Thousands gathered on Saturday, February 20, throughout Israel for the 35th week in a row to protest corruption and the far-right government’s mismanaged response to the coronavirus epidemic; this less than two weeks after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared in court on February 8, to respond to charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three corruption cases.
Activists from the Black Flag protest movement reported being assaulted during Anti-Netanyahu protests held at three separate locations on Saturday evening, a little more than a month before Israel’s general election for the 24th Knesset, the fourth in two years.
Yair Kedan, a Black Flag activist who was assaulted on Route 77 in the north of the country, described the scene there, saying, “I’m 70 years old and I have seen many things in my life, but today I found myself confronting a Netanyahu supporter who tore up our signs. He forcibly grabbed my phone and threatened me, saying, ‘Don’t mess with me. I recognize your car and I know where you live.'” Kedan continued: “I chased him with my camera to photograph him, and he started cycling back in my direction and struck me causing me to drop my camera. It’s all recorded on video… They will not intimidate us. We’re protesting on this overpass so our country will look different.”
At the Rupin Junction along Route 4 connecting Tel Aviv and Haifa, protesters were verbally threatened by a helmeted motorcyclist. Raz Hassid from Kfar Monash, who organized the protest there said, “We were standing at the junction and some big guy on a motorcycle got off and threatened us one by one with gestures implying he would beat us up.”
In the third incident reported by the Black Flag movement, a female activist who approached cars in a traffic jam near Jerusalem had trash and water tossed at her.
Following Netanyahu’s appearance in court on February 8 he made a statement saying: “Citizens of Israel, what is standing trial today is the attempt to foil the will of the people, the attempt to topple me and the right wind.” Such verbal jujitsu is just one of Netanyahu’s methods of inciting his base against protesters with violence like that witnessed last Saturday, and increasingly as the March 23 election approaches.