Over 1,600 new immigrants to Israel signed on to an open letter published Monday that urged the government to halt its judicial overhaul legislation.
“We write to you as Olim and Olot, devoted Israeli citizens by choice, who made an active choice to leave everything that was familiar to us in our countries of origin and weld our destinies to the destiny of this country,” the letter to Absorption Minister Ofir Sofer, Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli and the Jewish Agency leadership reads.
“We are writing this letter with heavy hearts. The Zionist vision that inspired us — and all the Olim who came before us — has been hijacked by extremists who threaten the very fabric of this country as a Jewish and Democratic state.”
Those who signed onto the letter included new immigrants of diverse Jewish backgrounds from the US, the UK, several European countries, South Africa, Australia, Russia, Ukraine, and South America, according to a press release from organizers.
The new immigrants charged that the judicial overhaul being advanced by the coalition risks turning Israel into a tyranny of the majority.
“Coming from Jewish communities around the world, we know what it’s like to feel prejudice and discrimination as a minority group. For us, it is inconceivable that the State of Israel, where Jews are the majority, could so gravely threaten the basic rights of women and minority groups including Arabs, members of the LGBTQ community, and others,” the new immigrants argued.
The signatories said they were adding “our voices to the alarm that has already been sounded by Israeli legal, financial and economic experts, high-tech leaders, women’s groups, decorated military officers, and our foreign allies.”
The legislation currently being advanced through the Knesset would give the coalition control over the selection of all judges in Israel; bar the High Court of Justice from reviewing Israel’s quasi-constitutional Basic Laws; severely restrict the High Court’s capacity to strike down laws deemed incompatible with those Basic Laws; and allow the Knesset to pass laws which are preemptively immune from judicial review by the High Court.
Critics say it marks a revolutionary change in Israel’s governance, essentially removing the ability of the High Court to act as a check on the Knesset and the governing coalition. This could move Israel from a liberal democracy to another system of governance, experts warn.
Supporters retort that the judiciary has gained far too much power over the past several decades and the government’s proposals will restore the balance of power between the branches of government.