'Not a struggle for democracy,' Palestinians say about the anti-government protests in Israel

'Not a struggle for democracy,' Palestinians say about the anti-government protests in Israel
Palestinian citizens of Israel have largely stayed out of the months-long anti-government rallies, questioning the essence of demonstrations as a struggle for true democracy for all.
3 min read
28 March, 2023
Israelis at an anti-government rally in West Jerusalem on 27 March 2023. [Ibrahim Husseini/TNA]

Palestinian citizens of Israel largely stayed out of the months-long anti-government rallies that have brought civil war speculation centre stage and ultimately forced PM Netanyahu to announce a temporary freeze on contentious legislation championed by his far-right and ultra-religious coalition partners. 

The central view among Palestinians regarding the crisis between the government and the opposition is that it was not a fight to bring real democracy for all citizens in the country but one to entrench a democracy for Jews that would perpetuate inequality and occupation.  

"This is something we cannot be part of," Sami Abu Shahadeh, leader of the Balad party, told The New Arab

 The Jaffa-born politician said he viewed the crisis in Israel as a struggle between the old elites who founded the state of Israel and between the new elites, the "extreme nationalists," with different approaches to maintaining "Jewish supremacy" over Palestinians. 

"We seek a normal democracy and justice for all," Abu Shahadeh added, lamenting "the lack of partners that believe in justice."

 Amani Khalifa, a Palestinian citizen of Israel from the northern town of Um al-Fahem and currently studying abroad, told TNA that the protests against the legislation are meant to "preserve a liberal zionist system."

"We were never [meant to be] a part of this [zionist] system. My main message is that we are a part of the Palestinian people," Khalifa added. 

Thousands of Israeli at an anti-gov rally in W Jerusalem 27.03.2023
Israeli demonstrate near government buildings against legislation that would curb the power of the supreme court over the Knesset, 27 March 2023. [Ibrahim Husseini/TNA]

Azzam Abu Souod, 75, a Palestinian from occupied East Jerusalem, told TNA that most Palestinians are "indifferent" to the wave of protests sweeping the country because they "won't affect relations between Israelis and Palestinians." 

"The Israeli Judicial [system] was not fair to us in the past and won't be after the judicial changes," said Abu Souod. 

Rita, an Israeli protester who carried a sign that said democracy and occupation cannot coexist," told TNA, "Everybody is up in arms for an issue that affects Jews mostly. This will end one way or the other there will be a compromise, but the occupation will remain; that's why we're here, I hope people will realise."

Only a few Israelis echoed Rita's message about the occupation at the demonstrations, and according to reports, some were even physically attacked for raising the Palestinian flags. 

Most protesters are concerned that Israel would shift from a liberal Zionist state to a state governed by parties from the far-right and the ultra-religious. 

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Israeli president Issac Herzog on Tuesday spoke with PM Netanyahu and opposition leaders, urging them to begin talks immediately to reach a compromise on judicial reforms. On Monday evening, Netanyahu announced a temporary freeze on legislation that would have altered the process of selecting supreme judges and curb the high court's powers over the Knesset and government decisions. 

"I have decided to suspend the second and third readings of the law in the current Knesset session in order to allow time to try and reach that broad consensus," Netanyahu said in a televised statement on Monday evening after a general strike went into effect bringing air travel, public transportation to a halt and saw banks shutter their doors.


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Before his highly anticipated televised statement, Netanyahu struck a deal with Itamar Ben Gvir to establish a national guard force under the command of the national security ministry. 

Late Monday evening, Israelis were filmed attacking a Palestinian man who happened to pass by during pro-government demonstrations in West Jerusalem. Hamze Dweik, according to a police statement, was "savagely" beaten by the demonstrators. The statement added that three people had been arrested for the assault.