Thousands March in Tel Aviv in Protest of Netanyahu's Far-right Gov't, Judicial Overhaul

The crowd blocked streets in central Tel Aviv as participants chanted in protest of leading far-right members of the government and demand equal rights for Jewish and Arabs ■ According to the organizers, at least 20,000 people participated at the demonstration ■ Protester admits to slapping Hadash leader Ayman Odeh after his speech

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Protesters march in Tel Aviv, Saturday.
Protesters march in Tel Aviv, Saturday.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Thousands protested in Tel Aviv on Saturday night in a first major rally against the new government and its far-right policy plans, with two marches taking place in the city. Organizers estimate that 20,000 people participated at the demonstration.

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One march organized by Standing Together, a grassroots group promoting Jewish and Arab equality and partnership, and the other focused more specifically the threat to the country's justice system.

Both groups gathered at the city's Habima Square before setting out on separate marches, with the Standing Together group, headed by Hadash lawmakers Ayman Odeh, Ofer Cassif, Labor MK Naama Lazimi and former Meretz MK Mossi Raz, marched towards the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.

Protesters fill Habima Square and the surrounding streets, Saturday.

At the Standing Together rally, Ayman Odeh, chairman of the left-wing Hadash party, said: "With this historic crisis there is also a huge and historic opportunity... The fascists' only chance is to separate us, and we won't let them."

After his speech, Odeh said that he was attacked by a protester. "After my speech tonight against fascism I was verbally assaulted by a group of fscist protesters, one of them physically attacked me and was immediately pushed away by protesters around me," he said on Twitter.

Journalist Haggai Matar published a video on Twitter in which a protester admits to slapping Odeh, claiming he objects to the presence of politicians at the demonstration.

Naama Lazimi, also speaking at the rally, said: "There are those in our camp who think that we should talk to the kidnapper, to the one holding an entire country hostage, who decided to crush us all in the name of his justice, who invited Kahane's weeds to be top government and cabinet figures. But no, With the kidnapper Benjamin Netanyahu and his gang you must not talk, you must overcome them."

At Habima Square, the head of the Bar Association, Avi Himi, said: "I want to convey a message to [Justice Minister] Yariv Levin and his ilk. We will not allow you to turn us into a dictatorship.

"The overhaul he is proposing is the destruction of democracy, weakening of human rights, the independence of the court and our children as citizens. The only way a democratic society can cope is through what we're doing tonight," he said.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel's Noa Sattath said in her speech: "Like our fellow human rights organizations around the world, from Hungary to the United States, we too will fight all the time, without fear, because human rights are universal."

Among the reasons for the separate marches was the possibility that Standing Together's would include Palestinian flags, potentially giving the government pretext to claim the rally was organized by the far left and alienating some protesters who wanted to focus on the government's plans for a major overhaul of the justice system, which their critics say pose a threat to democracy.

Netanyahu denounced the protests on Sunday on Twitter, criticizing banners which compared the justice minister to a Nazi and signs which called to "Free Palestine from [the] Zionist colonial regime" at the rally.

He called for an end to the demonstrations, claiming that they were acts of "wild incitement that went uncondemned by the opposition or the mainstream media. I demand that everyone stop this immediately."

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