By Yemeli Ortega
Demonstrators block a road as protests continue across the country as the Israeli parliament, or Knesset, passed a bill that would limit the Supreme Court’s powers, Jerusalem, 24 July 2023. EFE/EPA/ABIR SULTAN
Jerusalem, Jul 28 (EFE).- Tens of thousands of flower-clad women waving pink-hued Israeli flags have taken to the streets to protest the erosion of their rights after judicial reforms were passed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “fascist and misogynist” government, women EFE spoke to said.
“We are here to show our policymakers and so-called leaders that we are here to stay to fight for our future, and for our rights and for our democracy,” says Lia Lev, 18, who walked in a protest caravan from Tel Aviv to the Parliament in Jerusalem this week during mass demonstrations against a judicial overhaul backed by Netnayahu’s coalition government, the most right-wing in Israel’s history.
Marva Tovia, a 42-year-old teacher, also arrived with her five-year-old daughter for Monday’s protest.
On that day, one of the key laws of the judicial reform, which will curb the power and independence from Israel’s Supreme Court, was approved in the Knesset (Parliament), where the coalition government — made up of ultra-Orthodox and ultra-nationalist Jewish parties — has a majority.
Amidst tanks firing water jets and police on horseback, Tovia and her young daughter braved the heavy police presence at the protest.
For Tovia, a feminist, it is important for her daughter “to see that if you want to do something in this world, you have to do it, you have to make a change, you have to be active”.
Wrapped in a giant rainbow flag, Anat Gutman denounces that “this government hates women.”
“They are fascists, homophobes and misogynists,” she continues.
With the approval of its reform, “women’s rights will slowly and gradually be abolished,” until Israel becomes “a kind of Iran,” the 43-year-old writer, lesbian and Jew, who fears that the coalition will annul the LGTBQI+ community’s rights to adopt.
“I have two gorgeous kids, I didn’t carry them, but they are mine as any kids are to their parents, and this terrifies me” she adds.
Anti-government demonstrators block the Highway 50, as protests continue across the country as the Israeli parliament, or Knesset, passed a bill that would limit the Supreme Court’s powers, in Jerusalem, 24 July 2023. EFE/EPA/ATEF SAFADI
Without a constitution, Israel “has always been a partial theocracy,” and the judicial reform “erodes all the counterbalancing mechanisms we had, which can easily hurt women,” Susan Weiss, founder of the Center for Women’s Justice which provides legal assistance to women in Israel, warns.
The expert says that discrimination against women “will be even worse” after the reform, since by not being able to appeal certain laws or decisions to the Supreme Court, “impunity” will reign, especially in matters relating to gender segregation and women’s rights to access certain jobs, to own property or to exercise religious practices with the same privileges as men.
In the government coalition, only nine out of 64 parliamentary seats are held by women, while of the 32 cabinet portfolios, only six are female ministers.
The coalition has also sought to strengthen rabbinical courts which follow halacha, Jewish law, which favors men.
The government has been accused by protesters of undermining institutions that protect women, and of weakening mechanisms that tackle gender-based violence.
FEMINISTS LEADING THE WAY
Since the announcement of the judicial reform in January, historic protests have swept the country, bringing together diverse sectors of society: academics, businesses, artists, members of Israel’s army and the LGTBQI+ collective.
Shikma Bressler, a prominent physicist at the Weizmann Institute of Science and a mother of five, has become a leading figure in the protests.
Bressler rallied a march from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and called on the crowds not to lose hope and keep fighting, with a flower in one hand and clenched fist in the other, following Monday’s approval of Netanyahu’s reforms.
“The changes that are being forced on the country here and led by groups of Jewish, racist and fundamentalist Orthodox. And those groups are not in favor of women’s rights,” she tells EFE.
“There are places in Israel where women are forced to sit at the back part of the buses because they are women, there are roads where they cannot walk, forced to be dressed in a certain way, divorce rights are being narrowed for women,” she denounces, while a long queue of mostly young girls and women, but also male servicemen, forms to get a picture with her.
“I hope that girls from their homes can see and appreciate that we are fighting for their future,” Bressler says before slotting her fingers in her mouth and dog-whistling at the crowd as she leads the march.
Amidst pink Israeli flags and fuchsia-tinged smoke, several feminist groups have become protagonists of the anti-government marches.
Bonot Alternative has reached iconic status with its 100,000-strong members who denounce inequality, sexual violence and the gender wage gap wearing white hats and scarlet red capes, in a nod to the novel and TV series “The Handmaid’s Tale”.
Raising her banner, Gutman reassures the crowd that: “We will win. They won’t win. EFE