Thousands of left-wing activists rallied Wednesday night in Tel Aviv and other cities against the proposed establishment of a new National Guard that would answer to racist National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir. Similar rallies were also held in Jerusalem, Haifa, Beersheba, Rehovot and Holon.
The protests were held as Ben Gvir unveiled plans for the formation of the 2,000-member force and amid ongoing protests against the government’s overhaul of the judicial system, put on pause since Sunday.
Protesters blocking Kaplan street in Central Tel-Aviv during the protest against the “National Guard”, March 29, 2023 (Photo: Zo Haderech)
A number of central roads in Tel Aviv were temporarily closed off due to the protest, which was held under the banner, “No to Ben Gvir’s militia.” Palestinian and red flags sprinkled among the Israeli flags that predominated the event. Protesters also carried signs with slogans such as “there is no democracy with occupation” and posters denouncing Ben Gvir.
Addressing the protest, the head of the Hadash-Ta’al parliamentary faction likened the National Guard to “the brown shirts” of the Nazi paramilitary, “or the yellow shirts,” MK Ayman Odeh said in reference to the color included in the logo of several Israeli nationalist groups, including the Jewish supremacist Kach movement that Ben Gvir was active in as a teen. Kach was founded by the late extremist Rabbi Meir Kahane, who Ben Gvir and other members of his Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) party have described themselves as disciples of. “We won’t allow you to form fascist militias in the service of Kahanism,” Odeh said at the protest.
Among the participants of the rally in Tel-Aviv. MK Ofer Cassif (Hadash-Ta’al), is particularly worried about Ben-Gvir’s national guard. “The ‘National Guard’ is a sugar-coated term for Kahanist militia, an updated Stormtroopers intended to target Arab citizens, leftists and all kinds of dissidents. Resembling Oswald Mosley’s Stewards, such a group is doomed to be eliminated. And we shall do everything to achieve that,” Cassif told Jewish News, referring to the paramilitary wing of the British Union of Fascists.
Ben Gvir revealed the details of his proposal for the National Guard on Wednesday, which will be submitted for government approval at the weekly cabinet meeting on next Sunday. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu green-lit Ben Gvir’s proposal for the National Guard on Monday night. The move was widely seen as coming in exchange for Ben Gvir backing down from his threat to quit the coalition after Netanyahu announced a pause on contentious judicial overhaul legislation. “Based on the text of a resolution to be considered by the cabinet, the National Guard will be tasked with tackling “nationalist crime, terrorism and “restoring governance where needed.”