Homeless Man First to Be Jailed for Assaulting anti-Netanyahu Protesters

The intoxicated assailant, who has a history of psychiatric problems, hurled stones at protesters before assaulting and threatening police officers, but denies any ideological motivation

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A protest at Maxim Junction, Haifa, in September 2020.
A protest at Maxim Junction, Haifa, in September 2020. Credit: Rami Shllush

A homeless man with a background of mental health difficulties became the first Israeli to be sentenced to jail for assaulting protesters against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He was given an eight-month prison term for throwing stones and assaulting police.

Dennis Putodinsky's assaults took place at the beginning of August in Haifa at the Maxim junction with the coastal highway, but he denied any ideological motive in court. The sentence will be suspended by four months.

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After a steep incline in attacks against anti-Netanyahu demonstraters, Putodinsky's case represents the first jail sentence. Thus far, Haaretz has counted four cases of indictments being brought against suspects in attacks on protesters. In two of these cases there was a suspected ideological background. One protester has also been charged with assaulting a supporter of Netanyahu.

Judge Orit Kantor of Haifa Magistrates Court asked the defendant whether he threw stones at the protesters because he didn’t agree with their opinions. He replied: “No, I was under the influence of alcohol.”

She pressed on asking him why then did he make disparaging remarks against a female police officer of Ethiopian origin. “You couldn’t touch any white people and now you can,” the judge quoted Putodinsky as telling the police woman. He replied again that he had been under the influence.

The indictment said a woman was rushed by ambulance to hospital after she was struck by a stone, and that when an officer told him he would be under arrest, he swore at the officer of Ethiopian background and pushed another officer who handcuffed him. Putodinsky had confessed to the crimes, which included assault of an officer and threatening an officer, the indictment notes.

While Kantor's verdict took into his admission to the crime at the first opportunity, she had also considered the racist abuse against an officer and “the fact that he threw stones at protesters carrying out their basic right to demonstrate and express legitimate protest in a democratic country.”

Putodinsky’s attorney Moran Schlesigner, a public defender, said her client raised her client's difficult situation as an alcoholic living on the streets. “It’s clear to anyone that his actions were against the backdrop of the influence of alcohol and had no ideological basis. We are talking about someone who expressed remorse for his actions.”

The defense had also stated the Putodinsky grew up in an orphanage, and was adopted by a family that immigrated to Israel and later cut ties with him, meaning his childhood was spent between state facilities and boarding schools. He has also been in psychiatric care and has no family. He has a background of property crime from 2004 and 2009.

On Monday, another homeless man in Tel Aviv, Sergei Haim, was indicted for assaulting a protester after complaining that they were keeping him awake. Haim had previously spent months in jail for threats and assaults.

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