Anti-Netanyahu protesters demonstrate as Israel locks down over COVID-19

DEMONSTRATORS PROTEST the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, in Tel Aviv on July 18. (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
DEMONSTRATORS PROTEST the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, in Tel Aviv on July 18.
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
As Israelis finished up with Rosh Hashanah festivities from lockdown, thousands of protesters headed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem to demonstrate against Netanyahu’s position in government after his indictment for fraud, bribery and breach of trust, as well as the government’s mishandling of the economy amid the coronavirus crisis.
At around 9 p.m., a driver of a private vehicle raced toward protesters in his car, almost ramming into them. He hit the breaks at the last moment and was arrested. Police have taken him in for investigation.

The protesters were separated into capsules per the new increased coronavirus restrictions in the country. Groups of protesters were pulled together. Police representatives, however, expressed concern that they would not be able to enforce the capsule rule and that the only real rule that they could enforce in such a crowd is the wearing of masks.
“Israel Police prepared fencing in Paris Square [by the Prime Minister’s Residence] to create separation and to allow demonstrators to protest in capsules in order to maintain their health,” Israel Police announced on Saturday evening.
Police announced that the regulations for protests state that from 9:30 p.m. noise using air horns, drums, and other forms of percussion and noise-making are prohibited. From 11 p.m. and on, the use of amplification devices such as speakers and megaphones are prohibited.
The protests were heavily criticized for being the only form of mass gathering permitted amid the current strict coronavirus regulations in the country.
Amir Haskel, one of the organizers of the protests and the face of the movements, said that the protests on Sunday night were “a test of our struggle” and to what extent protesters would be able to keep the required restrictions in such conditions.
Early arrivals to the protests used chalk to mark two meter distances throughout Paris Square and along Balfour Street to mark where protesters should stand in order to follow coronavirus restrictions.
All protesting organizations announced on Saturday that they would be keeping coronavirus restrictions and following all of the instructions of the Health Ministry.
“Demonstrations are the lifeblood of democracy,” Crime Minister, one of the protesting organizations, announced on Sunday morning. “We all have a fantastic record of keeping the protesters healthy every week and there is no sign of morbidity at the demonstrations. We hope the police, which has squished us like sardines until now, will help and move back and take back its blockades to allow us to spread out.”
A handful of Black Flags protests took place at bridges and junctions throughout the country. In addition, hundreds of protesters gathered in front of Netanyahu’s private residence in Caesarea.
The chairman of the Movement for the Quality of Government, Eliad Shraga, spoke at the Caesarea protest, addressing the recent passing of US supreme court judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who had passed away two days prior on the eve of Rosh Hashanah.
“Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away and we may learn from her what determination is, and the audience here is no less determined than she was,” Shraga said. “Even if you are the minority, you are still right, that we should believe in the righteousness of the way and that we need to continue and hold the torch of liberty.”
The Black Flags Movement – another anti-Netanyahu protesting organization – published a statement about the effective lockdown by Prof. Yoram Yuval, head of University of Haifa’s Brain Institute for Emotion Research at the School of Social work. He is a psychoanalyst, psychiatrist and neuro-researcher.
“Do not try us, Mr. Prime Minister,” he wrote. “All of us here – Jews and Arabs, haredim and secular people, Left and Right, and even your most dedicated supporters – we all stopped believing you.”
He concluded, “The terrible days are upon us, and there is no atonement for what we have done: the people’s trust in the leadership is a strategic asset of the State of Israel, perhaps its most valuable asset, and you have systematically destroyed it. The Israelis are not stupid or undisciplined – they just stopped believing in you.”
Protests until now have been held regularly around the weekend, with the biggest protests occurring on Saturday evenings, both along bridges and junctions throughout the country, but also outside of the prime minister’s official and personal residences. However, as this past Saturday was a holiday weekend, the 13th consecutive Saturday protest was postponed to Sunday evening.

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