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Why are we still marching?

(Nili Bresler)
The author. Just another Saturday night. photo: Nili Bresler

We have been marching in the streets since January. By now the whole world has seen us waving flags, shouting DEMOCRACY, shouting SHAME! Friends and allies around the world have joined the cries. There are protests in NY, Washington, London, Paris, Tokyo. President Biden has spoken out. The world is watching.

Yet Bibi remains adamant that he will overhaul the judicial system in the end. His aim is to bend the system to his will; to rewrite laws to suit his needs; all with one goal in mind: to stay in power, to stay out of jail. Bibi and his cronies talk about judicial reform. Many of us believe that our governmental institutions do need reform. But Bibi’s plan is not a reform. It is a power play of the ugliest sort. Some of the laws proposed are designed to protect Bibi and his allies from judicial prosecution. Others are draconian measures limiting the rights of women and minorities, put forth by the ultra right-wing and ultra-orthodox members of the coalition, led by the notorious Itamar Ben Gvir — notorious, not in an ironic way, as in notorious RBG, sad to say.

For those who are unfamiliar with the players, here is a brief about two of the ring-leaders: Itamar Ben Gvir was a staunch supporter of Meir Kahane. Ben Gvir was seen on TV as a youth leader singing the praises of mass murderer Baruch Goldstein who killed 29 worshippers and wounded more than 125 in a mosque in Hebron in 1994. When asked in an interview about the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill”, Ben Gvir calmly replied that the ten commandments protect only Jews. Ben Gvir was convicted and jailed in 2007 for inciting racism and violence. He has not softened in his middle age. Far from it.

Ben Gvir is now National Security Minister and has been given the green light by Bibi to form his own militia, officially named the National Guard. Where will the funding for this militia come from? Our current security budget, of course – meaning it will be at the expense of our current military and police force, already sorely understaffed and under-equipped.

The other ring leader is current Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, a self-declared homophobe and proud destroyer of the English language. Smotrich’s mangled English is a source of hilarity and mirth in this country, but his racist and anti-gay policies are no laughing matter. As a graduate of the yeshiva system, Smotrich studied neither English nor advanced mathematics. He studied gematria – the substitution of numbers for letters of the Hebrew alphabet – a basic skill for Kabbalah scholars. Not necessarily helpful for finance ministers trying to balance a national budget.

In January of this year, the first month of their new term, Bibi’s coalition rushed to propose a myriad of laws. These laws would have a disastrous impact on many aspects of our governmental system, including: governmental separation of powers; the autonomy of our brave and stalwart Attorney General; public health; the safety and protection of women and minorities; workers’ rights;  religious freedom; scientific research and the overall strength of Israel’s democracy and its foreign relations. In addition, the turbulence is already wreaking havoc on our economy: the Israeli shekel has suffered serious devaluation in the past 2 months and the credit ratings of Israeli companies have been slashed.

Last week, after Bibi fired our gallant defense minister, there were thousands of protestors blocking access to Tel Aviv, lighting bonfires on the highway. The rallies are everywhere, not only in the big cities. From the north to the south, in every city and town, we gather in town squares, unfurl banners on bridges, block roads and junctions. I was caught up in a melee last week in one of the protests, despite my best efforts to hang back and stay safe. I join the protests each week not because I’m seeking adventure. Like hundreds of thousands of other Israelis, old and young, I feel I have no choice. I really try to stay out of trouble, but I cannot sit at home, watching the news on TV, staying silent. I march. I shout. I protest.

Bonfire at Ayalon highway entrance, Tel Aviv, 27-MAR-23, photo: Nili Bresler

Bibi’s back is up against the wall now. He called for a pause in the process of overhauling the judicial system – not to please us, the democracy-loving people, but rather to appease his own party members who are revolting. Be sure that Bibi’s only true love is power. He does whatever he thinks necessary to get it and keep it. The fact that he is stumbling and teetering now is evidence of his blind ambition… Evidence of how you can go wrong when steering recklessly toward one goal at breakneck speed, ignoring the warning signs and alarms all around you.

