Participants in the annual Jerusalem Pride Parade on June 1. Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Am Yisrael Chai is the clarion call of the many thousands of Israelis in Jerusalem participating in the Pride Parade under the dark shadow of the new far-right government and the threat of it undermining the Israeli judicial system.
A flag was being carried in the parade that said “There is no Pride without Democracy”. And it’s been observed that Pride flags are the second most seen flags after the Israeli flag at protest gatherings across the country.
This has led to Israeli media commentators not holding back in describing the Netanyahu government as “stupid and malicious”, accusing it of being nightmarish in what it is attempting to do almost each day.
The acts being cited are starting to form a long list. Recently it was about the illegal return to the West Bank outpost of Homesh in contradiction to the 2005 disengagement plan. Then there’s the plan for a controversial construction that it is claimed would cut the West Bank in two. This plan has had to be shelved because it is believed it would stop a two-state solution ever being realised.
The list goes on with assassinations in Gaza seemingly dragging on a conflict after the death of a Palestinian who died as the result of a hunger strike, the cancellation of an annual European Union event because of the toxic Ben-Gvir’s presence. Not a good decision for a government struggling with credibility issues to send such a representative. And the refusal of the US President to invite Netanyahu to the White House appears to be linked to the outrage being expressed across Israel and the Diaspora regarding the judicial overhaul announced by the Coalition Israeli government.
This latter issue has caused massive protests in Israel and the Diaspora. Protests that now in Israel have gone on for the past five months and involve more than the hard left, but very much the broader community and other groups that the Netanyahu government has targeted and demeaned. Groups such as the gay community who fear for their civil rights because the planned judicial overhaul may mean that legislators can ignore the Supreme Court and the protections it has offered.
Interestingly it has been reported that there is a significant group of working people who have put their lives on hold to protest full time. They are said to be from many diverse fields, including those with professional jobs and students prepared to put their studies on hold to have their voices heard. It is said that police keep being surprised by the way large groups of protesters turn up unexpectedly, and they are becoming frustrated and forceful.
The question is now being raised as to how long the Judicial Overhaul protests will ignore the Israeli occupation? Fighting for democracy has been the theme of the protests thus far, but if there was to be a push to change the theme to the occupation, what effect would this have on the thousands of people prepared to take to the streets? Maybe the message would become confused and support would dwindle? An interesting question that many are choosing not to consider.
Of interest is that the protest campaign is reported as now NOT being a “blitzkrieg”, but a prolonged campaign by large numbers supporting a fight for their liberal democracy. There are those saying that if they can’t win, they may as well leave Israel. But this is not what they intend to do. They will stay and fight.
Helen Shardey OAM
ARZA Australia President
UPJ Vice President