Anti-Netanyahu Protesters Say They Were Violently Attacked by Right-wing Activists

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The protest in front of the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem, July 23, 2020.
The protest in front of the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem, July 23, 2020.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Six participants in a protest near Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence on Thursday have said they were violently assaulted by right-wing activists following the demonstration, with five identifying attackers as members of the so-called La Familia, an extremist organization of fans of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team. Police said they arrested several people on suspicion of committing assault, but that all were released with conditions without being brought before a judge.

Some 4,000 people protested in Jerusalem on Thursday, calling on Netanyahu to resign over his corruption charges, handling of the coronavirus crisis and allegedly anti-democratic measures.

A counter-protest by Netanyahu supporters drew some 200 Likud activists nearby, joined by a few dozen La Familia members. When the right-wing protest dispersed, the La Familia members allegedly split up into a number of groups and began wandering the nearby streets and looking for the left-wing protesters. In at least five cases, according to protesters’ allegations, they physically attacked demonstrators, and in many other cases cursed and insulted activists – focusing mostly on women. They also sang songs denouncing former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated by a right-wing extremist in 1995.

In one alleged incident, protester Gal Gutterman, a 30-year-old resident of Jerusalem, was cut when right-wing activists threw a wine bottle and glasses at him. “I left the protest and went to meet some friends who were celebrating a birthday at a bar,” he said. He was carrying a protest sign with him at the bar, he said, “and then 10-15 La Familia guys arrived and started to take wine bottles from the tables and throwing them at me. Someone started hitting me with an Israeli flag. It’s a good thing there were guards who work at the Magistrate’s Court were there and separated us – I don’t know what would have happened without them.”

Orian Veiga, a 30-year-old from the kibbutz of Yakum, said he became caught between two different groups of right-wing activists during the protest. “I was surrounded,” he said. “I tried to run away. They tore my shirt. I fought them as much as I could. There were 20 of them and at some point I realized I had no chance of fighting them all, and lay on the ground with my head between my hands. I tried to think how I was going to get out of it while I was being kicked in the head and legs. Suddenly an older man whose name I don’t know lay on top of me and shouted, ‘Are you crazy? Are you Jews? You’re going to kill him.’ Then a policeman arrived and took details from me and I decided I’d had enough of the experience and took my things and got up.”

A freelance photographer who accompanied one of the groups of right-wing activists said many of them were teenagers. “They walked around and looked for victims to take their rage out on,” the photographer said. “I saw a very large amount of verbal assault, including all kinds of words that can be used to degrade women. The police arrested one of them near me, but the point is that even after the arrest, nothing changed. The police didn’t keep threatening arrests and [protesters] continued to shout and curse.”

A protester who asked to be identified only by the initial A. said that she and her boyfriend were leaving the protest at around 11:15 P.M. when they suddenly encountered "about 20 Beitar fans who cursed and attacked everyone returning from the protest, said things like 'you whore for Arabs.' Terrifying. Suddenly they noticed us and started following us, spitting and threatening. One of them tried to take my phone away. My partner held him back. They kicked the car that was next to us to threaten us. Suddenly we saw another couple and ran toward them. We took advantage of the opportunity and went into a building nearby until they disappeared."

Another protester said that while she could not say with certainty that her attackers were members of La Familia, a group of over 10 men cursed at her and her friends and grabbed a sign she was holding and that there was “a violent atmosphere.”

Yet another protester, Achiya Schatz, also reported that he was attacked by La Familia members near the protest. “There were four people from La Familia there who shouted, ‘too bad Hitler didn’t finish the job’ and ‘you don’t deserve Bibi – you deserve Hitler’,” Schatz said. “Then a larger group arrived and I started photographing them. I was a good several meters away from them, but one of them came from the side and approached me, threw the phone from my hand, [and] shoved me. I ran toward the phone and managed to pick up the phone while they were hitting me and kicking me. I managed to get out. I went to some policemen, showed them who attacked me and went, accompanied by five policeman, to get my glasses, which fell in the middle [of the incident], and then the policemen asked me to leave.”

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