Even before the terrorist attack Hamas perpetrated on October 7, and before the war broke out, Israeli democracy was facing severe threats. Combined together, laws designed to take over the judicial system (the so-called judicial reform) and a slew of other initiatives in different areas crystallized to produce a Judicial Overhaul, as part of which the government sought to undermine the pillars of democracy and reduce human rights protections. Some initiatives to take over the judicial system have been put on hold since the war began, partly because this was put forward as a condition for expanding the government. Other initiatives that threaten democracy have also been suspended.
The government’s agenda, however, has not changed, and in certain regards, the war has helped promote it. For instance, the government has pushed forward with existing trends such as targeting Arab society, restricting freedom of movement, increasing the prevalence of firearms in public spaces and accelerating the annexation of the West Bank. Given the general climate in a time of war, these efforts are met with less resistance. In other fields, such as prisoners’ rights, the state of human rights has taken a significant turn for the worse, while the public remains entirely indifferent. Human rights violations are often carried out via emergency regulations (Hebrew), an undemocratic tool that allows the government to enact laws, seriously violating the principle of separation of powers.
Disasters or emergencies always serve as fertile ground for pursuing anti-democratic measures, violating human rights and questioning their underlying ideals, inciting against minorities, and using silencing and intimidation tactics. Measures instituted during emergencies normalize human rights violations and hurt democracy, and even when they are purported to be temporary measures for a time of crisis, they may become permanent or have long-term effects. The Judicial Overhaul and the war combine to create a perfect storm under cover of which extremely worrying trends in Israel gain traction.
In this document, ACRI sets out to shine a light on government actions that violate human rights, undermine democracy and pursue some aspects of the Judicial Overhaul under the cover of war. This non-exhaustive review is designed to highlight trends and point out troubling trajectories. We will continue to update this document, sound the alarm, resist these trends and never stop working to create a democratic, humanistically-minded society in Israel.