justice organized by the right-wing Im Tirtzu group whose CEO Matan Peleg said in a statement that “the time has come for Aharon Barak to listen to the voices of the people and stop behaving like a legal dictator.”

Barak is seen by many as the figure most responsible for Israel’s judicial changes since 2005 — many of which the government wants to overturn — and has emerged as a polarizing figure in the ongoing debate.

Barak later said he was not bothered by the protest and that the demonstrators have the right to rally outside his home.

“I wrote in rulings that the right to protest is also to protest outside the private home of a public figure. They see me as a public figure, and that’s fine with me,” he told the Haaretz daily on Thursday.

Also, earlier Thursday, Barak said he believes the government and opposition must come to some sort of broad agreement on the judicial overhaul.

Speaking at an event to mark the publication of his latest book, Barak said that reaching a negotiated deal “is possible without the sides giving up on their starting points.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paused the legislative push late last month to allow for compromise talks just as the Knesset was going on its Passover break. But coalition members have vowed to move ahead swiftly after the next session later this month.

Coalition and opposition parties are holding negotiations to reach an agreement on the judicial plan hosted by President Isaac Herzog at his official residence in Jerusalem.

Opponents of the coalition’s judicial overhaul say the proposals aim to weaken the court’s ability to serve as a check on parliament, give the government almost absolute control over the appointment of judges, and cause grievous harm to Israel’s democratic character. Proponents of the measures say they will rein in a judiciary that they argue has overstepped its bounds.

The attorney general has warned that the coalition’s current package of legislation would hand the government virtually unrestrained power, without providing any institutional protections for individual rights.

Saturday once again saw tens of thousands of people rally in Tel Aviv and elsewhere, vowing not to let any part of the overhaul pass into law. Additional demonstrations are planned for the coming weekend, for the 16th consecutive week.

In January, Barak said he was willing to go before a firing squad if it would stop the judicial shake-up. He also accused Justice Minister Yariv Levin, who is spearheading the plan, of having “assembled all the bad proposals… into a chain that is strangling Israeli democracy.” They provide for the “cancellation of judicial oversight,” he said, calling it the constitutional equivalent “of a coup with tanks.”

Last week, MK David Amsalem, who serves as a second minister within the Justice Ministry for the ruling Likud party, said that Barak and current Supreme Court President Esther Hayut should be charged with “an attempted coup.” Hayut also opposes the judicial reform.

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed
Register for free
and continue reading
Registering also lets you comment on articles and helps us improve your experience. It takes just a few seconds.
Already registered? Enter your email to sign in.
Please use the following structure:
Or Continue with
By registering you agree to the terms and conditions. Once registered, you’ll receive our Daily Edition email for free.
Register to continue
Or Continue with
Log in to continue
Sign in or Register
Or Continue with
check your email
Check your email
We sent an email to you at .
It has a link that will sign you in.