Hundreds rally in TA against 'undemocratic' bills

Meretz, Peace Now organize protest against Knesset passing 1st readings of libel, judicial bills; MK Horvitz: "This is a fascist law."

By GIL STERN STERN SHEFLER
November 22, 2011 18:53
2 minute read.
Protesters gather in Tel Aviv

Leftist Protest TA 311. (photo credit: Ben Hartman)

 
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Several hundred protesters gathered at Rothschild Boulevard on Tuesday night to protest against a series of recently passed laws that they say muzzle freedom of speech.

In their first plenum readings, the Knesset on Monday voted in favor of both a libel law amendment that would raise the penalty for libel without proof of damages, and another bill that seeks to regulate the Bar Association’s choice of representatives to the Judicial Selection Committee.

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Participants in the protest organized by Meretz, Peace Now and various youth movements voiced their position to the legislation which they said infringed on freedom of speech.

“The truth must be told, this is a fascist law. This isn’t legislation against any particular opinion but all differing opinions,” said Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz referring to the libel bill.

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The lawmaker lashed out against the government pointing a finger toward Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

“The people leading this are not the back benchers, this goes to the top to Netanyahu,” he said, pausing for dramatic effect: “Barak is also behind this.”

The audience booed at the sound of the name of the Independence faction leader.

Omer Samani, 27, from Jerusalem, stood in the crowd holding a red flag.

“I think in recent weeks we’ve seen an attempt from the right to flex its muscles and anyone could understand that these [laws] are undermining the democratic foundation,” the member of ‘Dror Israel’ youth movement said. “We are both Zionists and democratic and the two must not part.”

Meanwhile, a mock counter- protest demonstrated on the other side of the street carrying signs reading “War is peace,” “Newspapers are bad” and “Death to all.”

Earlier in the day, one of the organizers of the protest, Peace Now general-director Yariv Oppenheimer, expressed his concern regarding the new laws.

“This is the first demonstration and sadly, certainly not the last. The Right has a majority in the Knesset but we’ve seen in the summer that the Israeli street is powerful. If many come today and to other demonstrations then we can stop this legislation. This is a wake-up call to the public.”

Oppenheimer said he believed the demonstration was the natural continuation of the summer’s housing protests which topped the news agenda for months.

“Many people who took in that demonstration supported us on Facebook,” he said. “My goal is for the two protests to unite.”

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