Democracy for All? IJV Statement on the Ongoing Unrest in Israel

On Monday, after weeks of mass protests, Israeli PM Benyamin Netanyahu finally announced that he would be pausing his far-right government’s controversial plan to overhaul the country’s judiciary.

In order to get his fascist National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir to agree to the pause, Netanyahu has granted him power to establish a new “national guard,” which would act as his own private militia to terrorize Palestinians. Such a force under the command of Ben-Gvir could have disastrous consequences.

Some are nevertheless hailing this as a possible victory for Israeli democracy. Let’s be clear – with or without the judicial overhaul, Israel is not a true democracy, and it never has been. A democracy for Jews only is not a democracy – it is apartheid.

Netanyahu’s plans to overhaul the High Court no doubt amounted to an anti-democratic coup. Far-right and fascist ministers in the Israeli government see the court as working against the country’s interests, sometimes standing in the way of Israel stealing more Palestinian land. But the reality is that this court has always marginalized and ruled against Palestinians.

This is the court that approved Israel’s Nation State Law in 2018, enshrining Jewish supremacy in Israel and relegating Palestinians with Israeli passports to second-class citizenship. This is the court that last year approved the ethnic cleansing of the entire Palestinian community of Masafer Yatta. Cases of the High Court’s complicity in apartheid and the ongoing Nakba can go on and on.

It is indeed impressive how a massive popular movement can bring an unpopular government plan screeching to a halt. In particular, IJV has been inspired by the radical bloc at these protests calling for an end to Israeli apartheid. Some have marveled at how peaceful the protests have been. But as Jewish-American scholar and journalist Peter Beinart reminds us, when Palestinians protest to affirm their rights like Jewish Israelis are doing right now, they are often beaten, jailed, or worse, killed.

Israel is at a historic precipice, and it is unclear what will happen from here. But whether or not Netanyahu goes forward with his judicial reform, Israel won’t be a true democracy for all people living under its rule between the river and the sea. The only way to bring about that democracy is to end apartheid, and fight for full equality and freedom for all. If you care about this fight as much as we do, join us. •