'The time has come to stop the cheap provocations'

Bennett orders ‘radical’ left-wing activists banned from West Bank

Besides barring Anarchists Against the Wall members from the area, defense chief also instructs security forces ‘to take a strong hand against internal enemies’

Then-defense minister Naftali Bennett (R) meets with IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi on November 13, 2019. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
Then-defense minister Naftali Bennett (R) meets with IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi on November 13, 2019. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett on Saturday ordered security forces to issue restraining orders barring members of a left-wing activist group from the West Bank.

Bennett accused Anarchists Against the Wall, an anti-Zionist group founded in 2003 to protest Israel’s security barrier in the West Bank, of initiating “violent provocations” each week in a number of Palestinian villages including Bil’in, Na’alin, and Nabi Saleh. He said that according to information he was shown, including by disabled IDF veterans, the alleged violence was aimed at hurting Israeli soldiers, damaging property and causing “serious public relations damage” to Israel across the globe.

“Orders of this type have so far only been issued in the Jewish public against price-tag activists and will now also be directed against anarchist activists on the left,” a statement from his office said.

The restraining order will apply to Jonathan Pollak, the group’s founder and a graphic designer at the Haaretz daily. Pollak is a longtime campaigner against Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians and his group opposes the security barrier in the West Bank and the fence separating Israel from the Gaza Strip.

Left-wing activist Jonathan Pollak is detained by Israeli soldiers during a protest over a disputed water well in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh near Ramallah, January 22, 2010. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

Pollak is currently in jail after being arrested last week. He had skipped court hearings over a criminal complaint filed by a right-wing group against him and two other activists, accusing them of aiding violent rioters and assaulting IDF soldiers and Border Police officers during protests over the years.

Including Pollak, some 30 activists in total will be barred from the West Bank under the gag order, according to Haaretz.

The statement from Bennett also said he ordered security forces “to act with a strong hand” against any violence by the group whose members he called “radical left-wing activists.”

“No one was the right to harm cherished IDF soldiers and the security of the state in the name of freedom of expression and the right to protest. The time has come to stop the cheap provocations by these same anarchists and take a strong hand against internal enemies,” the statement quoted him saying.

“The circus is over,” he added.

According to the statement by Bennett’s office, such orders were previously only issued against right-wing Jewish activists suspected of carrying out “price tag” attacks targeting Palestinians in the West Bank,

Bennett’s order was praised by Ad Kan, the group that filed the complaint against Pollak.

“For the first time we are witnessing the senior [political] leadership stand with the soldiers in the field,” the group said in a statement.

Illustrative: Naftali Bennett talks to an IDF soldier at the site of a car-ramming attack outside the Elazar settlement in the West Bank,August 18, 2019. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

Ofer Cassif, a Jewish lawmaker in the Joint List of predominantly Arab parties, criticized Bennett over the decision.

“In response to the false PR message from Bennett as if activists against the occupation were acting violently, this evening I instructed the activists to vigorously continue their non-violent and just struggle,” he tweeted.

An unnamed left-wing activist who spoke with Haaretz said the recent involvement of Israelis in West Bank protests was minimal.

“There aren’t many Israeli activists at the demonstrations today and in any case their role is marginal — they aren’t organizing demonstrations, not leading them. Bennett’s assumption that without them there would be no demonstrations is a racist assumption,” the activist said.

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