Leaders of the national protest movement against the government’s judicial shakeup said Thursday that they would hold another day of nationwide protests this coming Monday.
The day, branded a “day of resistance,” comes following Tuesday’s “day of disruption,” in which thousands of anti-government protesters blocked streets across the country in response to the Knesset passing the first reading of a controversial bill to curtail the Supreme Court’s oversight powers.
According to organizers, Monday will once again see protest action and road blockings across the country, with further disruptive actions taking place throughout the week.
“[Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and the government of destruction are leading Israel to the abyss,” organizers said.
“This is the moment to intensify resistance.”
Protesters were staging rallies Thursday evening at key locations, including outside Netanyahu’s residences in both Jerusalem and Caesarea as well as at the US embassy branch in Tel Aviv.
The latter event was meant to send a message to Washington to “continue to stand with the Israeli protesters who are tirelessly fighting for Israeli democracy,” organizers said.
The protests at the premier’s homes, they said, were “to make it clear to him that the deteriorating Israel-US relationship is his fault. He is leading Israel down a very dangerous path.”
The organizers said earlier in the day that further protests would be held in the United States and around the world at the same time, without specifying where.
Meanwhile Thursday, pro-overhaul demonstrators blocked the entrances to two kibbutz communities in central Israel, saying it was a response to anti-overhaul protesters blocking roads across the country.
הימין מפסיק לשתוק: תושבי המרכז שסבלו מחסימת הכבישים ביום שני יצאו היום למספר קיבוצים וחסמו לתושבי הקיבוץ שממנו יצאו לחסום את הכבישים ביום שני את הכביש.
"שיבשתם לנו נשבש לכם" pic.twitter.com/oMoSw32wx2
— ידידיה אפשטיין (@yedidya_epstien) July 13, 2023
The demonstrators used vehicles to prevent cars from coming in or out of Yakum and Shefayim.
Likud activist Yigal Malka said: “We’re blocking the entrance to kibbutzim because kibbutzim are responsible for the most blockages.”
Since the attorney general said “there is no such thing as an effective protest without public disturbance, we’re simply fulfilling the instructions of the attorney general,” he added.
Supporters of the judicial overhaul also said Thursday that they were planning a large rally backing the legislation efforts on Kaplan Street in Tel Aviv on July 23.
The demonstration was set for a Sunday evening at the same site where weekly anti-overhaul protests have been held on Saturdays for the past six months.
Organizers of that demonstration said its goal was to send a message to the coalition that “the nation is with you,” urging its members to “complete the legislation” and adding that those who voted for the current government “aren’t second-class citizens.”
The rally was timed to coincide with the final days of the government’s legislative push, as it seeks to pass its limitations on the “reasonableness” clause by the end of the month.
The legislation canceling the “reasonableness” yardstick used by the courts in weighing politicians’ decisions is one of several bills proposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition, which comprises his Likud party and ultranationalist and ultra-Orthodox allies. The overhaul plan has provoked more than six months of sustained protests by opponents who say it is pushing the country toward authoritarian rule.
Last week’s first reading of the “reasonableness” legislation was the first Knesset approval of a judicial overhaul bill since Netanyahu suspended the far-reaching legislative package in late March.
Police arrested 77 protesters during Tuesday’s nationwide “day of disruption,” all of whom were released to their homes, some to house arrest. Most of the detained were accused of blocking roads and other violations of public order, though police also alleged that some of the suspects assaulted officers and their horses.
There were also some incidents of apparent police violence toward protesters, with the force alleged to have improperly used a controversial sound cannon.
In one case, footage showed a policeman allegedly using a long-range acoustic device (LRAD) only meters away from protesters in the central town of Pardesiya. According to police instructions, the device can only be activated a minimum of 20 meters away from individuals, and only after the intention to use it is announced.
תיעוד מטריד מאלימות שוטרים נגד מפגינים אמש בצומת פרדסיה: שוטר מפעיל מערכת קולית עם רעש מחריש אוזניים ממרחק אפס מהמפגינים.
לפי שורת גורמים, מדובר באחת ממערכות ה'צעקה' אשר הפעלתה אסורה ממרחק כ"כ קרוב ויכולה לגרום לנזק בלתי הפיך. במשטרה מכחישים.
אז השוטר פעל ככה סתם על דעת עצמו? pic.twitter.com/PwghaIqloy
— Josh Breiner (@JoshBreiner) July 12, 2023
Unnamed police sources and former officers told Haaretz that the device was indeed a sound cannon, but an official response by Israel Police to the news outlet said the device seen in the footage was a standard megaphone.
LRAD is a powerful sound device used for crowd control that can cause serious damage to hearing and other health problems. Such a device emits sound of 135-150 decibels at a frequency of 2,500-3,000 Hz. Physicians have decried the use of such a device, saying it can cause permanent damage to hearing.
On Thursday evening, Haaretz reported that the police force would stop using the system after it turned out that it was not an official police tool with a defined operational protocol. The unsourced report added that the US firm that developed the system says it is only meant for making public announcements, not for dispersing demonstrations.
The nationwide protests have roiled Israel since Justice Minister Yariv Levin announced the overhaul package in January, less than a week after the coalition took office.
Since compromise talks collapsed in June, the coalition has focused its legislative efforts on passing the “reasonableness” bill before the close of the Knesset’s summer session at the end of the month.
Still to come is a more central plank of Levin’s legislative package — a bill to remake the system for judicial appointments by largely transferring them into political control.
Netanyahu has said he plans to advance the judicial selection legislation in the Knesset’s winter session, which opens in October.