Israeli Zionist Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had to bow before people’s demand and hit the pause button on his proposed judicial reforms which, as we discussed at length in Proletarian Era dated 15 March 2023, were aimed at making the Judiciary subservient to the Executive in flagrant violation of the fundamental prescripts of bourgeois democracy. Alexander Hamilton, one of founding fathers of bourgeois democracy said way back on 28 May 1788 that ‘‘This independence of the judges is equally requisite to guard the Constitution and the rights of individuals from the effects of those ill humours, which the arts of designing men, or the influence of particular conjunctures, sometimes disseminate among the people themselves, and which, though they speedily give place to better information, and more deliberate reflection….’’ Netanyahu’s declaration to put on hold the proposal only after the agitating Israelis cutting across race or community announced escalation of the movement that have roiled the country since the government announced its plans to severely curtain the Judiciary in early January 2023. Even a hard-core fascist autocrat like Netanyahu who has been at the helm of a country that functions as front office of US imperialism in the Middle East had to genuflect before the people lest he should lose power and the country might even pave way for further people’s struggle on burning problems of life threatening existence of present order. So, this victory of fighting Israeli people is historic and we hail it. It once again proved that if people close their rank and unitedly stand against a tyrannical policy of a despotic government, no one can deter them by arraying all coercive powers.
Brief recap of the controversial reform
Israel’s declaration of independence, which established the Israeli state, promises to ensure ‘‘complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race, or sex’’ and to guarantee ‘‘freedom of religion, conscience, language, education, and culture.’’ These commitments distinguish a liberal democracy from pure majoritarianism like Zionism which now represents vile ultra-Jewish jingoism. Surely, such ultra-racist doctrine is likely to run roughshod over the democratic rights of individuals and minorities. Israel’s is a parliamentary democracy with a one-chamber legislature, Israel has fewer checks and balances in operation of the various pillars of democracy like Judiciary and Executive. With Israeli government nurturing sectarian pluralist views and dictatorial policies, Israel’s Supreme Court (mainly composed of some liberal democratic judges) emerged as the principal barrier against the tyranny of the majority racism. Over time, however, the court expanded its jurisdiction and asserted a broad right of judicial review. This became a thorn in the throat of the Zionist rulers. Netanyahu returned as Prime Minister on 29 December last year after the coalition of right-wing religious parties led by him emerged victorious in the November election by a slender margin and within no time, he brought three laws to take away the Supreme Court’s power to strike down Israel’s Basic Laws, increasing government control over judicial appointments, scraping the test of ‘‘reasonability’’ the apex court has been hitherto using to strike out executive practices and thus assume political power to override the Supreme Court’s rulings.
This would have enabled the Israeli government to get rid of rulings ‘‘outlawing Israeli outposts on private Palestinian land’’, curtailing social reforms and protecting Netanyahu, who has been indicted on several counts of bribery and corruption and facing trial in three different cases. But then despite years of endeavour on the part of the Israeli rulers to intoxicate people with Zionist thoughts and thus get them rallied behind the right reactionary government and the capitalist state, sixty-three percent of Israelis disapproved the government’s proposed political takeover of the juridical system.
The protesting masses consider the Supreme Court to be the last bastion of democratic principles and norms. On the other hand, ultra-orthodox religious jew groups perceive the court as an obstacle to their way of life as the court had often opposed certain privileges and financial subsidies to them. The Zionist fanatics who want to entrench Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank also view the court as hostile. As representative of this ultra Zionist groups, Netanyahu had been seeking to drastically restrict, what he called, the court’s overreach to strike down the laws it deemed unconstitutional. However, to the broader section of the masses particularly the working class, this move is obviously seen as subversion of democracy. Even the military reservists (Israeli residents who have completed military service) fear that if court lacks the power to scrutinize government activities adequately, they may have to obey illegal military orders.
