Must fight 'laws aimed to institutionalize discrimination'

‘Hour of darkness’: Author Grossman slams government’s ‘anti-democratic power grab’

Addressing mass Tel Aviv rally, David Grossman says planned judicial overhaul causes many Israelis to feel ‘internal exile,’ warns nation faces ‘fateful struggle for its character’

Author David Grossman speaks during a protest against the government's planned judicial overhaul, in Tel Aviv, January 21, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Author David Grossman speaks during a protest against the government's planned judicial overhaul, in Tel Aviv, January 21, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Famous Israeli author David Grossman warned Saturday during a mass anti-government rally that Israel was facing an “hour of darkness” in which many citizens feel exiled in their own country, in light of radical plans to overhaul the justice system.

“More and more I meet people, mostly young people, who do not want to continue living here. Who feel that what is happening here is foreign to them, and forcibly makes them strangers in their country,” Grossman, one of Israel’s most acclaimed authors and a veteran outspoken left-wing activist, said during a rally in Tel Aviv that according to a police estimate was attended by 110,000 people.

“Israel as it is today is no longer their home, and to avoid suffering the feeling of alienation, they go into a sort of internal exile,” he said. “I understand this feeling, but it also pains me. After all, the State of Israel was established so that there would be one place in the world where the Jewish person, the Jewish people, would feel at home. But if so many Israelis feel like strangers in their own country, obviously something is going wrong.”

The rally, and smaller ones in several other cities, was held for the third consecutive weekend to decry Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s proposals to drastically weaken the judiciary by severely curbing the High Court of Justice’s judicial review powers and cementing political control over the appointment of judges.

“In its 75th year, Israel is in a fateful struggle for its character, for the face of its democracy, for the status of the rule of law, for human rights,” said Grossman. “Our fight here is a fight against laws intended to institutionalize racism and discrimination, to humiliate minorities. A struggle against cynical politicians, some of them corrupt, who are determined to redefine justice in a unilateral, anti-democratic power grab.

“In this huge and diverse crowd there are those fervently devoted to LGBTQ rights, to the state of education, to the state of the occupation,” said Grossman, a longtime activist for Israel to end its decades-long military rule of the West Bank. “There are representatives here of many bodies and organizations that usually aren’t involved in protest at all. But they’ve come. There are also, as in previous protests, stridently right-wing people. All these… are willing to set aside their schedule today to rally around this important, critical, emergency issue.”

Over 100,000 people protest against the proposed changes to the justice system in Tel Aviv, on January 21, 2023. (Flash90)

Grossman said this was because “we see a burning home,” adding: “If the status of the rule of law is critically injured, all other important fights will gradually crumble.

“I refuse to be an exile in my own country. Now is the hour of darkness. Now is the moment to stand up and cry out: This land is in our souls. What happens in it today will determine what it will be and who we and our children will become. Because if Israel will become different and far from the hope and vision that created it, God forbid, in a certain sense, it will cease to be.”

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