Despite the numerous instances in which people demonstrating against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have been assaulted, only seven indictments have been filed in the eight months since the protests began, Haaretz has learned.
After a few weeks of relative calm, demonstrators reported a spike in attacks over the weekend. Four suspects were detained and later released subject to restrictions.
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Several alleged assaults took place during Saturday night's weekly anti-Netanyahu protests across Israel. In Nahariya, a man was detained after cursing at demonstrators, hurling drink cans at them, grabbing signs and trying to hit a demonstrator who was filming him.
In Pardes Hannah, a bottle was thrown at demonstrators from a passing car, and in Ra’anana a man rolled down the window of his car and threw a can at protesters.
In Netanya, demonstrators reported stones being thrown at them. At the Sa’ad junction in the south, a glass bottle was thrown at demonstrators and not far from there, at the Dvira Bridge, a car window was smashed.
In Kiryat Ono a woman threatened demonstrators with a toy gun. The demonstrators took pictures of the car she was in, which led to her subsequent arrest along with the driver. During questioning they said it was a prank, and were released subject to restrictions.
“People are starting to panic,” said Avi Shmueli, one of the demonstrators. “The feeling is that as the elections get closer, the violence is increasing.”
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In Rishon Letzion a man assaulted a demonstrator and then filed a police complaint, claiming the demonstrator assaulted him. Both of them were detained by police.
“The threats are intensifying from week to week, but we're disciplined, and don't react,” said the demonstrator, Itzik Cohen, 59. “We were standing there protesting peacefully. Suddenly three people arrived. One of them pushed me down and broke my bicycle horn. He took my flag stick and broke it over my back, and then started to threaten me.”
Cohen then tried to photograph the man who attacked him and the latter responded violently. “He jumped on me, threw me to the ground, grabbed my cell phone and ran to the parking lot hundreds of meters away,” he said. “I was asked to go to the police to file a complaint. I got to the station and one of the police officers said, ‘There’s a complaint against you, too.’ I was shocked. They said, ‘From now you’re detained, and that's final.’
“They took my fingerprints and opened a case,” Cohen said. “They questioned me as if I had hit him. It’s absurd. I’m 59 and he’s in his late 20s, a thug who came at me by surprise, and they opened a case on me. The writing is on the wall. Every day it gets worse. You understand that there’s hatred and incitement and that only one person is leading it. These people are incited.”
Another violent incident took place at Orda Square in Ramat Gan, witnesses said. “While we were getting ready for the demonstration, two guys on electric bikes came to the square. At first, they observed us from the side, but then they started to yell at us and call us names. They tried to interfere and provoke us," Yafit, who demonstrates there regularly, told Haaretz.
“At first we ignored them but then things got heated. Suddenly they climbed on our stage and tried to damage the sound equipment. We asked them not to touch it but they teased and cursed and made a lot of noise. If a few men hadn’t gotten up to stop them, they might have beaten an older man and a girl blowing a bicycle horn. We called the police three times, but it took them more than 20 minutes to get there.”
The Black Flag movement, who plays a central role in the demonstrations, released a statement saying it did not expect Netanyahu, "or anyone," to condemn the attacks.
"That’s the result of incitement, and that’s exactly what we’re protesting against,” the statement concluded.