The Vancouver action group UnXeptable has been rallying on Sundays, at noon, at Robson Square, as part of an international grassroots movement to save Israeli democracy. (photo from Daphna Kedem)
We are a group of Israelis and Canadian Jews watching the grim news from Israel closely and feel that Israel’s democracy is on a very slippery slope, without brakes. The judicial crisis is leading to a dramatic loss of checks and balances in a state that has been democratic since its inception. It is shaking Israel and tearing apart its very fabric. We are terrified that the road to dictatorship will be quick and abrupt.
Israelis have been going to the streets in masses for the last many weeks. The biggest demonstrations drew more than 300,000 people to the street, yet we don’t see reference to these events in our local community. It seems that Jewish organizations and leaders are choosing to be on the sidelines, by toning down the crisis. Some are choosing to be silent altogether.
We are utterly frustrated by this silence. We know very well the horrific consequences that silence can bring about. But we realize that unprecedented events have been unfolding. Israel has been our source of pride throughout changing times and because events are happening fast, leaders might feel lost, without a compass in an uncharted territory.
We would highlight the facts as we see them: the Israel that we have known has changed.
Recent elections brought to power a group of people with personal interests counter to the public interest. One is a convicted criminal (bribery) who wants to clear his way to be a minister. The religious parties seek to release religious young people from army service, which is compulsory in Israel. A messianic, racist party wants to spread its agenda. And the prime minister is a defendant in three indictments and, in our opinion, to get away from his trial, he is promoting a change of regime in Israel, a radical move that will eliminate the separation of powers and the independence of the Supreme Court. The legal system will become part of the ruling party.
Until now, the selection of judges to the Supreme Court required agreement between the representatives of the judges and the representatives of the government. But the coalition has voted on a series of laws that approve a change in the judicial system. According to the new proposal, only the representatives of the coalition will be able to choose judges for the court. It seems clear that a preliminary committee will appoint judges that will dismiss the defendant, Binyamin Netanyahu, from all his charges.
The core issue is that the Netanyahu we knew from his 15 years in power previously is not the same Netanyahu. In his previous terms, he defended the Supreme Court as an anchor for freedom and justice. The new Netanyahu’s trial is going into its third year.
Israel has no constitution and no other checks and balances. The Supreme Court is the sole judicial body that secures the rights and freedoms of individuals and minorities. We would like to encourage our local leaders and the community at large to address these issues that will no doubt influence the close and delicate relationship we have with Israel. We would like to encourage people to stand up in defence of Israel’s democracy – our family members in Israel, our friends and colleagues, and the democratic forces in Israel need our help.
We urge you to join the Vancouver action group UnXeptable – Vancouver, which is part of an international grassroots movement in more than 30 cities to save Israeli democracy. Rabbis and community leaders have come out to such rallies around the world to speak out and support the movement. We hope that you, too, will join us. Our next rallies will be held on March 12 and 19, at noon, at Robson Square in downtown Vancouver.