Hundreds of thousands of Israelis participated in nationwide demonstrations held for the 11th straight Saturday evening against the far-right government. Protest organizers vowed to escalate demonstrations if the fascist-clerical coalition doesn’t halt its legislative proposals, which lawmakers are due to advance next week, declaring this coming Thursday a “National Day of Paralysis.” “Next week Israel’s government intends to pass the dictatorship and religious coercion laws,” protest organizers said in a statement Saturday.
Over 260,000 people demonstrated across the country, including 175,000 in Tel Aviv, 20,000 in Haifa, 4,000 in Netanya, 11,500 in Herzliya, 18,000 in Kfar Saba, and 6,000 in Beersheba, according to a count by the company Crowd Solutions cited by Channel 13 news. Approximately 10,000 protesters rallied outside the President’s Residence in Jerusalem.
“Democracy for all”, MK Ayman Odeh) at the rally in Tel-Aviv, Saturday evening, March 18, 2023 (Photo: Zo Haderech)
“Here, at the protest against the judicial coup, we must not forget the dictatorship that this [Israeli] regime is already operating. The dictatorship that is characteristic to our country and that enables this judicial coup. We must not forget the occupation,” Yuval Dag, 20, said at Tel Aviv’s Anti-Occupation Bloc demonstration on Saturday, two days before he is expected to announce his refusal to serve in the Israeli army. Thousands of Anti-Occupation Bloc activists, among them Hadash and Communist Party of Israel members, rallied on Saturday night in seven cities: Tel-Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, Herzliya, Beer Sheva, Kfar Saba and Pardes Hanna–Karkur.
Saturday night’s weekly mass protests against the far-right government saw a notable escalation in fascist violence and verbal abuse against demonstrators by counter-protesters, with far-right government supporters ramming, beating, cursing, mobbing and assaulting critics of the coalition’s judicial overhaul plan. The attacks led leaders of the opposition and protest organizers to point the finger at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who they said was fueling the hatred among his supporters and failing to clearly condemn violence directed at demonstrators.
Several right-wing activists, some of them masked, were seen physically confronting protesters in Tel Aviv. Young activists with the racist Lehava organization waved flags of the anti-Arab Kach movement founded by Meir Kahane and designated in Israel as a terrorist organization. One of the protesters cried “We will slaughter you.” They up signs reading “leftists are traitors.” The fascists shouted that Hadash-Ta’al MK “Ahmad Tibi is dead,” “Leftist traitor” and “The nation chose judicial reform.” Well-known Likud agitator Rami Ben Yehuda, who is friendly with many Likud MKs and a frequent guest at party events, was filmed shouting at women in Tel Aviv dressed in the now ubiquitous handmaid costumes, that they were “Hitler’s contemptible handmaids.” He also called them “Red Bolsheviks, despicable and damned, dancers of Islamic terror.”
As hundreds of anti-overhaul demonstrators rallied for the first time in the northern city of Or Akiva, a mostly right-wing community, supporters of Likud hurled eggs at the demonstrators. Police said officers detained three people at the scene for throwing eggs. Police also said they detained a 57-year-old man who allegedly rammed his car into a group of protesters in Herzliya, lightly injuring one protester. The demonstrator was taken to the Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba for treatment. Police also said officers detained a 24-year-old man for driving a motorcycle into a group of protesters in the Tel Aviv suburb of Givatayim. He was suspected of assaulting and threatening the demonstrators.
A masked man shot a firework at protesters in the central Israeli town of Kiryat Ono on Saturday, demonstrators say. A protester in Kiryat Ono told Haaretz that the firework exploded in the air before it reached the crowd. “There were a couple of thousands of people there, crowded. The man’s face was covered,” he said, adding that police officers were slow to respond. When the man saw them, he escaped, according to him.
On Friday, MK Tibi told Yediot Aharonot journalist Nahum Barnea that he admires the hundreds of thousands of protesters who are demonstrating against the judicial reform. “I have great respect for the protesters,” Tibi said. “I admire their perseverance. They are the only opposition today.” Tibi promised that, like Hadash MKs Ayman Odeh, Aida Touma-Sliman and Ofer Cassif, he too will join the demonstrators in the streets, and explained why the Arab public is not joining the protest. “The agenda of the demonstrations is focused on the judicial system,” he said. “The Arab public has no love neither for the judicial system as a whole nor for the Supreme Court. A study conducted at the University of Haifa proved that sentences against Arabs are 30 percent more severe than sentences against Jews, for the same crimes. The Supreme Court approved the settlements, the expropriations, the Nationality Law, the Admissions Committee Law, the Kaminitz Law. Arabs who submitted petitions were thrown out the door.”
Despite his words, Tibi called on the Arabs to participate in the demonstrations, saying, “I know that if the legislation passes, the Arabs will be harmed.”