Thousands Protest Against Netanyahu Across Israel; Demonstrators Report Attacks

Eight-day protest march from north arrives in Jerusalem ■ On Wednesday night, Israel's government approved a one-week extension of the emergency regulations which limit protests to 1,000 meters from home

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Protesters calling for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's resignation at Jaffa's Clock Tower, September 8, 2020
Protesters calling for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's resignation at Jaffa's Clock Tower, September 8, 2020Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

At least two protesters were arrested on Thursday night in Tel Aviv after thousands of Israelis protested all across Israel against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a day after the government approved a one-week extension on the emergency regulations which allow the limiting of demonstrations.

Throughout the day, hundreds of protesters gathered in Tel Aviv and at the Jaffa Clock Tower roundabout, chanting "we won’t give up until Netanyahu resigns." Demonstrators are carried signs reading "We are the hope" and waving pink flags. In Tel Aviv, protests are held at Rabin Square, Habima Square, Ben-Zion and Hashmonaim junctions.

HAARETZ PODCAST: A very close call for Netanyahu and Mossad chief at the White HouseCredit: Haaretz

Some 500 protesters marched from Habima Square toward the Clock Tower in Jaffa after blocking traffic on Ibn Gabirol street.

Initially, police forces were deployed in street corners and were only guarding the protests without intervening in their course. They later tried to block their route with temporary barriers and cruising motorcycles.

The police said in response that "The protesters are marching on a main traffic artery, are not adhering to social distance orders and thus endangering their own wellbeing, as well as of the passerby and the entire public by violating COVID restrictions."

Protesters at Jerusalem's Balfour street, near the prime minister's residence, October 8, 2020.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Protesters were eventually contained by police in southern Tel Aviv, cramming them by the hundreds into a street, and began fining those who were found to be more than a 1,000 meters from their home.

One protester was arrested under suspicion of attacking a police officer. Protesters reported that four people were arrested overall, but police contradicted the numbers and said that only two were arrested.

Two protesters were later released.

Protest march, which originated in Kiryat Tivon in the north, nears Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem, October 6, 2020.Credit: Emil Salman

Officers from the police's operational documentation unit also attempted to prevent Haaretz photographer Tomer Applebaum from taking photos of other officers handing out fines to protesters, claiming that he was distrupting police work. They then asked him to identify himself and tried fining him as well before Commander Eli Pinto, who commands the Lev Tel Aviv station, intervened.

Hundreds of demonstrators also turned out at intersections and squares around Haifa. The protesters held signs in opposition to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Naomi, a resident of Haifa’s Carmel Center neighborhood, was standing with a sign with the word “Go” on it. “We’ve gone through a lot of things in Haifa,” she said. “We’ve never seen anything like this. It’s hard to get people out of their homes to protest. Now [with] more than 150 people, there is something thrilling and exciting going on here.”

Her partner, Kobi, added: “There is someone in the cabinet who built his career on destroying solidarity and here there’s the exact opposite, and that’s very exciting.”

Throughout the week, protesters around the country calling on the prime minister to step down in light of his criminal indictments have gathered within 1000 meters of their homes, in accordance with the coronavirus lockdown. Demonstrations have continued even despite reports of police violence directed at protesters and arrests.

About 200 anti-Netanyahu protesters came to a protest encampment across from the prime minister's Balfour Street residence in Jerusalem on Thursday. The protesters had marched for eight days to get there from Kiryat Tivon in the north, receiving upwards of 100 police tickets for violating public health along the way.

Demonstrators claim that their march is not prohibited by coronavirus regulations as it qualifies as athletic activity, which is not limited by distance.

The march was initiated by 70-year-old Kiryat Tivon resident Eli Brook. "I think we need to take tradition and build a new culture upon it. There are pilgrimages, let's go on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The secular community gave up on certain symbols. In protest, we are taking back these symbols," he said. "There's nothing that can stop us in our struggle to oust the criminal in Balfour, after which we'll need to build a new society."

Hundreds of protesters participated over the course of the march, ranging in age from 12 to 78. Brook said that police, particularly Jerusalem District Police, harassed them along the way and prevented them from walking near roads. A large police presence was waiting for the marchers near the prime minister's residence, but the demonstrators passed through quietly.

After several protesters were pepper sprayed in the Tel Aviv suburb of Tel Aviv and a string of clashes between Netanyahu supporters and demonstrators across the country, the 'Crime Minister' movement said they would not 'stop until Netanyahu steps down."

"The wild incitement by the defendant from Balfour Street and his assault dogs in Likud against the protesters continues. We have no expectations from Netanyahu, who built his corrupt rule on incitement and division. We won't be deterred and won't stop until he steps down," the statement read.

Also on Thursday, police said that they are investigating a video of Amir Haskel, one of the leaders of the protest movement, in which he purportedly tells police officers of Ethiopian descent that he, as a former air force brigadier general, took part in bringing their parents to Israel and that they should be grateful for it. "For years, I dedicated myself to bringing your parents [here], and this is what we get from you," he says in the footage, filmed in August. "You should be ashamed, this ungratefulness, I brought you."

Also on Thursday, the court revoked the restrictions under which 37 anti-Netanyahu protesters were released on Saturday after being arrested while demonstrating in Tel Aviv, contrary to police recommendations.

A Channel 12 News video, filmed from a different angle, shows that it was in fact the police who recorded Haskel's statements. Police document most protests, and are supposed to use the footage in case they depict crimes, or for investigative purposes. Police said that they have appointed an officer to investigate the circumstances of the video's circulation.

On Wednesday night, Israel's government approved a one-week extension of the emergency regulations, which effectively limit anti-government protests. The "special state of emergency," which will now be in effect until October 13, must be renewed on a weekly basis.

The restrictions limit protesters to a one-kilometer radius of their homes, and allow them to protest in groups of 20 people or less. The Knesset's legislative committee is expected to convene on Sunday to debate the extension of the emergency regulations.

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