Protests against the Israeli government’s judicial overhaul are growing bigger. Objection to the government’s plans to weaken the judiciary, undermine the principle of separation of powers, and do away with other hallmarks of democratic rule is, without a doubt, urgent and important given the impact on the future of millions of people living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.
But Israel has never been a democracy: For decades, millions of Palestinians have lived under Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, stripped of fundamental rights and denied basic freedoms. They are not represented in the Israeli parliament and cannot vote or otherwise influence the decision-making processes that shape and dictate every detail of their lives. Palestinian and other citizens and residents of Israel, especially non-Jewish ones, have also been subjected to systemic discrimination and at times, much worse.
As attention turns, rightfully, to the West Bank following recent, violent events, including the pogrom carried out by Israeli settlers in Huwara, Gaza must be kept in the conversation. Steps taken by the Israeli government to strengthen its hold on the West Bank are inextricably linked to the isolation and fragmentation of Gaza as part of its separation policy, which seeks to divide Palestinians living in Gaza from Palestinians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Israel. The crimes perpetrated in Huwara, with backing from the army, are the product of the same Israeli policy that denies two million Gaza residents access to family members, medical care, livelihoods and life with dignity.
The present legislative blitz reflects the government’s intention to entrench a regime of Jewish supremacy, step up de jure annexation in the West Bank, and deepen the isolation of Gaza. The government is also working tirelessly to further erode the few avenues available for protecting the rights of minority groups in Israel, including its Palestinians citizens, and of the 5.4 million Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in Gaza and the West Bank.
Decades of occupation, dispossession, and oppression, including 16 years of suffocating, illegal closure on Gaza, have proven beyond a doubt that Israel shirks its obligations toward Palestinians and refuses to recognize its responsibility to protect their basic rights. Gisha continues its work to protect Palestinians’ freedom of movement, and the many rights that depend on it. We joined the protests as part of the Anti-Occupation Bloc to sound this message: There can be no democracy without human rights for all, including the right to freedom of movement. The fight for democracy must be rooted in the fight against occupation and apartheid.