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  • Writer's pictureJames Ron

Palestinians Shouldn't Sit Out the anti-Coup Protests in Israel

This Israeli government is an alliance between the right-wing Likud party and several ultra-right, ultra-nationalist, and ultra-Orthodox parties. Each has its reasons for advancing "judicial reforms," which critics call "a coup."

There are multiple laws under discussion, but their cumulative intent is to remove government policies, appointments, and legislation from oversight by the Supreme Court. With no constitution and only one legislative chamber controlled, by definition, by the ruling coalition, this means that the government of the day can pretty much do whatever it wants.

For example, the government could annex the West Bank, or parts thereof; pass new rules about respect for the Sabbath; permit doctors to discriminate against LGBT patients on religious grounds; and more. It could even pass a law saying that the current government never needs to face democratic elections again.

There has been a massive pushback since this all began in January 2023, and this is very encouraging for those who think Israel is democratic, and that this democracy needs to be safeguarded.

If you think, however, that Israel hasn't been democratic for a long time because of its implicit commitment to ruling over 2.9 Palestinians in the West Bank forever, this "save democracy" argument does not persuade.

With almost three million people ruled by a military government, Israel isn't really a democracy. To be sure, inside its internationally recognized borders, it is democratic, and 20% of its citizens, Arab Muslims, Christians, or Druze, enjoy full rights, albeit with some serious exceptions. But Israel has ruled over West Bank Palestinians since 1967, and these have no rights at all. They are subjects of the Israeli military, even though Jewish settlers live alongside them, sometimes only yards away, and enjoy full rights as Israelis. And let's not even begin to speak of the two million Palestinians trapped in Gaza, a besieged enclave that Israel has near total control over from the outside.

It's tempting just to dismiss the protests as Jews fighting for Jewish rights, not civil or human rights.

I think that would be a mistake, however. Somehow, Palestinians must find a way to enter into a dialogue with Israelis protesting the current government's coup and find common ground. That won't be easy, as there is so much anger and mistrust. But it's necessary.

Palestinians and secular and/or politically moderate Jews can help one another if only they can figure out how to talk to each other.

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