Citizens in the UK and Israel protest against Netanyahu as his government veers further right
Citizens in the UK and Israel are protesting Israel’s prime minister (PM) Benjamin Netanyahu and the actions of his government. It’s all happening as Netanyahu finds himself in the middle of an ongoing corruption trial. The Israeli state is also facing increasing allegations of apartheid against Palestinians.
Netanyahu: “war crimes”
Netanyahu has been in the UK visiting PM Rishi Sunak. Protesters in London turned up on 24 March to make their feelings on the man clear – accusing Netanyahu of being a ‘war criminal’:
It comes after the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) called on the UK government to refer Israel to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes in Palestine. The Canary has reported extensively on Netanyahu’s time in office and the many war crimes that the Israeli government has allegedly committed.
NGO Friends of Al Aqsa sent out a press release to coincide with Netanyahu’s visit. In it, the group’s head of public affairs Samiul Joarder said:
For 15 years Netanyahu has personally overseen the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian towns and villages and the targeted killing of Palestinian men, women and children living under illegal Israeli occupation… today we are holding him to account for these war crimes
The ICC has issued an arrest warrant for Putin, but what about Netanyahu? Sunak should be holding Netanyahu to account, not signing agreements to strengthen ties with an apartheid state and welcoming a war criminal to Downing Street.
The press release added:
Netanyahu’s visit comes after a ‘2030 roadmap for UK-Israel relations’ was signed earlier this week. Yet the first 3 months of 2023 have seen some of the worst Israeli violence against Palestinians in decades. Israeli soldiers and settlers have killed at least 89 Palestinians including 15 children.
On the matter of war crimes, Friends of Al Aqsa has said:
Israel’s inhumane attacks on residential buildings in Gaza under Netanyahu’s premiership in the summer of 2021 (and 2022) were widely condemned as war crimes. These brutal bombardments killed 66 Palestinian children and on 16 May 2021 Israel deliberately targeted two residential buildings of the Abu al-Ouf and al-Kolaq families, killing 30 family members including 11 children. Israel’s use of live ammunition against Palestinians who posed no imminent threat to life at the Great March of Return protests in 2018 and 2019 – including medics and journalists – has also been widely condemned as a war crime under international law. Netanyahu also oversaw Israel’s attacks on Gaza in 2014 which left 1000 Palestinian children permanently disabled.
At home, Netanyahu is facing protests over his planned reforms to the legal system:
Women dressed as handmaids from The Handmaid's Tale marching in formation through Tel Aviv. Tenth consecutive week of protests against the Israeli government's planned judicial overhauls. pic.twitter.com/dAumW2lO52
— Alejandro Alvarez (@aletweetsnews) March 16, 2023
Handmaids on the march in Ramat Hasharon at the Saturday night demonstration against the judicial revolution. The crowd parts for them and applauds. pic.twitter.com/3PEwsuyWIK
— Allison K. Sommer (@AllisonKSommer) March 25, 2023
These reforms would limit the power of Israel’s Supreme Court to hold the government in check. According to Al Jazeera:
The government has been pushing for changes that would limit the Supreme Court’s powers to rule against the legislature and the executive, giving the Israeli parliament (the Knesset) the power to override Supreme Court decisions with a simple majority of 61 votes out of the 120-seat Knesset.
A second proposal would take away the Supreme Court’s authority to review the legality of Israel’s Basic Laws, which function as the country’s constitution. Protesters fear the legal reforms may diminish the checks and balances within the Israeli state.
The reforms would also change how Supreme Court justices are selected, giving politicians decisive powers in appointing judges.
Netanyahu’s coalition government is also facing criticism for passing a law which many say is designed to protect the Israeli PM from being deposed if he’s found guilty of corruption. CNN reported on 24 March:
By a 61-to-47 final vote, the Knesset approved the bill that states that only the prime minister himself or the cabinet, with a two-thirds majority, can declare the leader unfit. The cabinet vote would then need to be ratified by a super majority in the parliament.
Former Prime Minister Yair Lapid called the move a “disgraceful and corrupt personalized law” and said Netanyahu is “looking out only for himself.”
Apartheid allegations increase under Netanyahu
Netanyahu’s visit to the UK coincided with increasing condemnation of Israel’s alleged apartheid against Palestinians. As the Canary previously reported:
On 1 March, a terrifying new bill passed its first reading in the Israeli parliament. It would allow Israeli courts to impose the death penalty on Palestinians. However, it would not impose the same sentence on Israeli colonists.
The extreme right-wing Zionist Yisrael Beitenu (Israel Our Homeland) party proposed the Bill. Parliament passed it 55 votes for, 9 against.
The Canary also noted that:
The far right in Israel has long wanted to impose the death penalty on Palestinians. However, their efforts have so far been successfully opposed by those who think that the death sentence will only stoke Palestinian anger against the occupation. But this could change, as Israel’s current government is – as the Times of Israel said – the most right-wing ever.
Sunak: an ironic statement
During the Israeli PM’s visit, Sunak raised the reforms with Netanyahu. Sunak remarked on “the importance of upholding the democratic values that underpin our relationship, including in the proposed judicial reforms in Israel”. However, there’s an irony here. Critics of Sunak have accused the PM himself of pursuing an anti-democratic agenda. On 5 January, Canary writer Joe Glenton wrote:
Unelected British prime minister and billionaire Rishi Sunak wants to take away your right to strike. At least, that’s what he seemed to be getting at when he floated the idea of a new anti-worker law this week.
The proposed legislation could see public sector workers who refuse to come in and provide a ‘minimum’ service during industrial action sacked. The laws may also allow employers to take legal action against trade unions.
Under the Tories, a range of authoritarian bills have passed into law. And they have brought with them the sense of democratic space narrowing before our eyes.
Irony isn’t limited to rhetoric on democracy, though. In August 2022, the Guardian revealed Dominic Raab was considering judicial reforms that would “make it harder to bring successful legal challenges against the government”.
Amongst changes mentioned in the leaked Ministry of Justice document was simply letting government ministers exclude judges from hearing cases on certain decisions it had made. In a comment echoing those levelled at Netanyahu, policy and campaigns officer at Liberty, Charlie Welton, told the Guardian that the proposed changes would make the government “even less accountable to the public”.
Featured image and additional images via Friends of Al Aqsa
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