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Israeli government revives judicial overhaul push by advancing a bill to limit Supreme Court’s power

TEL AVIV (JTA) —  In the face of mass protests, the Israeli government has resumed its effort to weaken the country’s judiciary, advancing a bill that would strip the Supreme Court of its ability to strike down government decisions it deems “unreasonable.”

Early on Tuesday Israel time, following a long and heated debate, Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, voted 64-56 to move the bill forward. Following the vote, the bill must move out of committee and pass two more votes in the full Knesset before becoming law.

Tuesday’s vote ends a period of more than three months during which the government, headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, paused the overhaul effort to conduct negotiations with the parliamentary opposition. That pause began after a series of mass protests and civil disobedience by the overhaul’s opponents, as well as warnings from a range of world leaders and other dignitaries who say it will endanger Israeli democracy by sapping the Supreme Court of much of its power and independence. The court reform’s proponents, meanwhile, say it will curb an overly activist judiciary and enable the right-wing coalition to govern.

In recent weeks, Netanyahu has said that the negotiations failed and has pledged to push forward a scaled-back version of the overhaul package. That has prompted renewed opposition from the legislation’s opponents both at home and abroad. On Sunday, President Joe Biden said on CNN that he hopes Netanyahu will “continue to move toward moderation in changing the court.”

In Israel, large crowds of protesters took to the streets in recent days, a continuation of protests that have occurred weekly since the proposed judicial overhaul was unveiled at the beginning of the year. Last week, a crowd of protesters gathered in the main terminal of Ben Gurion International Airport, and on Saturday night, more than 100,000 people massed in Tel Aviv in opposition to the overhaul. Ahead of the vote on Monday night, protesters gathered outside the Knesset, and a few were forcibly ejected from the building by security.

Protest organizers say Tuesday’s demonstrations will be far bigger. Dubbed a “Day of Opposition,” it will see protesters return to the airport and block roads, as organizers have called on businesses to strike in solidarity. A major mall chain said it would close in support of the protests but later backtracked and said stores could open if they wished. A number of universities have said students will not be penalized for missing class to protest on Tuesday.

The law that was advanced in an initial vote on Tuesday would remove the Supreme Court’s ability to strike down decisions by nationally elected officials because they are “unreasonable.” That power was last used to invalidate the cabinet appointment of Aryeh Deri, a leading haredi Orthodox politician and key Netanyahu ally, because he had been repeatedly convicted of crimes.

Before Netanyahu paused the overhaul effort in March, his government advanced several other pieces of the overhaul in initial votes, including measures that would have given the governing coalition full control of Supreme Court appointments; removed its power to strike down quasi-constitutional laws; and enabled the Knesset to preemptively shield laws from judicial review. None of those measures have yet to advance further.

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UBC student union has voted against posing a referendum question about whether Hillel House should be evicted from campus

The student union at the University of British Columbia rejected a referendum question on its upcoming election ballot that would have, among other things, called for the eviction of Hillel BC from its Vancouver campus. The Feb. 28 meeting of the Alma Mater Society (AMS/Student Union) lasted several hours and ultimately ended with a 23-to-2 […]

The post UBC student union has voted against posing a referendum question about whether Hillel House should be evicted from campus appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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‘Antisemitism Has No Place in Society,’ Says Prince William, Heir to British Throne

William, Prince of Wales, meeting with Jewish community representatives at London’s Western Marble Arch Synagogue. Photo: Reuters/Toby Melville

The heir to the throne of the United Kingdom spoke of his concern at the rise in antisemitism since the Hamas pogrom of Oct. 7 in southern Israel during a visit to a synagogue in London on Wednesday.

William, Prince of Wales, told Jewish students and representatives of the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET) that he and his wife, Princess Catherine, were “extremely concerned about the rise in antisemitism.”

Wearing a navy blue kippa for the encounter at the Western Marble Arch Synagogue, the future king “heard how organizations like the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET) are delivering programs to tackle hatred and encourage cross-community cohesion,” the London-based Jewish Chronicle reported.

In a conversation with three Jewish students and three HET ambassadors, the prince condemned the antisemitism that the students described experiencing on campus. “Prejudice has no place in society,” he said.

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — I want you all to know you can talk about it and your experiences,” he continued.“Both Catherine and I are extremely concerned about the rise in antisemitism that you guys have talked about this morning and I’m just so sorry if any of you have had to experience that. It has no place… that’s why I’m here today to reassure you all that people do care and people do listen and we can’t let that go.”

The UK experienced a record year in 2023 for antisemitic outrages, with over 4,100 incidents recorded mainly in the period after the Hamas pogrom, according to a recent report from the Community Security Trust (CST), a voluntary organization serving the Jewish community. Speaking at the CST’s annual dinner on Wednesday night, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak condemned the upsurge, pledging an extra $68 million in funding to combat the continuing spread of antisemitism.

Edward Isaacs, president of the Union of Jewish Students, told Prince William that antisemitism had transformed the experiences of Jews studying at Britain’s universities. “If you haven’t been a victim, you know someone who has been,” Isaacs said. “It has created a fear like never before.”

The prince also met with Renee Salt, a 94-year-old survivor of the Holocaust, in the synagogue’s main sanctuary. An inmate of both the Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps, Salt told William of her fear that “some of the young people don’t even believe it [the Holocaust] ever happened. It is very bad.”

Clasping her hand, the prince responded, “It will get better.”

Emma Levy, a Jewish student who attended the meeting, praised the prince for his stance. “You could really tell that he cared when he was speaking to us,” she said. “The prince’s unequivocal condemnation of antisemitism is what we need more people to do.”

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IDF Opens New Mental Health Center for Soldiers Leaving Gaza

The Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The IDF opened a new mental health center on Thursday which is aimed towards treating soldiers leaving Gaza. The center is opening due to the growing risks the IDF said it sees in the soldiers potentially falling victim to PTSD from their experiences in battle.

“The Iron Swords War presented significant challenges to the mental health system in the IDF both in terms of quality and scope. The establishment of the Center for Mental Health Services expresses more than anything the commitment of the IDF to take care of its servicemen as well as to provide answers to the challenges we are already facing as well as emerging challenges. As part of the establishment of the center, new answers are being discovered and established that are adapted to the special needs of the various populations serving in the IDF,” said Col. Dr. Jacob Rothschild, who heard the new center.

The army has said that since the war’s outbreak, more than 30,000 soldiers have met with mental health representatives. According to them, roughly 85% of soldiers that met with the professionals returned to full service. Unfortunately, 202 fighters were forced to be released from duty, in almost every case due to horrid scenes they witnessed in the aftermath of the October 7 massacre. This includes an additional 1,700 that were referred for additional scanning and treatment.

On the day of the massacre, Hamas terrorists rampaged southern Israel, brutally killing more than 1,200 Israelis and taking hostage over 250. First responder reports depicted scenes such as decapitations and mutilations of bodies by the terrorists.

The new center, situated at the Tel HaShomer base, is staffed by some of the top psychologists in the country, the IDF said, and will include a immediate combat reaction wing and post-trauma department. It replaces the temporary facility that was set up in a WeWork office in Tel Aviv.

While 30,000 soldiers have met with mental health professionals since the war began, the IDF says they were “pleasantly surprised” that an overwhelming majority of soldiers ended up returned to service.

Lt. Col. Prof. Elon Glazberg, the Chief Medical Officer of the IDF Medical Corps, said in a statement about the opening “From the first moment of the war, mental health was present in the torture from the field to the home front. In light of the great importance of the issue, we chose it as one of the main axes of focus these days – and we are now working to expand it.”

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