Thousands Rally Against Occupation in Tel-Aviv, Protests Against Govt Continued for the 22nd Week

Thousands of Israelis gathered Saturday evening against occupation of the Palestinian territories and to protest fascist plans by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government.

The rally was held under the initiative of Hadash (The Democratic Front for Peace and Equality) and the Communist Party of Israel and sponsored by a large number of peace and human rights organizations, among them: Combatants for Peace, Yesh Gvul, Mesarvot, Peace Now, Standing Together, Physicians for Human Rights, Gisha, The Public Committee against Torture, Amnesty Israel, Yesh Din, Rabbis for Human Rights, Social Workers for Peace, Academy for Equality, Ir Amim, Bimkom – Planners for Human Rights, Women in Black, Machsom Watch and Breaking the Silence.

Thousands of Israelis gathered Saturday against occupation of the Palestinian territories, June 3, 2023 (Photo: Zo Haderech)

During march from Dizengoff Square to Kaplan Street by the “anti-occupation bloc” of protesters, Jews and Arab protesters waved red and Palestinian flags and put the focus on Israel’s decades-old colonial rule over the Palestinian territories, claiming the issue should be an integral part of the anti-overhaul protests. “The final goal of the regime coup is annexing the occupied territories,” said Amjad Shbita, the Secretary General of Hadash, during the meeting held at Dizengoff Square. “It is impossible to separate the struggles and fight for democracy in Israel without fighting for ending the military rule over the millions of Palestinians who live in the territories, which has been ongoing for 56 years.”

Latterly protests against the Netanyahu-led government’s continued across the country for the 22nd week on Saturday night, fueled by a string of arrests and police violence at a protest outside of Netanyahu’s private home on Friday night.

Hebrew media outlets estimated that between 95,000 and 140,000 people attended the main rally on Kaplan Street in Tel Aviv, alongside thousands of others in some 150 locations around the country, kicking off the 22nd week of regular protests against the now-paused government plan. After the scheduled speeches were over, hundreds headed to the Ayalon Highway and blocked the city’s main thoroughfare in both directions, with some lighting torches on the road.

At least 17 people were arrested and several injured during a protest on Friday night outside the residence of Netanyahu in the affluent coastal town of Caesarea and the subsequent demonstrations outside the police stations in Hadera and Umm el-Fahm. Addressing thousands in Karkur in the north, Uri Baran, the father of young Caesarea protester Gidi Baran who was arrested Friday night and later hospitalized due to injuries, told the crowd: “I’m here to convey a simple message on behalf of Gidi, me and everyone who believes in the values of liberty, justice and equality: We’re not afraid. We will keep physically blocking the attempts of the destructive government to commit a regime coup.”

Again, several hundred protesters rallied near Netanyahu’s Caesarea home on Saturday evening, chanting “The police officers are a disgrace” and “We won’t give up.”. A large number of officers were present, including horse-mounted officers, but cops didn’t intervene when the protesters blocked the road. In addition, tens of thousands protested in Haifa, led by a youth group in an attempt to involve the younger generation in the weekly demonstrations. Thousands more rallied near the official residence of President Isaac Herzog’s residence in Jerusalem, as well as in many more locations.

Demonstrations against the far-right government have followed lawmakers overseas, with a focus this week on New York where several ministers and coalition MKs were in town for the annual Celebrate Israel Parade on Sunday.

Anti-government demonstrators filed a harassment complaint against Religious Zionism MK Simcha Rothman early Saturday after he forcefully grabbed a megaphone away from one of the protesters while visiting New York. Dozens even rallied at the same time in New York, outside a conference attended by Diaspora Minister Amichai Chikli and during visit held by Science Minister Ofir Akunis.