Surge of massive people’s protests
Hence, from the day the proposal of judicial overhauling was rolled out in last January, hundreds of thousands of aggrieved Israeli people burst into protests. Tens of thousands of Israelis gathered in central Tel Aviv on 14 January 2023 to protest plans by Netanyahu’s new government. The protest agitation picked up momentum with passage of time. Around 1.00,000 Israelis from across the country took to the streets outside their Parliament in Jerusalem on 13 February. They raised slogans in support of democracy, freedom and judicial independence. But when Netanyahu sacked his Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, a day after he broke ranks with the government and urged a halt to the proposed judicial reform, people became more furious. Several thousands of protesters, many waving blue and white Israeli flags, took to the streets late at night across the country, took part in nationwide rallies on 25 March evening for the 12th straight week of mass protests. Protest organizers claimed that in total, over 6,30,000 people attended the rallies. Thousands of Anti-Occupation Bloc activists, among them Hadash and Communist Party of Israel members, rallied on 26 March night in 11 locations: Tel-Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, Herzliya, Beer Sheva, Netanya, Kfar Saba, Carmiel, Hod Hasharon, Hagomeh Junction in the Northern Galilee and Pardes Hanna-Karkur. Protesters declared a nationwide ‘‘week of paralysis’’ which was to begin from 26 March and Israel’s largest unions and universities threatened a general strike on 27 March. Flights from Ben Gurion airport were grounded, and seaports, banks, hospitals and medical services were also set to stop work as Histadrut, the head of the national labour unions, was to observe the strike. Crowds gathered outside Netanyahu’s home in Jerusalem, at one point breaching a security cordon and blocked a main highway late on 26 March, lit large bonfires and scuffled with the police. Following a special meeting held on 26th night by the heads of the universities in Israel, it was decided that the research institutions in Israel will halt classes starting on Monday morning. ‘‘We, the heads of Israel’s research universities, presidents, rectors and administrations, will stop studies in all of Israel’s research universities starting tomorrow morning, against the background of the continuation of the legislative process that undermines the foundations of Israeli democracy and endangers its continued existence,’’ said a statement published by the heads of the universities. Following the announcement, a long list of colleges decided to join the universities. ‘‘What the government wants to do is not to correct or to fix or amend the judicial system, so that it will be more just. Exactly the opposite. They want to take control over the judicial system,’’ said MK Ofer Cassif, a lecturer in political science at Tel Aviv University. ‘‘I think that we should refer to the situation not as a judicial overhaul, but as a regime coup,’’ he told Al Jazeera. ‘‘Netanyahu wants to turn Israel from an ‘ethnocracy’—because Israel in my view has never been a democracy, …this state is based on a Jewish supremacy, so it cannot be regarded as a democracy from the first place—but it’s going to be under the coup that the government wants to pursue, Israel is going to turn into a full-fledged fascist dictatorship’’, he added. ‘‘You are messing with the wrong generation’’, chanted the protesters. Histadrut Secretary General Arnon Bar-David had called an immediate general strike until the judicial overhaul was halted. In a dramatic statement this morning Bar-David said, ‘‘This is a historic strike in which workers and employers will together halt the judicial overhaul.’’ The strike had quickly snowballed. All takeoffs had been stopped at Ben Gurion airport and many shopping malls had shut down. Many businesses especially in the tech sector had joined the strike and banks and local authorities had also taken part in the strike.
Not just that. The protests had also followed Israeli ministers abroad, including organizing rallies against Netanyahu in London on 24 March. Hundreds of Israeli expatriates gathered outside his hotel and outside 10 Downing Street (British prime minister’s residence) when Netanyahu arrived there for his meeting with UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. The protesters chanted ‘‘de-mo-cra-cy’’ and ‘‘shame’’ as Netanyahu approached the venue. Independent women’s organizations, academicians and universities, lawyers, doctors, industrialists, and entrepreneurs, tech companies, intelligence and national security heads, soldiers and high-ranking officials of the Israeli army have all taken part in debating whether Israel’s democracy is threatened by legal excesses or political intrusions into the judicial system. This debate, incidentally, is relevant to India, too, where similar efforts are made to tame the Judiciary by the Executive. In addition to the public demonstrations, a growing number of military reservists had vowed to halt or already stopped their service over the legislation, sparking deep fears in the security establishment for the country’s future. Such has been the magnitude of people’s upheaval that forced the autocratic Zionist government to bend. The protesting people say that they will continue with the weekly public protests since the bill has not been nixed but merely suspended for some time. Of late, the Netanyahu supporters are also bringing out counter-processions though those have been of little avail. Thus, a country with just nine million (90 lakh) people is experiencing one of the most well-sustained and peacefully-organized courageous protests to thwart subversion of democracy in recent memory.
