Tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets across Israel on Saturday evening, July 25, in protests largely demanding the resignation of far-right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his indictments on graft charges, as well as castigating his neoliberal government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. This was the latest in a series of rallies that have ratcheted pressure on Netanyahu and his governing coalition.
The demonstrations took place in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Caesarea and at major intersections, highway overpasses and other locations around the country, in what appeared to be the largest manifestation yet of a growing protest movement seeking Netanyahu’s ouster and the redressing of a laundry list of other ills wracking the country.
Police broke up a several thousand-strong anti-government protest in front of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem in the early hours of Sunday morning, evacuating hundreds of protesters by truck.
A police spokesperson said around 5,000 protestors took part in the demonstration which began at around 8 pm and continued long past its official ending time of 11 pm. Joint List MKs Ayman Odeh and Ofer Cassif joined the demonstration in front of the Prime Minister’s residence together with numerous Hadash, Communist Party of Israel and young Communist activists. “Corona is less dangerous than the tyranny of Bibi-ism,” Cassif told reporters.
“Bibi, go home!” the demonstrators cried while brandishing an assortment of signs calling Netanyahu corrupt, stating that he “doesn’t have the public’s mandate” and crying out against the economic situation, with one poster saying that the average citizen is poor. Protesters roundly denounced “government rule by capitalists.”
Around 1 am, police officers began forcibly evacuating protestors, dragging them off the street one by one and eventually deploying two water cannon against the remaining group that refused to leave. Police reported that 12 persons had been detained or arrested for “various offenses included disturbing public order or attacking other protesters.”
In several other incidents Saturday night, activists taking part in demonstrations against Netanyahu were attacked In the Sha’ar Hanegev region bordering the Gaza Strip, one demonstrator was stabbed when a group of pro-Netanyahu ruffians assaulted protestors rallying against Netanyahu on a highway overpass. In the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan, a man and his son who were protesting near the Aluf Sade Junction were pepper sprayed by a passing driver who slowed down to mace them. In Jerusalem, protesters leaving the rally against Netanyahu outside his official residence reported being harassed or attacked on nearby Lincoln Street by members of “La Familia,” a fascist, pro-Netanyahu group. One member of the group was reportedly detained by police.
Netanyahu, who has vowed to remain in office and has described the protesters as “anarchists” and “left-wing extremists,” lashed out Saturday at Israel’s leading television news for covering the growing demonstrations against him, accusing it of working “to fuel” the protests. He claimed that almost the entire network’s programming “has been mobilized for unrestrained Bolshevik propaganda against the prime minister.”
On Thursday night and early Friday morning, 55 persons sustained various injuries as police deployed multiple water cannon against protesters who were calling for the resignation of Netanyahu outside the PM’s official residence in Jerusalem. Similar anti-Netanyahu demonstrations, which organizers have dubbed the “Siege of Balfour [Street],” took place near his official residence several nights last week.
The Thursday night protest on Balfour Street drew a wide array of demonstrators, from hippy types distributing flowers, to a self-proclaimed Likud voter who opposes Netanyahu, to Hadash activists calling for an end to Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank. However, a single idea appears to unite all protesters who were in Paris Square that night: the current government must not remain in power. On that night too, officers sprayed protesters with high-pressure water cannon in a bid to clear the streets after midnight. Some protesters who were peacefully dispersing were hit in the back by the water cannon, and said police had left them with no avenue of escape.