As I write this, anti-Judicial Reform protesters in Israel continue to block off roads in order to protest across the Tel Aviv area. This has been ongoing since the beginning of the year. Many Israelis who just want to go to the airport are facing great obstacles in getting there because of these protests, which are dominated by lef-wing activists. They believe that the Supreme Court should be able to engage in judicial activism in order to overturn the decisions of Israel’s democratically elected leaders. However, how the Jewish media has covered these protests varies greatly.
If one reads the Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, and the Times of Israel, one will find that these Jewish media outlets are greatly slanted in favor of the protesters. For example, a recent article in the Jerusalem Post quoted the Kaplan Movement as calling the Netanyahu government “the dictatorship coalition” and referred to Israel’s Prime Minister as the “indicted Netanyahu.” They spoke this way about Israel’s government, even though Netanyahu is a democratically elected leader and an indictment is still not a judgement of wrongdoing.
Another article in the Jerusalem Post claimed that Netanyahu’s judicial reform can lead to restricting left-wing and Arab political parties’ participation in the public life in Israel. They had the audacity to say this, even though the only political parties that are in danger of getting banned are ones that glorify Palestinian terrorism and the BDS Movement.
Still another JPost article quotes the White Coats Organization in calling upon Israeli doctors and medical students to shut down the healthcare system, stressing that Netanyahu is “leading a criminal and dictatorial government that has lost its legitimacy to lead.” The Jerusalem Post posted this plea, without any sort of critical commentary.
The Times of Israel ran an article claiming that Netanyahu’s judicial reform will lead to a brain drain, with many Israeli doctors and hi-tech professionals seeking relocation overseas. They even interviewed a young Israeli couple who was active in protests in Tel Aviv, who just decided to relocate to California. They said, “We had an amazing life in Israel, but we lost it. We said goodbye to our entire lives. They took that from us.” The Times of Israel ran this article, even though economics and not politics is driving most of the brain drain from Israel.
The Times of Israel also quoted UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk, who said that the Israeli government should “heed the call of the protesters”, noting that the growing movement of mass protests “demonstrates the extent of public disquiet at the extent of fundamental legislative changes”. He argued that Netanyahu’s reforms “would drastically undermine the ability of the judiciary to vindicate individual rights and uphold the rule of law as an effective institutional check on executive and legislative power, thus weakening human rights protections for all but especially the most vulnerable communities and groups”.
While the Times of Israel was objective enough to note that Netanyahu did call his remarks “absurd” and noted the lack of respectability of the UN Human Rights Commission on other matters, they still did proceed to accuse the Israel Police of engaging in “brutality” and using “excessive force”.
In a recent article, Haaretz championed Thomas Friedman as the de facto ambassador of the protest movement and noted how he has been raising awareness about how Israel is in the process of turning into another “Lebanon”. Another article argued that the protesters are fighting against those “who are at odds with Israeli democracy”, as if un-elected Supreme Court justices represent Israeli democracy and not the democratically elected parliament members. And an op-ed claimed that Israel’s judicial reform is “a fascist, racist power grab”, with an uncanny resemblance to what the author witnessed growing up under apartheid in South Africa. The author claimed: “I can no longer defend Israel from claims of apartheid”.
However, if one reads Arutz Sheva, I-24, or Israel Hayom, the coverage of the judicial reform is a bit more balanced. In a recent article, Arutz Sheva quoted Knesset Constitution Committee chairman MK Simcha Rothman, who said, “The reform is about two simple principles: The State of Israel is and will always be a Jewish and democratic country”.
In order to keep Israel a Jewish and democratic country, you have to stay Jewish and you have to stay democratic. The problem with the power grab of the Supreme Court of Israel and the justice system of Israel over the last 30-40 years [is that] Israel became less Jewish and less democratic.” But at the same time, they also reported on the doctors’ protest and what US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had to say about Israel’s judicial reform, even though it is considered a right-wing publication.
In a recent article published by Israel Hayom, it explained what is judicial reform and why it is controversial. It presented both the side of the protesters and the side of the government, in a completely objective article on the issue. In one of their op-eds, they said that judicial reform is needed, but also claimed that the changes proposed by Netanyahu’s government are far too radical and will leave it hard for the average citizen to defend themselves against government policies. In a separate piece, they noted that the judicial reforms have caused many Arab countries to compare Netanyahu to “Pharoah”. Yet on the other hand, they show both sides of the equation in their news coverage of the protests.
I-24 coverage of the issue is also objective. Iit reports how judicial reform is threatening the future of the Israeli economy and could adversely affect Israel’s credit ranking. At the same time, it also reported on all of Netanyahu’s statements on the topic and also on the main protests, in a completely objective manner.
Rachel Avraham is a political analyst working for the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights, which is run by Mendi Safadi, a former Likud Candidate for the Knesset and a former chief of staff of former Israeli Communication Minister Ayoob Kara. Since 2012, she has been working as an Israel-based journalist and writer, for the Daily Wire, the Christian Post, the Baltimore Jewish Times, the Jerusalem Post, Israel Hayom, Ahval and many other publications across the globe. She received her MA in Middle Eastern Studies from Ben-Gurion University. She got her BA in Government and Politics with minors in Jewish Studies and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Maryland at College