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Can the Movement Against Judicial Overhaul Become a Movement Against Jewish Supremacy?


This short video responds to the Knesset’s passage of part of the judicial overhaul effort on Monday.

Our Zoom call this week for paid subscribers will be at our regular time: Friday at Noon EDT.

There will be no newsletter next Monday and no Zoom call next Friday, August 4.


Sources Cited in the Video:

Avner Gvaryahu’s video about where the pro-Netanyahu protesters on Saturday night came from: West Bank settlements.

Moshe Koppel, founding chairman of the pro-judicial overhaul group Kohelet, says Jewish demography makes judicial overhaul inevitable.

See you on Friday,



Hi. I don’t usually do two videos in one week. I figure folks have enough email as it is, but I’m not gonna do one next Monday. We’re also not gonna have a call a week from Friday. We will have one this Friday. So, this week is going to be the last week and then we’ll take a week off. So, I thought that given the passage of this element of the judicial overhaul bill in Israel, I would say something quick today.

It seems to me that while we don’t know what the Supreme Court will now do vis-à-vis striking down this bill, and we don’t know whether the other efforts of the judicial overhaul will pass, that despite the extraordinary organization, and passion, and determination of this movement against this Israeli government inside Israel, that I’m pessimistic about its prospects unless it evolves into something different than what it is now. The reason I’m pessimistic is demography. I was really struck by a quote that I heard from Moshe Koppel a while back. Moshe Koppel is the head of Kohelet. So, Kohelet is the pressure group that’s been pushing for this judicial overhaul for a long time. And Koppel said, ‘listen, even if we don’t get everything we want this time, I’m not worried because demography is on our side, and we’ll make these changes sooner or later. Because Israel, in the Jewish population, the ultra-orthodox population is growing and the religious nationalist population is growing. And we will gradually have greater and greater demographic weight.’ You notice that when supporters of judicial overhaul talk, this is what they mean by democracy. They mean democracy among Jews. And they say that the demographic shift among Jews should have its democratic weight. They say, ‘how can you say that this is anti-democratic? It’s the democratic trajectory of Jews.’

And I think this movement against the Netanyahu government, this judicial overhaul, again, although it is really remarkable and inspiring in a lot of ways, has largely accepted those terms of the game, essentially the terms of ethno-nationalism. It has been a kind of intra-Jewish struggle, in which you have a sea of Israeli flags but really no allowance for Palestinian flags, and in which Palestinians have really not been invited into this movement. And so, you have people like Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz, the opposition leaders, who are essentially arguing for a liberal ethno-nationalism. For Yair Lapid, the term ‘state for all its citizens’ is an epithet, right? They want a liberal ethno-nationalism. They want to manage Israel’s control over all these Palestinians who lack basic rights—try not to inflame the situation, but certainly not give them basic rights—they want to keep Israel a kind of secular, modern, pluralistic society for Jews, and they’re fighting against these people who not only want to entrench Israel’s control over Palestinians—undemocratic control, and potentially expel them—but essentially want Israel to become a more religiously coercive, less liberal society, even for Jews. This is the struggle that’s been taking place between a kind of liberal ethno-nationalism and a much more kind of aggressive authoritarian ethno-nationalism.

But I think Koppell’s point is that, in this struggle, the right-wing ethno-nationalism is likely to win. It has the demographic trajectory on its side. And it also may just be that there’s something inherent in the nature of ethno-nationalism that given the profound authoritarianism that Israel expresses vis-a-vis Palestinians, it’s just not likely that you can keep that totally separate over the long term from its treatment of Jews. That this deep authoritarianism that expresses itself from the Israeli state towards Palestinians ultimately ends up expressing itself vis-à-vis Israeli Jews as well. We’ve certainly seen this in the kind of crackdowns on Israeli dissident human rights groups in recent years. And it seems to me that what I hope from this movement, in this moment of setback, is not certainly that people give up, but that people expand their field of vision and imagine that they essentially change the rules of the game, leave the field of ethno-nationalism altogether, and play a different game, in which they’re not fighting against right-wing ethno-nationalism with liberal ethno-nationalism, but they’re fighting against this right-wing ethno-nationalism by offering the very alternative that Yair Lapid now scorns, which is a state for all its citizens—equality under the law.

There was a remarkable video by Avner Gvaryahu, who runs Breaking the Silence, where he was talking about the pro-judicial overhaul rally that they held on Saturday night, and he noticed how many of the buses that were taking people to that pro-Netanyahu rally were coming from settlements in the West Bank. He was making the point that, at the heart of this government, this effort at judicial overhaul, it’s a settler project at its core. And I was imagining, listening to him, imagine if the people who are against this judicial overhaul had brought buses from the West Bank as well, but buses of Palestinians. And not just the West Bank, but also East Jerusalem and Gaza as well, and created a movement with Israeli and Palestinian flags that was a movement for equality and against the very notion of ethno-nationalism.

Then, of course, the demographic argument looks completely different, right? Because once you bring Palestinians off the sidelines, and you are actually imagining everyone under Israeli control as legitimate participants in the political process, you don’t really need to worry so much about the fact that more Israeli Jews are becoming ultra-orthodox or becoming religious nationalists because you have a vast base of people who are deeply invested in the idea of equality. Not because they’re saints, but because they have been the victims of Jewish supremacy for their entire lives, and they have a deep inherent interest in gaining political equality, and so they can then become such powerful allies to you in a movement for equality.

And inside the Green Line, this is what people like Ayman Odeh, Palestinian leader, have been saying, not just in this protest movement, but for years and years they’ve been saying this. Isaac Herzog, who’s the president who recently came to speak in Washington, when he was head of the Labor Party, and he tried to ape the right by saying, ‘you know the Labor Party is no longer going to be considered quote unquote Arab lovers.’ This kind of racist language. You know, Ayman Odeh said to him, ‘you’re not going to win that way. You’re not going to defeat these right-wing ethno-nationalists with your own version of ethno-nationalism. You have to join with us in a movement for equality, in a struggle that is not a struggle of Jews against Jews, but a struggle that pits Jews and Palestinians against those groups who are invested in the maintenance of apartheid.

And I hope that that’s where this movement goes. I know there are people in it—we talked last Friday to Haggai Matar—who very much want that. And I think if that happens, the kind of deep pessimism and tragedy of this day could be replaced by something incredibly hopeful. And not just hopeful for Israel-Palestine, but something that I really think could inspire people around the world because so many people around the world are fighting against ethno-nationalism. Whether they’re fighting in India, or in Hungary, or in Poland, or in Western Europe, or in the United States against these exclusivist visions, which say that countries are the property of one dominant tribe and everybody else are just guests who better be on their best behavior because they don’t really deserve full equality. So many people around the world are involved in that struggle. It would be so powerful to see that take political expression in Israel-Palestine. And I think that’s the way to turn this dark day, it seems to me, into a future moment where there’s really hope. Again, we’re doing a call this Friday and then we’ll be off next week.

The Beinart Notebook
The Beinart Notebook
Peter Beinart