The leaders of Israel’s social protest movement are seeking to turn Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square into Cairo’s Tahrir Square and overthrow the government, hard-line Likud MK Miri Regev charged Wednesday in a Knesset speech. “They are anarchists, acting against the state,” she declared.
Regev, who last month drew criticism, including from the prime minister, for describing Sudanese migrants as “a cancer,” asserted that the social protesters “do not want genuine social change, all they do is protest for protest’s sake.”
Activists who confronted police and municipal officials last week in Tel Aviv are interested in “acts of vandalism, clashes with police, power struggles, more headlines,” Regev charged. “Our role is to maintain democracy. When we take care of the demonstrators, they say we run a police state. There is no room for violence. The cat is out of the bag. The protest has revealed its true visage.”
Regev went on to personally criticize one of the protest leaders, Daphni Leef, who was arrested during last Friday’s scuffle on Rothschild Boulevard. “Daphni Leef and her far-left associates do not represent the public,” said Regev. “I beseech you, members of the Knesset, to check with the police the names of the ‘innocent’ protesters who were arrested over the weekend. You will find the names of quite a few radicals known to authorities from earlier left-wing uprisings.”
Arab MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad) asked Regev to moderate her tone. Regev replied: “You, traitor, go back to Gaza.” (Zoabi was on board the Mavi Marmara vessel that sought to break the Israeli naval blockade of the Strip in 2010.)
Nitzan Horowitz of Meretz said he was at the Saturday demonstration in Rabin Square and “witnessed aggression and wanton brutality” by the police. “What did Daphni do? Don an explosive belt?” he asked.
Dov Hanin of Hadash expressed support for the protesters and called for the prosecution of police officers who he said over-reacted. Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai “should understand that Rothschild Boulevard is a public space, not his personal premises,” Hanin said. “He sent his inspectors and they used force without any authority. Instead of detaining the inspectors, the police joined in with the violence. This caused tremendous rage, and rightly so.”
“The protest last Saturday was an expression of this anger, added the left-wing MK. “Saturday we fought for our right to fight for social justice. The demonstration is now subject to a dangerous PR spin. You cannot let a shattered shop window overshadow heartfelt protests by hundreds of thousands of Israelis. Whatever’s been said about this protest, the majority supported and continue supporting it.”