A clash broke out between two groups of anti-government demonstrators at a rally in Tel Aviv on Saturday night, with one side allegedly pepper-spraying the other.
The altercation happened during the 26th week of demonstrations around the country against the government’s plan to drastically overhaul the judiciary in moves that critics say will dangerously erode the country’s democratic character.
At the rally, a group reportedly unfurled a banner that read, “It is a duty to oppose settler terrorism,” a reference to recent attacks by mobs of West Bank settlers against Palestinian communities in revenge for deadly terror attacks. Members of the group also raised Palestinian flags.
The Brothers in Arms group, an organization of military reservists that is among the leaders of anti-government protests, said in a statement that its members became embroiled in an argument with the group over the flags.
It said that during the clash, a protester waving a Palestinian flag sprayed a member of Brothers in Arms with pepper spray and was detained for questioning by police.
“We will not accept waving enemy flags,” Brothers in Arms said. “The protest against the coup is a patriotic protest of those who love the country and not for those who oppose its existence.”
However, the group later took a more conciliatory tone, issuing a follow-up statement.
“We respect all our partners in the struggle who come from all shades of the political spectrum, from the right and the left,” it said. “Our goal is one and that is the cancellation of the regime coup. We condemn any manifestation of violence, and we will continue to fight together shoulder to shoulder for the common goal.”
Now: Members of “Brothers In Arms” group (ex Israeli soldiers) attacked the anti occupation block during the weekly anti government protest in Tel Aviv pic.twitter.com/jn6KQG0RPC
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מטומטם מי שלא הולך לשם עם דגל פלסטין בגודל XXL pic.twitter.com/hLjlaVL77V
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Before the start of the demonstration, some protesters blocked the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv. Large numbers of police were deployed to the area and officers moved in to clear the demonstrators, one of whom was arrested. A student protest group, along with a number others, claimed responsibility for the road blockage.
“Without the reasonableness clause, Israel is a country of corrupt appointments, where every minister is an emperor, where un-reasonability is celebrated,” the group said. As part of the judicial overhaul, the government is pushing to pass a bill that would prevent the courts from even reviewing government policies and appointments on the grounds of their “reasonableness.” It aims to legislate the change before the Knesset summer recess starts in a month.
“The government has shown its true face, and we have four weeks to stop it. We will not become a dictatorship,” said the student protest group.
At a demonstration in Jerusalem, organizers linked the government’s judicial plans to the settler violence.
“There is a direct line running between the government’s backing of Jewish terrorism and the attack on the foundations of democracy in Israel,” organizers said in a statement. “In order to oppose the dictatorship, we must oppose the pogroms.”
In Haifa, a protester was arrested at another anti-government demonstration.
Far-right Otzma Yehudit MK Limor Son Har-Melech is sponsoring a bill that would ban the waving of the Palestinians flags and campuses. In May the government put the bill on hold.