Lessons to be derived
It shows that imperialist-capitalist exploitation has exacerbated to such an extent that common people cutting across the countries are spontaneously bursting forth in protest, no matter whether there is any leadership or not. It is happening in US, UK, France, Spain, Israel, Brazil, Egypt, Pakistan, Russia, China, African countries and also in India. ‘‘Occupy Wall Street’’, ‘‘Black Lives Matter’’, ‘‘Yellow Vest’’, ‘‘Arab Spring’’ and the ‘‘Historic peasant movement in Delhi’’ are all glaring examples of outburst of people’s wrath. Despite adopting all coercive measures, the bourgeois rulers are unable to quell the unrest. On the contrary, they are on many occasions constrained to yield to people’s demand and trying to save themselves. Contradiction within the global camp of the imperialists-capitalists, stricken by acute insolvable market crisis endemic of the capitalist system, is also sharpening so much so as to engender armed conflicts and wars of aggression. Despite all efforts, including resorting to fascist autocracy, dismantling all canons of democracy, incessant injection of anti-life thoughts, pandering to religious revivalism, fanaticism, obscurantism, regimentation, communalism, racism as well as fostering cultural degeneration by promoting crude individualism, sex-perversion, consumerist mindset, unethical immoral thoughts and thereby breaking moral backbone of the people, the imperialists-capitalists are miserably failing to salvage themselves from the downslide and fencing themselves from continuous eruption of people’s agitations. All these developments show that objective situation is ripe for bringing about global anti-capitalist socialist revolution. What is wanting is maturing of the subjective condition i.e. emergence of a correct revolutionary leadership and establishment of its ideological-organizational control over the toiling masses so that the burgeoning class and mass struggles could be channelized along right direction, sustained, become more and more powerful and develop as conducive to anti-capitalist revolutionary movement.
Comrade Shibdas Ghosh, Founder General Secretary of the SUCI(C) and an outstanding Marxist thinker of the era, had told way back in 1974 that, ‘‘Out of discontent of workers, peasants and all exploited masses, revolution will again and again try to surge ahead in waves after waves. In waves after waves it will try to burst forth. The contradiction within society will deepen and sharpen many times more, calling for radical transformation of this order. It will beseech our consciousness, it will appeal to humanity that revolution is the necessity. Still, revolution will not come, again and again it will recede, it will go astray, and reaction will again and again gain by that—revolution will not see the light until the revolutionary party emerges, capable enough to lead revolution….In entirety the objective condition for revolution is ripe, with all its ingredients and ammunition. The people yearn for a change. The ruling class has nothing else to bank on, except the military muscle of this old order. They count also on people’s ignorance and political confusion, but that is not of any major importance. The reality puts so much pressure on the people that no confusing logic and delusions of religion can hold them back. Once the tide of revolution breaks out, no argument will succeed to prevent the onrush of the masses. Then the ruling bourgeoisie will be left with but one weapon to deploy against revolution—the military, police and armament. But when a country, a people stands up erect and takes to battle on the correct revolutionary line under the correct leadership, can it ever be stopped with military power? Could anyone in history ever do that?’’ (Tribute to A Revolutionary Character, SW Vol. III)
This is the lesson we should derive from the fizzling out of many commendable people’s movements round the globe. While saluting the fighting Israeli people for their indomitable spirit and courage, we appeal to them as well as working people of all countries to imbibe the truth elucidated above and gear themselves up to take up the task of overthrowing ruthlessly exploitative capitalism-imperialism incumbent on them in right earnest and herald the dawn of a new era.