Israelis in NYC to protest coalition lawmakers in town for Celebrate Israel Parade

Activist group opposed to judicial overhaul announces series of demonstrations against MK Simcha Rothman and other government ministers visiting for annual pro-Israel event

Luke Tress is a JTA reporter and a former editor and reporter in New York for The Times of Israel.

Israelis opposed to the government's judicial overhaul protest outside the Tikvah Fund's offices in New York City, March 8, 2023. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)
Israelis opposed to the government's judicial overhaul protest outside the Tikvah Fund's offices in New York City, March 8, 2023. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

NEW YORK — An Israeli protest group in New York announced on Sunday that it plans to rally against coalition lawmakers who are visiting the city this week for the annual Celebrate Israel Parade.

The protesters, part of a network of Israeli activists called UnXeptable, oppose the government’s judicial overhaul plans and have been holding regular rallies in and around New York City since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government announced the proposals earlier this year.

Organizers said they have collected information on 10 lawmakers who are visiting New York for the parade, a major annual event scheduled for next Sunday in Manhattan.

The primary target for the activists is MK Simcha Rothman, the chair of the Constitution Law and Justice Committee, and one of the key players in the coalition’s push to overhaul the judiciary.

“This is our opportunity to give everything to push against the delegation of lies and hatred that comes here,” organizers said in a statement. “Our message is simple: whoever dismantles Israeli democracy should not expect a relaxing vacation in New York.”

“They are coming to try to cover up the enormous damage this government is doing to US-Israel relations and to the Jewish community in the Diaspora,” the statement continued. “We will be at every conference, every meeting and every event to prevent them from spreading their lies.”

The Celebrate Israel Parade in New York City, May 22, 2022. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

“We will send a clear note to organizations and synagogues that it is very unprofitable to invite those who destroy the economy, security and future of Israel,” the protesters said.

The demonstrators are planning a series of protests outside conferences and other events featuring the lawmakers including outside the Jewish Agency offices in New York, a hotel Shabbat reception and a synagogue in Teaneck, New Jersey.

The main protest is scheduled for next Sunday at 2 p.m. outside a conference at the Hilton Hotel in Midtown Manhattan.

In addition to Rothman, the organizers said coalition lawmakers planning to visit New York include Diaspora Minister Amichai Chikli, Economy Minister Nir Barkat, Innovation, Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis, Intelligence Minister Gila Gamliel, and Public Diplomacy Minister Galit Distel Atbaryan, all members of Netanyahu’s Likud party.

Also attending will be Immigration and Absorption Minister Ofir Sofer of Religious Zionism, Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu of Otzma Yehudit, Jerusalem Minister Meir Porush of United Torah Judaism, and Shas’s Yoav Ben-Tzur, the labor minister.

Chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee MK Simcha Rothman votes during a committee hearing, March 27, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The US-based protesters previously called on the organizers of the Celebrate Israel Parade, the Jewish Community Relations Council and UJA Federation, to disinvite the coalition lawmakers.

Some of the anti-government activists will march in the Israel Parade with the progressive group Ameinu.

The parade draws thousands of marchers annually to Manhattan’s iconic Fifth Avenue in a major display of solidarity with the Jewish state. Participants include state and local politicians, Jewish leaders and groups, and students from Jewish day schools.

The New York protesters have been holding weekly rallies in Manhattan’s Washington Square Park against the judicial overhaul, as well as demonstrations against American Jewish groups that support the plans, and against coalition lawmakers while they visit the region. Some non-Israeli US Jews also attend the events, and have led other rallies in the city, with the participation of some of the Israeli activists.

The US protests have been held in parallel to the rallies against the judicial overhaul in Israel, and are meant to support the Israeli demonstrators and express opposition to the Netanyahu government in the US.

On Saturday night, tens of thousands of people demonstrated across Israel against the government’s judicial plans for the 21st consecutive week, days after Netanyahu said the legislation would return to the agenda following the recent passage of the contentious state budget.

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