Homeless man gets 8 months in prison for hurling rocks at anti-Netanyahu protest

Dennis Potodinsky, who has history of psychiatric problems, is first person to be sentenced for assaulting protesters against PM, amid growing number of attacks on demonstrators

Dennis Potodinsky throwing rocks at anti-Netanyahu protestors. (Screengrab: Twitter)
Dennis Potodinsky throwing rocks at anti-Netanyahu protestors. (Screengrab: Twitter)

A homeless man in Haifa was sentenced Wednesday to eight months in prison for attacking anti-Netanyahu protestors, marking the first time someone has been sentenced for attacking Israelis demonstrating against the prime minister.

Dennis Potodinsky, 36, was sentenced at the Haifa Magistrate’s Court for throwing rocks at a group of Haifa anti-Netanyahu protestors in September, which resulted in one woman being evacuated for treatment to the northern city’s Rambam Medical Center.

He was also convicted of making racist remarks to one of his arresting officers, as insulting a civil servant is a criminal offense under Israeli law.

He reportedly spat at the officer, telling him “I am white and you are Black” and called him a “disgusting Ethiopian,” according to a report by Walla news.

Potodinsky, who has had a history of psychiatric problems, hospitalizations and drug addiction, told the court he was drunk at the time of the incident.

Saturday saw more attacks on anti-Netanyahu protestors in Haifa. Demonstrators were reportedly maced with pepper spray at multiple locations throughout the city, and Haifa police arrested three residents of Kiryat Yam in their twenties on suspicion of the attacks, according to the report.

In another area of the city, an altercation broke out between anti-Netanyahu protestors and pro-government counter-protestors, resulting in one woman being hit in the head, according to Walla.

Protests in recent months have seen dozens of reported attacks on anti-Netanyahu demonstrators, many of them with pepper spray.

A resident of Pardes Hannah was arrested last week for allegedly attacking protesters with a fire extinguisher during an anti-Netanyahu demonstration at a traffic circle in the northern city three weeks ago.

Police also arrested four far-right activists for harassing protesters demonstrating against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the central city of Holon, as video footage showed one of them attacking the demonstrators with pepper spray.

Separately, anti-Netanyahu protesters in Jerusalem were hit with vegetables hurled by passersby, Channel 12 reported on Tuesday.

Another serious incident occurred in July, when several suspected far-right activists attacked protesters as they took part in a demonstration in Tel Aviv. The attackers were seen hitting demonstrators with glass bottles, clubs and chairs and spraying them with mace. Some 10 people were hospitalized, including two with stab wounds in their backs.

Screengrab from video appearing to show attacks on protesters by suspected right-wing activists in Tel Aviv, July 28, 2020 (Screengrab/Facebook)

There have also been two suspected incidents of cars trying to ram protesters.

Netanyahu is on trial for a series of cases in which he allegedly received lavish gifts from billionaire friends and traded regulatory favors with media moguls for more favorable coverage of himself and his family. The prime minister has denied any wrongdoing, accusing the media and law enforcement of a witch hunt to oust him from office.

Since new restrictions on protesting were approved last month, tens of thousands of Israelis have staged protests on street corners and public squares near their homes against Netanyahu and against the government’s perceived mishandling of the coronavirus crisis and its economic fallout.

Those restrictions have since been lifted.

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