Israel minister cancels public appearance following protest by American Jews

Middle East Monitor  /  May 31, 2023

The Israeli consulate in Los Angeles was forced to scrap a public event with the country’s Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis following a protest by American Jews over the planned judicial overhaul by the far-right government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Akunis was invited to speak at an event organized by the Israeli consulate on the topic: “From Start-Up Nation to Scale-Up Nation: Israel’s Journey to Global Tech Leadership.” The plan was scrapped after dozens of protesters gathered outside the venue.

Akunis blamed “provocations” by protestors for the cancelling of his speech. “If there is a place for a non-violent debate in Israel’s internal affairs – it is only in Israel and since we knew that provocations by demonstrators from the left were expected, we chose not to hold them in the international arena,” Akunis’ office is reported saying.

Israel’s Consul-General Hillel Newman took to the stage to apologize for Akunis. “Unfortunately, I have to apologize on behalf of the minister,” Newman said in a video. A clip of the apology has been shared on social media. “He [Akunis] said that his presence here might cause more provocations with the people outside and the protesters, and he said he didn’t want to bring a bad feeling or bad vibes to anything associated with the State of Israel, and therefore he decided to avail himself and not come.”

There have been months of protest over the planned judicial overhaul due to concerns it will mark the end of Israeli democracy. However, with six million non-Jews unable to enjoy equal rights in territory controlled by Israel over many decades, rights groups question the occupation state’s claim to democracy, to begin with.

Akunis himself has encouraged discrimination of non-Jews by promoting annexation and opposition to a Palestinian state. “I will never agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria [the occupied West Bank] and I will continue to promote, with all my might, the application of sovereignty, which is an historical process that cannot be prevented,” Akunis is reported saying in The Jerusalem Post.

On Monday, Israel’s Justice Minister, Yariv Levin, said that Judicial overhaul is needed to facilitate racial segregation in the country. Judges must understand that Jews “don’t want to live with Arabs [Palestinians]”, said Levin, calling for the expansion of racist Admission Committees.