Anti-Netanyahu protesters attack right-wing TV crew, disrupt broadcast

Union of Journalists condemns incident during Tel Aviv rally; Black Flags protest group highlights reporter’s headbutting of demonstrator, urges probe

Michael Bachner is a news editor at The Times of Israel

Anti-Netanyahu protesters disrupt a broadcast by Channel 20 at Habima Square in Tel Aviv, September 29, 2020. (Screenshot: Twitter)
Anti-Netanyahu protesters disrupt a broadcast by Channel 20 at Habima Square in Tel Aviv, September 29, 2020. (Screenshot: Twitter)

A TV crew was attacked Tuesday evening by anti-government protesters in Tel Aviv, after which police protection was needed for the broadcast to go ahead.

Channel 20, a small right-wing news channel branded as an alternative to Israel’s “leftist” mainstream networks, said its broadcast of a panel program about the demonstration against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Habima Square was disrupted.

The fracas, during which a Channel 20 reporter headbutted a demonstrator, was condemned by the Union of Journalists in Israel and by right-wing politicians. The protest organizers, the Black Flag group, highlighted the headbutting incident and urged police to investigate.

Footage shared by Channel 20 on social media showed protesters surrounding the panelists and journalists, shouting at them and refusing to let them go ahead with the broadcast, alongside scenes of occasional violence.

After cops pushed the protesters back, they continued to try and move closer and blew horns that disrupted the program.

Additional footage shared on social media showed Boaz Golan, a reporter for the channel, sparring with a protester and then headbutting him, before moving back. It wasn’t clear at what stage that incident occurred.

“Channel 20 expresses its shock over the violent attack on the channel’s crew during a broadcast from Habima Square by the Black Flag protesters,” the network said in a statement. “The channel demands that police bring the attackers to justice.”

The Union of Journalists said it “condemns the violence today against a Channel 20 broadcast station at Habima Square. Journalists and media outlets are carrying out an important public mission in these complex times, and they should be allowed to carry it out without fear.”

Several lawmakers from Netanyahu’s Likud party also condemned the protesters.

The Black Flag movement commented that “the video of Boaz Golan headbutting a citizen who came to protest his culture of lies, with a headbutting reminiscent of [Zinedine] Zidane’s headbutting of [Marco] Materazzi, is a disgrace to the world of journalism. We call on police to investigate and bring Mr. Golan to justice.”

The comment referred to a famous incident during the 2006 soccer World Cup final in which the French star Zidane was booted after headbutting an Italian rival defender.

People protest against the government outside the headquarters of the Tel Aviv District Israel Police, on September 29, 2020. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The Knesset passed a controversial measure curtailing public protests as part of coronavirus regulations early Wednesday morning, following an all-night legislative session in which the opposition accused the government of harming democracy.

The measure amends existing legislation to give the government the power to ban traveling over one kilometer (0.6 miles) from home to attend a protest, and to limit outdoor gatherings to a maximum of 20 people, effectively stifling large weekly demonstrations outside Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem and elsewhere around the country.

On Tuesday, Netanyahu’s Likud party dropped reservations it had filed against the legislation, allowing it to move forward. The ruling party had previously demanded that the ban on mass protests — most notably regular anti-government protests held in recent months throughout the country — remain in effect even after the current nationwide lockdown is lifted.

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