In the USA yesterday there was much rejoicing when Trump was finally indicted. Well, Bibi was indicted in 2019. Yet he is still here. The slippery, slimy man somehow manages to escape prosecution again and again. He is now facing charges in not one, but three major trials involving corruption, graft, fraud, bribery, breach of trust, and abuse of power.

  • Case 1000 – is a graft trial with charges of conflict of interest. Officially opened in December 2016, the charge is that Bibi and Sarah Netanyahu unlawfully accepted valuable presents, cash, and gifts received throughout the years from several wealthy acquaintances. In one of the charges in this case, Bibi used his power to provide inside information and tax breaks to US-based billionaire Arnon Milchan in exchange for over $200,000 in gifts.
  • Case 2000 deals with recorded conversations Netanyahu had with the chairman and editor of Yediot Aharonot, one of the largest newspapers in Israel. During these conversations, Netanyahu and the chairman discussed legislation that could harm the newspaper’s major competitor, Israel HaYom – which, by the way, was founded by a former Bibi supporter and major funder, Sheldon Adelson. Israel Hayom, an ultra-conservative paper, is now published by Adelson’s widow, Dr. Miriam Adelson, who has joined the criticism of the judicial overhaul plan.
  • Case 4000 relates to Bibi’s breach of trust to protect his allies. One of Bibi’s largest campaign contributors was the head of Israel’s major telecommunications company, Bezeq. At the time of the crime, Bezeq was in conflict with its regulator, the communication ministry, which was then headed by Netanyahu. Bibi intervened on Bezeq’s behalf time and again. Can you spell Conflict of Interest?

On November 21, 2019, Netanyahu was indicted in cases 1000, 2000, and 4000 for charges including breach of trust, accepting bribes, and fraud. As a result of the indictment, Netanyahu was legally required to relinquish of his ministry portfolios other than Prime Minister. This is why he cannot simply fire a minister (let’s say a Defense Minister, for example) and replace that minister with himself – a trick he did regularly in his previous administrations. At one point a few years back, power-hungry Bibi actually held about 5 cabinet ministerial portfolios in addition to his role as Prime Minister, having gotten rid of ministers he did not like. Was it 5? Maybe more? I’ve lost track.

Three major court cases, all of them dating back years… and where do they stand now? NOWHERE! The cases are still officially in progress, but court sessions have been postponed time and again because of the many national elections, as well as repeated delaying tactics successfully mounted by Bibi’s attorneys. Some estimates say that the cases are expected to continue for the next 5 years!

So here we are, three months after Bibi the Crime Minister took office for his 6th term – YES, THAT’S RIGHT: 6 TERMS SO FAR AND COUNTING! The country is in turmoil. Bibi and Sarah fly abroad and eat at Gordon Ramsey’s non-kosher restaurant, while ultra-orthodox cabinet ministers sit in Jerusalem, holding our nation hostage.

Here’s an excerpt from a social media post from a very talented guy named Hanoch Daum. Son of a rabbi, he grew up in an orthodox home, went to yeshiva. He is an actor, comedian, journalist… and he has joined the protests. Listen to Hanoch’s words (translated from the Hebrew by me):

“Since the legislation was stopped because of the protests, it seems to me that it is worth trying to explain what the country is actually fighting about. Because I am of the opinion that this is not really the reform. This is not exactly what the country is fighting for. This is not why the land of the motherland trembled.

So what does the country fight for?

For the sin of arrogance.

The sin of arrogance that caused those who won the elections to behave as if they had unlimited power as if they were allowed to take revenge and twist the knife in the hearts of the good and devoted Israelis whose only sin was that they lost the elections. The sin of arrogance that made them think that in one month they will change the order of the world.”

Thank you, Hanoch. I could not have said it better myself.

It’s Saturday evening. I suit up in my uniform (Democracy T-Shirt, good walking shoes) and grab my flag and whistle and stadium horn. Off I go yet again to join the protest. We will not stop. Until the madness ends.

About the Author
Nili Bresler is a member of Israel's pro-democracy movement. She is a business communications coach with experience in management at multinational technology companies. Prior to her career in high-tech, Nili was a news correspondent for the AP. Nili holds a degree in International Relations from NYU. Nili volunteers with the nonprofit, NATAN Worldwide Disaster Relief. Nili made aliya in 1970 and lives in Ramat Gan.
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