The Anti-Netanyahu movement has been around almost as long as Benjamin Netanyahu has been in politics. Anti-Netanyahu protests are not revolutionary, for years many have protested his polices and legal troubles and have highlighted his current court cases.
However, the recent wave of Anti-Netanyahu protests is stronger than ever before. Multiple times a week thousands flock to the Prime Minister’s residence and other parts of the country, to demonstrate against his indictments and his handling of the current coronavirus crisis.
It seems that we are only at the beginning of this wave and these protests already have a scary tone. Many of the protesters use violence against the police and do not cooperate with the authorities or the law. At a recent protest which the police allowed as long as it finished by 23:00, many, in fact, cheered at 23:00 for their defiance of the law and lack of cooperation with the police. This dangerous anarchist attitude is fueled by MKs, who do not support Netanyahu, who call for the public to defy government guidelines on lockdown and call for a civil uprising.
Whilst many protesters are peaceful, one could argue that by turning up to a protest which you know is likely to turn violent and flout the law, you are legitimizing that behavior. I believe that peaceful protests are crucial to democracy, yet these current protests are anything but peaceful.
The Anti-Netanyahu protests have led Aryeh Deri, the Interior Minister, to write to the Shabak warning that “we are witnessing dangerous incitement which does not know boundaries and which calls for the murder of the Prime Minister and harm to members of his family.” As Deri suggests in his letter, these protests could lead to physical harm to Netanyahu, his family, or even another assassination.
As you read this, you are probably thinking that is an extreme, crazy and unimaginable idea. At the time of Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination, the leaders of the right-wing movement (in which Netanyahu was the main leader) were warned that their incitement on the left could bring about the assassination of Rabin – this was also considered an extreme, crazy and unimaginable idea. Netanyahu never believed that someone would try to assassinate Rabin, but he learned the hard way. Many also argue that even the Shabak did not really believe that Rabin would be assassinated – if they had then several tighter security arrangements would have been in place.
Already these protests have caused some unimaginable scenes and actions. For example, at a protest last week a woman sat topless on a Menorah outside the Kenesset, at other protests several women have stood topless and protesters have been trying to break down fences to get as close to the Prime Minister as possible whilst holding torches of fire pointed at police. I wonder what unimaginable stunt will be pulled next. I pray that Deri’s fears are not manifested.
Furthermore, these protests have triggered counter demonstrations. Whilst overall they have been peaceful, La Familia (a radical far right group of Beitar Yerushalayim fans) have used this opportunity to chant abuse at protesters on the other side as well as sing songs praising Yigal Amir (Rabin’s murderer). Their actions have been criticized by the leaders of the right-wing protests but are also dangerous. I wonder what will do they next. Will they also resort to violence, or worse?
With Israel’s contentious society already splintered, we must read the tell-tale signs and act accordingly. We must be careful how and when we express our political feelings. Our words and actions need be well thought out in order to achieve our desired results in a peaceful and respectful manner. We must make special efforts to embrace those who we disagree with and find ways to build bonds with other sectors of society that are not our own, especially now during the period of the 3 weeks, as we mourn the loss of the First and Second Temples brought on by hatred between one another.