Israeli flags fluttered in the wind Sunday afternoon, as more than 50 demostrators gathered at Fountain Square to join protesters around the world who oppose changes in Israel’s court system proposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Kathy Goldberg, who helped organize the Jewish-led event, said, “There are those in Israel who are trying to turn Israel from a democracy into their own private dictatorship.”
“This time,” Goldberg said, “we need to protect Israel not from outside but from within.”
The proposed changes, from Netanyahu’s right-wing and ultra-religious coaltion, would reduce the Supreme Court’s powers to overturn laws passed by the Knesset (Israel’s parliament), change how judges are appointed, and, critics say, make it easier for Netanyahu to escape potential punishment if he is convicted in an ongoing corruption trial.
Netanyahu’s supporters say the changes would help restore balance to Israel’s democracy, not shatter it, and deny the motivation is to protect the prime minister personally.
But the protesters on the square, along with 250,000 who demonstrated recently in Israel, and thousands more who have done so around the world, fear the changes could threaten the rights of women in Israel, the LGBTQ community, Reform and Conservative Jews, and Israel’s Arab residents.
Mikala Stewart, who carried a sign that read “Keep the Court Supreme” said, “What’s happening over there is pretty atrocious. The dismantling of the Supreme Court is terrifying.”
Goldberg said the Evanston grass roots Jewish group, called “Unacceptable,” is just getting started.
“Israel needs our help,” she said, “and we can stand and do so much together.”