Protesters gathered in the Nazareth on Wednesday, January 13, to demonstrate against the arrival of racist Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who was visiting the Arab city. “Bibi, get out! Get out! Go home!” the demonstrators chanted. The protesters were a mix of hundreds local Nazareth residents, among them members of Hadash and Communist Party of Israel as well anti-Netanyahu activists affiliated with The Black Flag protest movement, which seeks the premier’s resignation.
Hadash MK Ayman Odeh, chairman of the Joint List parliamentary alliance, blasted the prime minister’s visit to Nazareth, accusing him of “driving a wedge in the Arab community.” “To escape his trial, Netanyahu is now heading to Nazareth to try and divide the Arab community with the ‘good Arabs’ on one side and the ‘bad Arabs’ on the other,” he said. “It wouldn’t have been so pitiful if he had not brought along such a large number of police officers… If your attempts at reconciliation with the Arab community look like this, you better stay at home,” Odeh advised.
Al-Ittihad reported that police forcefully cleared demonstrators from outside the health clinic which the prime minister was visiting, arresting 22 of them. Videos from the scene show riot police dragging away demonstrators, including MKs, to behind a barricade, even though members of the Knesset are granted immunity from such handling. Joint List MK Sondos Saleh was taken to a hospital after being dragged away from the scene, with injuries in her hand and back. Saleh was not the only MK removed from the protest. Fellow Joint List MKs Heba Yazbak, Mtanes Shehadeh and Aida Touma-Sliman had their immunity violated by police. In addition, Haaretz photographer Rami Shlush was attacked by police ahead of the visit
Hadash MK Touma-Sliman tweeted, “Netanyahu, the greatest of inciters against the Arab community, the man who failed to manage the coronavirus crisis, has now shown up to Nazareth to gather Arab votes.” MK Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint List, tweeted, “The only way to ensure the interests of the Arab community is a unified voice of Arab citizens and its Jewish partners who are fighting with honor and dignity for its interests — peace, equality, democracy, and social justice.”
Members of three of the Joint List’s four factions — Hadash, Ta’al and Balad — attended the protest. However, no parliamentarians from Mansour Abbas’s renegade Ra’am faction from the Islamic Movement turned out to demonstrate. Abbas’s recent talks with Netanyahu have resulted in serious problems of presenting a united list towards the March 23 general elections.
During the rare visit to Nazareth, Netanyahu said a 2015 video broadcast in which he urged Likud voters to go vote because “the Arabs are voting in droves” had been twisted by his political opponents. “They twisted my words,” said Netanyahu, claiming, “My intention was not to protest against the fact of Arab citizens voting in elections,” but rather “to protest against their voting for the Joint List.” Hadash lawmakers were quick to criticize Netanyahu’s remarks. “The prime minister must think the Arab community has a “short memory,” said MK Odeh. The premier visited the city as part of a campaign to pursue support among Arab citizens ahead of the March elections, in a stark about-face from his party’s previous unsubstantiated warnings of electoral fraud in Arab communities and repeated racist attacks on Arab-Palestinian national minority in Israel and Joint List lawmakers. Joint List MK Ofer Cassif (Hadash), in a tweet, called Netanyahu “the lead inciter against the Arab population. The words out of his mouth have led to hate and spilled blood.” “The goal of today’s visit in Nazareth wasn’t to gather votes, it was to create a chasm in the Arab society, thereby weakening its political power,” Cassif added.
11 Anti-Netanyahu Protestors Arrested in Jerusalem
Early Wednesday morning, at least eleven people were arrested outside Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem to protest the delay of a hearing in his corruption trial purportedly because of the national coronavirus lockdown. The session, initially scheduled for Wednesday, would have seen Netanyahu attend the courthouse in person.
The Crime Minister anti-Netanyahu protest group, which organized the rally, noted in a statement that many other court hearings are continuing despite the ongoing lockdown and that the courtroom allocated for Netanyahu’s trial has been renovated and upgraded to enable the prime minister’s hearings to continue even with the restrictions. “We arrived this morning to remind the defendant that he cannot continue to destroy the country and evade trial,” organizers said in a statement. “If he does not come to court to hear the charges against him, the charges will come to him.” The group said that many people had participated in the rally despite “the ongoing incitement of the accused and his people towards the demonstrators, which culminated last weekend with the false publicity regarding the attempted storming of the residence.”