Far-right activists on Monday accosted and threatened drivers at the entrances to two kibbutz communities due to their belief that residents oppose Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government’s effort to overhaul the judiciary.
The attacks were the latest in a series of incidents of violence, harassment and intimidation by right-wing protesters amid national turmoil set off by the Netanyahu government’s legislative efforts.
The assailants blocked traffic junctions at the entrances to Ein Harod and adjacent Tel Yosef in northern Israel, lit tires on fire, threw stones at vehicles and spit at and cursed their occupants, Haaretz reported.
The far-right activists allowed vehicles to pass through if they appeared to be from the nearby city of Beit Shean, a stronghold of Netanyahu’s Likud party, or if the drivers were religious.
Drivers from the kibbutz were derided as “leftists” and their cars blocked. Kibbutz communities are viewed as largely left-wing.
In videos from the scene obtained by Haaretz, some of which were posted to social media, the activists were seen blocking the vehicles as a pro-Netanyahu song blares in the background. Some drivers were cheered as they passed through.
The crowd of activists were seen deriding drivers as “leftists,” using an anti-LGBTQ slur, and mocking the drivers as they sat in their cars as vehicles lined up on the street.
In one of the videos, a right-wing activist blocked a driver and demanded they state support for far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir and Netanyahu, referring to the prime minister by his nickname.
ביביסטים בראשם איציק זרקא מתעללים בנהגים שחזרו מהפגנה אמש pic.twitter.com/gmF52m2FSm
— לירי בורק שביט (@lirishavit) March 28, 2023
“There’s nothing you can do, leftists can’t go up. Say that Bibi is the man, that you’re crazy about Bibi and Ben Gvir, and you’ll be allowed to go home,” he said to an elderly driver.
“Say Bibi is the prime minister and I support the reforms and Ben Gvir is the national security minister, the manliest that has ever existed in the country.”
One of the activists was Itzik Zarka, a Likud activist with ties to the Netanyahu family who does not live in the area of the incident, Haaretz reported.
One of the drivers said he had been blocked at an intersection while coming home from a basketball game with his 7-year-old son, who was terrified by the incident.
“I tried to go around them like the drivers ahead of me, but they wouldn’t let me continue driving. They were burning a tire in the middle of the road, putting big rocks on the road, and started to gather around the car, knocking on the windows, some of them with rocks in their hands,” one of the drivers said.
He said his son “got hysterical and started crying and asking what they want from us, what we had done, that we’re good people.”
The driver said he called police, who ignored him, and that a Border Police vehicle that arrived on the scene blew off his appeals for help and left the intersection without taking any action.
He then took his son out of the vehicle and the attackers beat him with fists and elbows as he left the area. The driver later found a police officer and brought him back to the scene, where the officer told the assailants to clear the stones from the street and let vehicles pass.
“I’m mostly worried about my son. He said that he doesn’t want to live here, he feels that he lives with enemies around who want to kill him,” he said.
The activists blocked another driver after she refused their commands to open her car window.
“Just like you all blocked the Ayalon, that’s what you’re going to feel now. Get it?” the assailants said, referring to the highway in Tel Aviv that anti-government protesters blocked over the weekend.
עוד קצת מהטוב אתמול בצומת תל יוסף. אבל אל תכעסו בבקשה, מותר להם. תבינו אותם. זה באשמת מה שהקיבוצניקים המנוולים עשו להם, זה מוצדק. בבקשה תבינו אותם???????????????? pic.twitter.com/g6uTzJpYQH
— Omer Einav (@omer_einav) March 28, 2023
The Israel Police said in a statement that three suspects had been arrested and questioned over the incident.
“Police will continue to allow for freedom of expression and protest in accordance with the law, and will keep public order,” police said in a statement.
The incident was the latest in a series of attacks and threats by right-wing protesters.
On Monday in Jerusalem, pro-government protesters attacked demonstrators opposed to the judicial overhaul, Arab passersby, members of the press and police officers.
A crowd of protesters were seen assailing an Arab pedestrian and chasing and attacking an Arab taxi driver as he drove away from the scene in an attempt to escape.
A television news team from Channel 13 was also attacked Monday night during the demonstration. Channel 13 reporter Yossi Eli was hospitalized with a broken rib and suspected damage to his spleen and cameraman Avi Cashman suffered a head injury.
Police arrested several suspects Tuesday in connection with the incidents.
Opposition leaders on Tuesday urged the government and police to clamp down on the violence by government supporters.
Netanyahu has for weeks accused the largely peaceful anti-government protesters of violence and of plotting political assassinations.
Mass protests have been held for nearly three months against the planned legislation, which critics say will politicize the court, remove key checks on governmental power and cause grievous harm to Israel’s democratic character. Proponents of the measures say they will rein in a judiciary that they argue has overstepped its bounds.
Netanyahu on Monday night announced he was temporarily halting the legislation to allow for talks.