Police arrested four Israeli protesters in Jerusalem Thursday morning as hundreds demonstrated outside the Knesset against the far-reaching, anti-democratic measures adopted by the Netanyahu government this past week to fight the coronavirus outbreak.
The demonstration consisted of an “assault on democracy” motorcade, which headed for Jerusalem to protest Benjamin Netanyahu’s order to shut down the courts and allow the mass surveillance of Israelis, as well as the suspension of Israel’s parliament by Knesset Chairman Yuli Edelstein. Some of the demonstrators, who set out from Tel Aviv waving black flags out of their cars, were stopped by police en route to Jerusalem and given fines. The police later allowed some of the protesters to continue onwards toward the city.
The police then closed off the streets surrounding the Knesset. Despite the restrictions, 300 protesters were able to reach the Israeli parliament. At one point, the Jerusalem district commander announced that the protest violated the emergency directives that bar gatherings of more than 10 people. The protesters argued they were acting in accordance with the Health Ministry’s directives and standing at least two meters apart.
“Bibi is more dangerous than the coronavirus,” yelled some of the protesters, many of them active participants in the weekly demonstrations in Tel Aviv and outside the attorney general’s home in Petah Tikva, over Netanyahu’s corruption scandals.
Labor MK Merav Michaeli told +972 Magazine that “what we have been seeing is not the diminishing of the democratic space, but rather its total annihilation. This is dangerous and frightening.
“I have no doubt that the State of Israel will emerge from the coronavirus crisis. But under the guise of this crisis Netanyahu, and now Edelstein, are trying to undo Israeli democracy. We won’t let this happen,” Michaeli said.
“If it wasn’t the coronavirus, Netanyahu would have found another reason to change the rules of the game,” said Haim Shadmi, an anti-corruption activist who was later arrested. “We have come to the conclusion that Israel is at a critical stage in the fight for democracy. The Knesset is closed only because its chairman is cooperating with Netanyahu and is trying to destroy the democracy that still exists here. Netanyahu knows he has already lost the elections three times. He is afraid of a new government, because it means he will be sentenced and go to jail.”
“This demonstration is intended to stop the destruction of the democratic regime,” said a demonstrator named David who sat in his vehicle. “The police are forcing us to leave, but it will not go away,” he added after a police officer knocked on the car window and told him to drive away.
This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.