NEW YORK – Hundreds of New Yorkers turned out in the rain opposite the Israeli Consulate in Manhattan on Monday to show support for democracy in Israel and protest its government’s proposed judicial reform.
Monday's protest came as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced earlier in the day that he was temporarily freezing legislation of the judicial reform and was willing to give a "real opportunity for real dialogue" over the government's reforms, which have thrown the country into turmoil and unprecedented civil unrest.
The court reform plan advanced by Netanyahu’s right-wing government would give the governing coalition near total control over the appointment of Supreme Court judges and would enable a bare majority of lawmakers to override Supreme Court decisions, among other changes.
"You came down on the wrong generation," protestors chanted, a break off from mass protests in Israel.
Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine told the crowd at Monday's rally: “I am proud to stand with all of you who are fighting tonight — at this very moment in Israel — and in the difficult days and weeks ahead… to save Israeli democracy.”
Also in attendance was Rabbi Jill Jacobs, CEO of T’ruah, the liberal rabbinic human rights group that has co-hosted numerous protests against the judicial reform. Jacobs called Netanyahu’s move a “fake attempt” at compromising.
“We are standing our ground and we are not going to stop protesting because the legislation is temporarily frozen,” she said.
Oz Benamram, an Israeli who has lived in New York for more than 20 years, told The Jerusalem Post he attended the rally because "[Netanyahu] didn't say he's going to make Israel a liberal democracy. He just said he's going to postpone."
"It was important for us to support our Israeli friends and make sure the American community is well aware of what's happening," Benamram, who protests Israel's proposed judicial reform every Sunday in Washington Square Park, said.
"I'm being told by family and friends in Israel that they feel supported," Benamram continued, adding that the Washington Square Park rally had a turnout of nearly 1,000 people last weekend.
Benamram noted that more American Jews came out for Monday's protest than Israelis—something he called unusual.
"I think American Jews have been indoctrinated to never speak badly about Israel so they're afraid. They're afraid it will play to the hands of BDS and antisemites."
Israel's consul general in New York resigns
The protest outside of the Israeli consulate took place one day after Israel’s consul general in New York Asaf Zamir resigned to protest his government’s judicial overhaul plan and to fight for democratic values.
“The political situation in Israel has reached a critical point,” he said in a letter addressed to the Foreign Ministry that he authored and posted on his Twitter page late Sunday night.
"I think it was the honorable thing to do," Benamram said of Zamir's resignation.
A spokesperson for the Israeli consulate in New York declined to comment on Monday's rally.