‘You’re messing with the wrong generation!’ Hundreds at Highgate demo against Netanyahu coalition

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‘You’re messing with the wrong generation!’ Hundreds at Highgate demo against Netanyahu coalition

Quoting from the Declaration of Independence, Sir Mick Davis said: “How sad that the words of Israel’s foundational document have become words of protest.”

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

Highgate’s Waterlow Park rang to the unaccustomed chants of “Demo-kratia!” (democracy) and “busha!” (disgrace) on Sunday as hundreds of Israelis and British Jews joined in a bittersweet celebration of the Jewish state’s 75th anniversary.

In an event organised by the London arm of the Defend Israeli Democracy movement, five fiery speakers recalled the events of the last four months and the impact that the weekly street demonstrations were having on Israel’s government.

They were led by the London movement’s founder, Sharon Shochat, who told the 500-strong crowd of families that the demonstrations were “not a question of right and left, but a question of right and wrong”.

Quoting from the Declaration of Independence, Sir Mick Davis, the former chair of UJIA and the Jewish Leadership Council, said: “How sad that the inspirational words of Israel’s own foundational document have become words of protest.”

South African-born mining businessman and community leader Sir Mick Davis

In trenchant comments, Sir Mick declared: “Those who wrote and signed the Declaration of Independence knew what it was to be powerless: to be a minority at the mercy of mercurial rulers. They understood that our rights, our freedoms, our liberty cannot simply be entrusted to leaders, even if they are elected; they must be protected by the institutions and safeguards that guarantee free societies”.

To be a free people, Sir Mick said, the only safeguard was an independent legal system.“Without restraints – without checks and balances — bad actors will use their power to do bad things”.

In trenchant comments, Sir Mick declared: Those who wrote and signed the Declaration of Independence knew what it was to be powerless: to be a minority at the mercy of mercurial rulers.

He was critical, however, of the fact that for too long there had been a metaphorical shrugging of shoulders, while “we have watched cynical figures promote a politics of hate. With malice in their hearts and malevolence in their minds, they have weaponised the sense of unfairness felt by those left behind in Israel’s economic success.”

Sir Mick, to cheers and applause, added: “Let us express a difficult truth: the conflict with the Palestinians is not incidental; it is fundamental”.

The leading Reform rabbi,Laura Janner-Klausner, gave a similarly tough, no-holds barred address. She told the crowd: “To those pursuing the destruction of Israel’s democracy and the fragmentation of our Jewish soul, we say, ‘You’’re messing with the wrong generation.’

“To the  same voices who call for wiping out Palestinian villages, who threaten hard-won gender equality and LGBTQ+ rights, the same voices who stir inter-Jewish, intra-denominational strife, the same people who call IDF reservists and those putting their lives at risk for the state of Israel “anarchists”, the same people who scoff at experts from Moody’s to Nobel laureates: these are the very same people who are driving this attempt to depose the guardians of democracy and dispose of its safeguards, to these voices to these people, we repeat —‘You’re messing with the wrong generation!”

The two British leaders were followed by the lawyer Dr Eliad Shraga, founder and chair of the Movement for Quality Government in Israel. Speaking to Jewish News, Dr Shraga, a leading voice in Israel against the government, said he did not expect the weekly demonstrations to have an instant effect on the Knesset.

“But thousands of people being on the streets, I believe, is giving strength to the judges, to the Supreme Court. If the legislation for judicial reform does go through, the Movement for Quality Government will immediately submit a petition to the High Court of Justice, and my hope is that the judges will abolish the law. And in that case we will face a grave constitutional crisis. That’s our biggest problem, not having a constitution because they [the government] change things every morning”.

His organisation was pressing hard for a proper written constitution for Israel, he said, and added that he hoped British Jews would press the government in the UK to express clear opposition to Israel’s present policies. Pulling no punches, he described the current coalition as “a bunch of crooks who have hijacked the country”, reserving particular contempt for Arie Deri, Yariv Levin, Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir.

Academic Professor Gilat Levy, of the London School of Economics, spoke of the economic impact of the proposed judicial reforms, while Joel Rosen, president of UJS, highlighted the position for Jewish students on campus.


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