With just three days before Israel’s fourth election in two years tomorrow, Tuesday, March 23, the weekly protests against far-right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continued last Saturday night, March 20, in city squares, at major intersections, and along highway overpasses throughout the country. The protests were organized under the slogans “Go vote,” “Replace the government,” and “Bring about change.”
In Jerusalem’s Paris Square, near the Prime Minister’s Official Residence, an estimated 50,000 persons took part, in the day’s central protest, making it the largest anti-Netanyahu demonstration since the weekly demonstrations began last June, after which they were to become a dominant feature in Israel’s political life. Despite dwindling turnout in recent weeks, protest organizers argued that the pressure they leveled against Netanyahu helped push Israel towards its fourth elections in two years, and urged the public to join the demonstrations.
Protestors made their way from the Knesset’s front steps to Balfour Street – adjacent to the Prime Minister’s Residence – to call out Netanyahu for “taking the Knesset hostage” and demanded that him step down in light of his indictments and trial for bribery, fraud and breach of trust. Among the demonstrators were activists from Hadash and the Communist Party of Israel brandishing red flags and Joint List banners.
“On Election Day we will be marking a year of protest,” Hadash MK Ofer Cassif (Joint List) told the crowd. “Today we call on Israeli society, Jews and Arabs – let’s make this Shabbat (Sabbath) the last Shabbat of the protest! We deserve a country which is different, without occupation and corruption, without discrimination and exploitation; with peace and social justice.”
Saturday afternoon, even before the mass protests began, one woman was rushed to a hospital emergency room after being attacked at an intersection in Herzliya. According to the Black Flag Movement, a pro-Netanyahu activist slammed her to the ground after verbally attacking her. Protesters at the Hemed Interchange west of Jerusalem also reported that Netanyahu supporters physically assaulted them.
Not only did Saturday’s protests take place at more than a thousand sites throughout Israel, but they also were held by Israelis at locations around the world, from Vancouver to Sydney, including calls to topple the Netanyahu regime in Berlin, Barcelona, Washington DC, Toronto, Torino, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco and the Silicon Valley, Cambridge, London, Rome, Chicago and other cities.