Hundreds demonstrate in New York, London against Israeli judicial shakeup plan

In UK, some protesters show up in ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ costumes that have become popular in Israeli rallies; Jewish lawmaker says democracies don’t undermine judicial independence

Protesters rally against the Israeli government's planned judicial overhaul in New York City, March 12, 2023. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)
Protesters rally against the Israeli government's planned judicial overhaul in New York City, March 12, 2023. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

NEW YORK — Several hundred Israelis and US Jews protested in New York City on Sunday against the Israeli government’s plan to curb the judiciary. Around the same time, hundreds rallied in London’s Parliament Square for the same purpose.

The rally in Washington Square Park appeared to be the biggest in New York since the government announced its judicial overhaul plans more than two months ago.

Protesters carried Israeli flags and held signs reading “No democracy no future,” “Hands off Israel’s democracy,” and “Crime minister.”

Speakers urged the crowd to take action against the government by attending demonstrations, contacting legislators and more.

The speakers expressed solidarity with the mass protests taking place in Israel.

“This is not about right and left; it’s about democracy against autocracy,” said Jeremy Levin, the former CEO of Teva. “We are watching a democracy fighting for its life.”

Several members of a delegation representing IDF veterans opposed to the government were also in attendance. The group said it will continue from New York to Washington, DC to speak with several members of the US Congress about the judicial overhaul.

“Our beloved Israel is under attack. This is not a physical attack, but a constitutional coup, an attempt to overthrow our democracy, our values and our way of life,” Ophir Bear, a veteran F-16 pilot, told the crowd.

“They want to take away our freedom and turn Israel into something unrecognizable, a country where racism is lawful, women are oppressed, where government ministers call on us to wipe out Palestinian villages,” Bear said. “Theirs is not the Israeli way. They destroy our moral compass, undermine the values that gave us the certainty that when we fight, we are fighting for right.”

In London, protesters held signs in both Hebrew and English reading, “A government of criminals will not appoint judges” and “Israelis for the future of Israel,” chanted “Democracy,” and some showed up in the “Handmaid’s Tale” costumes that have become a hallmark of the protests in Israel.

Hundreds rally against the Israeli government’s controversial judicial overhaul proposal in London, March 12, 2023. (Twitter video screenshot: Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Margaret Hodge, a Jewish UK Labour party MP said at the rally that supporters of Israel are only able to credibly defend the country by citing it as “the only genuine democratic jurisdiction in the region.”

“No credible democracy in the world would undermine judicial independence,” she said.

The Defend Israel Democracy group, made up of Israelis living overseas, organized the rallies, and has held demonstrations in other capital cities across the globe.

The demonstrations come a day after more than 300,000 Israelis rallied Saturday night across the country in the 10th consecutive week of protests against the government’s efforts to radically overhaul the judicial system.

Hundreds of Israelis and members of the local Jewish community also turned out to protest against the reforms in Rome over the weekend, during a visit by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The protests were held as the coalition readies to charge full steam ahead this week with its highly contentious remaking of the judiciary, thus far rejecting pleas, including from the president, to scrap its current legislation and instead patiently negotiate a more widely accepted compromise.

Protest organizers said they would further ramp up their response if the government does not shelve the overhaul legislation, with a planned “day of escalating resistance” declared for Thursday.

If enacted, the legislation will give the government full control over judicial appointments and ban the High Court of Justice from reviewing Basic Laws, as a central element of the coalition’s wide-ranging move to curb the judiciary and centralize almost all power in the hands of the governing majority.

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