Activists invade offices of think tank behind judicial overhaul

Activists opposed to the government’s judicial reform on Sunday invaded the Jerusalem offices of the Kohelet Policy Forum, a think tank that played a central role in the formulation of the controversial legislation.

Protesters from a women’s activist group called “Breaking Walls” entered Kohelet’s offices with signs reading, “There is no God for racists” and “Kohelet hates the poor.”

The activists said the conservative think tank is “advancing an agenda that hurts the rights of women, the LGBTQ community, public housing and welfare.”

“People are living in poverty because of you and your policies,” the protesters told Kohelet’s employees, who told them to leave the office.

“You have to deal with the consequences of what you’re doing,” the activists said.

The protesters came to Kohelet’s offices with a bouquet of flowers, saying they were making a delivery to the organization’s management. When a security guard opened the door the activists burst into the office and remained there until the police took them out. Some of the protesters were taken in for questioning.

“Some violent protesters broke into our offices, cursed us, pushed us, waved signs and put up stickers,” Meir Rubin, executive director of Kohelet, told Channel 12.

Kohelet researchers played a central role in the development of many of the government’s policies regarding the judiciary, and Justice Minister Yariv Levin mentioned Dr. Aviad Bakshi, head of the institution’s law department, as one of the students he consulted while drafting the extensive proposals. .

Critics have pointed to the group’s murky funding sources, noting the profound influence dark money has had on Israeli public policy. American billionaires and other US groups provided substantial funding to Kohelet.

The organization has become a target of the anti-reform movement. Protest group Brothers in Arms blocked Kohelet’s Jerusalem offices with sandbags and barbed wire last month, and anti-reform demonstrators have targeted appearances by the group’s leadership in the United States in recent weeks.

The entrance to the offices of the Kohelet Forum, the conservative think tank heavily involved in the judicial overhaul, blocked by protesters, March 9, 2023. (Israel Police)

Kohelet’s own leadership came out against certain parts of the reform. The leader of the group, Professor Moshe Koppel, has said that the organization has advised lawmakers to abandon their pursuit of a law that would allow the Knesset to override a High Court decision to strike down the legislation.

In February, Koppel published an article in the Makor Rishon newspaper saying that it would be “beneficial” to give up the override clause in exchange for broad support for other parts of the legal reform given the “implicit concern that it would be exploited, and the risk that it would contribute to growing tensions between the branches of government.”

He also told students that the override clause was a “stupid idea,” given the “understandable concern that it would be taken advantage of.”

Last month, Kohelet published a statement asking the government to compromise on the overhaul and consider throwing out the override clause.

While it may not be pushing for the breach, the Kohelet Policy Forum is working on a bill to put key Supreme Court appointments, including its presidency, directly under coalition control.

Supporters of reform and coalition negotiators have drawn a line in the sand on that bill, saying it will politicize the court, remove key checks on government power and seriously damage Israel’s democratic character.

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