Israelis and American Jews protested Thursday in New Jersey outside an event attended by a leading figure in the government’s push to overhaul the judicial system.
The rally was held as far-right Religious Zionism MK Simcha Rothman addressed Congregation Bnai Yeshurun in Teaneck. Rothman heads the Knesset Law, Constitution and Justice Committee, which is shepherding the judicial legislation through parliament.
Demonstrators chanted “shame on Rothman” in English as he spoke inside and brought shirts and signs that read “Saving Israeli democracy.”
After the event, Rothman “was whisked away through the bushes and came out of a neighboring house” to avoid the protest, according to the group that organized the rally.
UnXeptable, which is made up of Israeli expats, claimed a turnout of 400.
“Whoever attempts to dismantle Israeli democracy and the future of our children should not expect a quiet vacation in New York,” protest organizer Shany Granot-Lubaton said in a statement. “We will reach everywhere they will go. We are all very committed to fighting for our country”
There was no immediate reaction from Rothman.
שני גרנות-לובטון, שמתגוררת בניו יורק ומארגנת ההפגנה נגד רוטמן במהלך ביקורו בארה"ב, ל-@Sykocan: "כל פעם שיש מישהו מהממשלה שמגיע – אנחנו מרימים מאבק מולו. אני שגרירה של ישראל, אנחנו מראים את הפנים היפות של המדינה לעומת האמירות של סמוטריץ' ובן גביר" pic.twitter.com/w5SJbayZJ0
— גלצ (@GLZRadio) June 2, 2023
A number of Israeli ministers and lawmakers are currently visiting the area ahead of their planned attendance at the annual Celebrate Israel Parade in New York City on Sunday.
MK Orit Farkash-Hacohen of the opposition National Unity party, which opposed the judicial shakeup, is scheduled to speak at the Teaneck synagogue on Saturday night.
The parade is expected to also be met with protests, with Rothman the demonstrators’ primary target.
Protesters have hounded Rothman since he arrived in New York and have announced a series of demonstrations at appearances by coalition lawmakers throughout the week. Small rallies have also targeted Economy Minister Nir Barkat of Likud, starting with a protest at his hotel at 6 a.m. the day he arrived in the city.
The main protest is scheduled for Sunday at 2 p.m. outside a conference at the Hilton Hotel in Midtown Manhattan.
Some of the anti-government activists will march in the Israel Parade with the progressive group Ameinu.
On Tuesday, Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis — who is slated to attend the New York march — pulled out of a Los Angeles event after UnXeptable staged a protest outside.
The US protests have been held in parallel to rallies against the judicial overhaul in Israel, and are meant to support the Israeli demonstrators and express American opposition to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hardline government.
US President Joe Biden has made clear that he believes Netanyahu should “walk away” from the judicial overhaul and has refrained from inviting the Likud leader to visit the White House.
Critics say the overhaul will sap the High Court of Justice of its power to act as a check and balance against parliament, dangerously eroding Israel’s democratic character and leaving the rights of minorities unprotected. Supporters say the legislation is needed to rein in what they see as an overly intrusive court system.