Thousands of Israelis protested across the country on Saturday in the latest weekly demonstrations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, and the corruption charges he faces. The demonstrations have been ongoing for the past 19 weeks.
Organizers said some 8,000 people took part in the main rally near Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem on Saturday evening, while around 400 protesters marched from Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square northward on Ibn Gabirol street, and another 100 set out from the city’s Habima Square.
The demonstrators in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv were also marking 25 years since the murder of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin by a right-wing extremist. Some demonstrators linked the assassination to Netanyahu, who has been blamed for helping create an atmosphere of hate that led killer Yigal Amir to pull the trigger, leaving an indelible stain on the nation. Netanyahu strongly rejects the accusation.
“1995: The murder of Yitzhak Rabin. 2020: The murder of democracy,” read one sign held up outside Netanyahu’s official residence, alongside a photo of the incumbent premier.
Protesters waved Israeli and pink flags, which have become a symbol of the protest movement against Netanyahu, as they marched through Paris Square near his residence. Police tried to block their way, but the protesters went through a cemetery to evade the officers, with some scuffles breaking out between the two sides.
The protest in Jerusalem began to disperse around 11 p.m. and police said they arrested six suspects throughout the night for “attacks on civilians, police officers and behavior that may have disturbed the peace and public order.”
Smaller demonstrations took place at junctions and bridges elsewhere across the country. Protesters held signs that read, “Saving the country, fighting corruption” and “Revolution.” They also resumed their weekly calls for Netanyahu to resign.
Several assaults against protesters were reported in different parts of the country. In Ramat Gan, a protester said he was doused with pepper spray by a person on a scooter. The protester received medical attention at the scene and police launched an investigation.
In Jerusalem, a female protester was attacked in Zion Square and hospitalized, according to Channel 13.
In the central city of Hod Hasharon, protesters said they were attacked by two men who got out of a passing vehicle, with at least one requiring medical treatment. A demonstrator told the Kan public broadcaster that a passing car pulled over next to the protesters, two men exited the vehicle, and then shoved protesters.
One of the attackers hit a demonstrator with a megaphone, injuring him, before the two men returned to the vehicle and drove off. The incident appears to have been captured on video.
וכך נראה האירוע האלים הערב בהפגנה ברחוב הבנים בהוד השרון. בידי המשטרה מס הרכב של הבחור מהסרטון. מניח שלא הרבה מאמץ ויוכלו להגיע אליו. המפגין שיצא מהאירוע מדמם מקבל טיפול רפואי במיון
— Bar Peleg (@bar_peleg) October 31, 2020
Separately, police in Eilat detained a man suspected of hurling eggs at demonstrators in the southern city.
The protesters criticize Netanyahu for what they say is his bungling of the coronavirus outbreak and its economic fallout. Many of the protesters also oppose Netanyahu serving as prime minister while under indictment on three corruption charges: fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes. Netanyahu denies wrongdoing in a series of scandals involving billionaire associates and media moguls.
The protests have gone on for months and kept a spotlight on Netanyahu at a time when the long-serving leader’s popularity has plummeted because of his handling of the virus outbreak in Israel.
The country is emerging in gradual stages from a monthlong lockdown that the government imposed in September to tamp down infections. Restrictions still in place have kept stores, hotels and restaurants closed while the Israeli economy continues to take a hit.
Israel appeared to have successfully weathered an initial outbreak in the spring, even as unemployment skyrocketed. But a hasty reopening in May after a previous lockdown sent confirmed cases soaring and plunged the country toward new restrictions.