OPINION: I’m a vocal pro-Israel voice; here’s why I protested the Israeli government in London

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OPINION: I’m a vocal pro-Israel voice; here’s why I protested the Israeli government in London

Nothing is as challenging-yet-powerful as criticising your home in a foreign land, writes author and campaigner Hen Mazzig. It is a testament to how far Israel has come as a country and as people.

Hen Mazzig is a former lieutenant in the Coordination of Government Activities in the Terrorities. He shares his story with campuses and Jewish communities around the world.

Protests outside Downing Street.
Protests outside Downing Street.

For the last 10 weeks, protests have taken place in Israel and around the world against the judicial overhaul in Israel. On Friday, I joined the latest protests in London, outside the visit of Israel’s prime minister Netanyahu to the UK. It was so inspiring to see so many Jews and Israelis joining together to raise the Israeli flag in support of democracy.

It was even more meaningful as I saw the anti-Israel protests on the opposite side, with Palestinian flags calling for the destruction of Israel. The lines were drawn, and the distinction was clear; our protest was to protect Israel against people who wished to end it as a Jewish state and those who wished to end its democratic nature.

I am deeply concerned about the potential consequences of the judicial overhaul. The proposed changes to Israel’s legal system represent a significant threat to the rule of law and the principles of democracy. It’s also a threat to all minorities in Israel, including LGBTQ+, women, and Arabs.

The proposed legislation would undermine the independence of the judiciary, which is one of the most important safeguards of our democracy.

Hen Mazzig

Thus, the judiciary must remain independent from political pressure and influence to ensure that equality, justice, and the rule of law are upheld.

The proposed changes would give the government greater control over the appointment of judges, thereby reducing their independence and increasing the likelihood of political interference in legal proceedings. It will also limit the ability of the judiciary to strike down unconstitutional laws and policies, thereby weakening its ability to act as a check on government power.

I was deeply inspired to see so many Israelis in the UK joined by British Jews and together manifesting our love for Israel. Nothing is as challenging-yet-powerful as criticising your home in a foreign land.

In today’s government, with politicians like Minister Bezalel Smotritch, who are not hiding their hatred of the LGBTQ community and Arabs, we must all be terrified of this government ideology being unleashed at the people of Israel.

And no, democracy doesn’t mean the majority can do what they want in a country, and a government isn’t chosen to rule as royals. As Israeli army veterans, pilots, top tech leaders, former heads of Mossad and Shin Bet, join some 250,000 Israelis, who go out to protest every week (proportionally, this is like two million brits protesting every week), there’s a horrible divide, and the government must stop what they are doing to fix it.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (left) welcomes the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to 10 Downing Street, London, ahead of their meeting.

To reiterate, these protests are not just about defending the independence of the judiciary but also about defending the principles of Israel’s existence as a Jewish and democratic state.

While I agree that there is a need for some reform and a constitution in Israel, this fanatically-fast moving extreme legislation is far from a genuine attempt to improve the system.

As Israeli citizens and as Jews who love Israel, we have a responsibility to speak out against any attempts to undermine our democratic institutions and the rule of law.

I was deeply inspired to see so many Israelis in the UK joined by British Jews and together manifesting our love for Israel. Nothing is as challenging-yet-powerful as criticising your home in a foreign land. It is a testament to how far we have come as a country and as people.

Sea of Israeli flags at the demo outside Downing St

Most importantly, we have shown the likes of former Labour leader and notorious anti-Zionist Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters, who so often claim that every criticism of Israel is met with claims of antisemitism – how wrong they are. We have shown Britain that Israel is still a true democracy.

In a time when many Jewish institutions are worried about the faith of the Jewish people and the connection between Israelis and diaspora Jews, in this one moment at the protest in London, I saw the answer: through supporting Israel critically and with love.

I was proud to join the protest in London on Friday and in Israel a few weeks ago, as they are an essential expression of dissent and a reminder that democracy cannot be taken for granted.

In the face of growing global authoritarianism and democracies shifting their systems to darker ones, those who love Israel must speak out now because we might be unable to do so later. It is also time for Mr. Netanyahu to decide: are you the prime minister of the people of Israel or just yourself?

• Hen Mazzig is an Israeli writer and the author of The Wrong Kind of Jew: A Mizrahi Manifesto. He is a Senior Fellow at The Tel Aviv Institute. Follow him: @henmazzig 

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