Noa Tishby talks about judicial reform on 'Real Time with Bill Maher'

"The biggest problem within the Israeli system is that there's no constitution," said Tishby.

 Noa Tishby (photo credit: Courtesy)
Noa Tishby
(photo credit: Courtesy)

Israel's Special Envoy for Combating Antisemitism and the Delegitimization of Israel Noa Tishby appeared as a guest on Friday on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher, in which she discussed Israel's controversial judicial reform and the protests responding to it.

“I have read some really disturbing things, said Maher. “In the past, it was Israel against the people - their neighbors - who are not big fans of them... Now it's internal. Now Israel seems to be fighting with itself. I see protesters in the streets  - hundreds of thousands - for people who are not following this, please tell us why the president of Israel said civil war is possible. He said, ‘The abyss is within touching distance.’ Why is this?”

Tishby downplayed the president's comments, saying that they were “slightly dramatic.”

“What's happening in Israel right now, what we're seeing is literally democracy on full display. It's actually quite extraordinary. So, let's backtrack for a little bit. So, a few months ago Benjamin Netanyahu - you know very well - won the election and because of how the parliamentary system is built in Israel, he started this coalition, which is on the extreme side, it's right-wing, more religious-” “Very right-wing,” Maher interjected. “As it happens in the US, when new governments come in, they jump in to make sweeping changes quite quickly, and that's what this government decided to do,” Tishby continued. “They suggested a judiciary overhaul, which is going too far, and the Israeli people are basically rebelling against it.”

“Let me ask you this, I've heard this, that that's the big thing, that he wants to somehow make it so that the congress can basically overrule - it would be like if our Congress with a majority of one could overrule our Supreme Court. But, I don't know, tell me is your - the Israeli system - the same as ours, with three forms of government [and] checks and balances between three equal forms of government?” Maher asked.

“Not entirely, and also the biggest problem within the Israeli system is that there's no constitution, so right now, what we're seeing is a conflict between the government and the Supreme Court,” Tishby replied. “The government wants to take too much power basically and overrule the Supreme Court decision by a simple majority, but the Israeli people are rebelling against this. This is quite amazing what's happening.”

Maher said that since Israel is constantly at war, “I'm not against someone who is a little bit more conservative being at the helm, but [Netanyahu] seems to be losing even his supporters.”

Over 60% of the Israeli public wants to stop this overhaul,” Tishby noted. “54% of Likud voters didn't know that this would be the first line of item [sic] for this new government and I do believe that it's going to stop. It's not going to pass in its current form, it shouldn't pass in its current form, and what we are seeing...nearly 10% of the Israeli population is out on the street and they are no riots, there's no violence, there's no blood, one person got hurt but that's about it. So it's an extraordinarily creative demonstration. The Israeli people are speaking up, they don't want this.”

Tishby discusses antisemitism on panel with Rep. Elissa Slotkin and Andrew Yang

On a panel with Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) and former US presidential candidate Andrew Yang, Tishby replied to a question about the difference between legitimate criticism of Israel and antisemitism.

“How can people distinguish between legitimate criticism of Israel and antisemitism?” Maher asked Tishby.

“Great question. So, anti-Zionism is antisemitism, first of all,” Tishby said, receiving cheers from the audience. “I'll tell you what the difference is, there's nothing wrong with criticizing [the] Israeli government, I just did that on the show. ...There's nothing wrong with criticizing [the] Israeli government's policies, politicians, that West Bank...if you have something against. If you're trying to dismantle the Jewish state, if you're trying to go against the existence of the State of Israel, that's where the line is drawn, and sadly... there are a lot of people that are saying that Israel is not a legitimate country, and that is unacceptable.”

"On the other side of the coin, I don't think it is antisemitism if you care deeply about the state of the Palestinian affairs,” said Slotkin, who is Jewish. “I mean if you care about people, that's not antisemitism, and I think that sometimes people go too far and they say any criticism of Israel is antisemitism, every concern about the Palestinians is antisemitism, and that's also BS.”