Protesters rallied Saturday evening, August 15, at a number of sites across Israel as part of ongoing demonstrations against far-right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his indictment on graft charges and his catastrophic handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
The main protest was held outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, which has been the center of the demonstrations against the premier during the last eight weeks. Demonstrators’ reports put turnout throughout the country in the tens of thousands and estimated the crowd size in Jerusalem alone at 17,000 protesters. Among those who took part in the rallies were activists from Hadash, the Communist Party of Israel (CPI) and members of the Young Communists League.
“While the prime minister is busy organizing flights for himself to Abu Dhabi, the people of Israel are collapsing from his failure to manage the economic-health crisis,” the Black Flag protests emphasized in a press release issued on Saturday afternoon. “Not flights to the Gulf, but jobs in Israel! This is what we demand!” “Fly Emirates and never come back,” read one sign at the Saturday night rally in Jerusalem. “If there’s no bread, fly to Dubai,” said another.
“I am here to bolster the people that come out and say: ‘No to Netanyahu!’” a leading CPI member, Hadash MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List), told journalists. “The deal with the UAE underpins a dangerous alliance between three forces that want to eliminate the chances for real peace in the region: US imperialism, Israeli expansionism and the Arab reactionary regimes. It is a deal aimed at salvaging the political future of two catastrophic leaders. This deal will not advance peace but legitimize the occupation. The only solution is one aimed at ending the Israeli occupation and establishing an independent Palestinian state,” said Touma-Sliman.
Another leading CPI member, Hadash MK Ofer Cassif (Joint List) also participated in the Jerusalem rally, “There is no doubt that the courage of these people who fight against the far-right government is going to bring about peace; but that peace can only be achieved via the Palestinians.” Demonstrators at a protest Friday afternoon outside the Prime Minister’s official residence in Jerusalem said they would not let news of the historic deal with the UAE distract them from Netanyahu’s failures.
The streets in central Jerusalem on Saturday night were packed full for blocks, with police tape drawn to keep vehicles at a noticeably further distance than in previous demonstrations. Signs were held aloft demanding “Revolution” and “Bibi go home.” Others declared: “We the people demand democracy, we the people demand equality,” “Instead of giving to the poor, they give to the rich, and what a government of corrupt politicians!” and “Bibi, you united the people against you.” Children also marched among the crowd, crying out: “Bibi, go home, pee-pee and to bed!” A group of medical doctors in their scrubs held signs reading, “Fight coronavirus during the day, and fight corruption at night.” Meanwhile, projectors displayed the names of the different cases for which Netanyahu has been indicted and is standing trial, along with one slogan flashing above them all: “Democracy for all.”
Eleven demonstrators were arrested in Jerusalem, including two CPI activists. Most of the arrests came as some of the protesters sought to march towards Agron and King George Streets, which police declared was “illegal.” Others were arrested when they refused to leave Paris Square.