ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 147

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Right-wingers try to remove pride flag from Tel Aviv balcony, twice in a week

Resident accuses youths of swearing, throwing objects at home; says police ‘powerless’ to respond; fears Molotov cocktail attack may come next

Security footage shows right-wing protesters trying to take down a pride flag from a balcony in Tel Aviv, April 1, 2023. (Twitter video screenshot: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
Security footage shows right-wing protesters trying to take down a pride flag from a balcony in Tel Aviv, April 1, 2023. (Twitter video screenshot: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

A group of right-wing counter-demonstrators tried to tear down a pride flag from a balcony in Tel Aviv on Saturday, amid mass protests against the government’s judicial overhaul.

A resident of the apartment told media outlets that it was the second time that week that passersby tried to take down the flag. The previous incident occurred on Monday, also during mass demonstrations.

Saturday’s incident was captured on a security camera, and filmed from across the street.

“I was sitting in the lounge and heard a group of right-wing demonstrators passing the house,” Shoval, 26, told Channel 12, recounting Monday’s incident. “I opened the window and tried to drive them off, but they managed to tear half the flag, swore and me, and threw a can at me.”

He said he contacted the police, but they failed to respond. Then, on Saturday night, a second group of right-wing counter-protesters tried to tear the flag down.

“I was sitting in my room when suddenly I heard shouting from the street,” he recalled. “I heard some kids and teens swearing and shouting, ‘Come down and we’ll beat you up.’ Suddenly I heard two loud booms. I ran to the window and it was clear to me that they were yelling at my roommate.”

Shoval said that his roommate tried to stop the demonstrators from tearing down the flag, but they swore and threw stones at him. He said police arrived 15 minutes after they had contacted them several times.

“I felt they were powerless and didn’t know what to do to prevent and take care of this,” Shoval said, adding he feared what will happen at the next demonstration.

“Yesterday it was stones, next time it could be a Molotov cocktail,” he said, adding that both right-wing and left-wing protesters pass by his home, and that he expects police to do more to combat the violence.

Pro-judicial overhaul demonstrators held large rallies on Monday in Jerusalem and Thursday in Tel Aviv, the first of their kind. Supporters of the plans are planning to hold a “million person rally” later this month to demonstrate vast public support for the contentious plan.

“It’s scary living here, it’s scary to be in the LGBTQ community here, and it hurts me to say this is just the beginning for us,” he said.

In response, police said that they would launch an investigation as soon as a formal complaint is filed.

Graffiti found on the wall of the Tel Aviv LGBTQ Community Center, April 1, 2023. (Police)

Also on Saturday, the slogan “Kahane lives” was graffitied on an external wall and window of the Tel Aviv LGBTQ Community center.

The phrase is a show of support for the extremist rabbi Meir Kahane, a one-time member of Knesset for the racist Kach party he founded and who was assassinated at a New York City hotel in November 1990 by an Egyptian-American jihadist.

The LGBTQ community has repeatedly voiced its concerns over the hardline coalition led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government’s now-paused judicial overhaul plan, fearing that a significantly weakened judicial system will leave their community members vulnerable to discrimination.

In a report published in March, the Aguda Association for LGBTQ Equality said it had recorded 3,300 incidents of hate against the LGBTQ community in 2022, an 11% increase compared to 2021. The report did not provide details on the nature of those attacks.

Nearly half the reported incidents took place in Tel Aviv and the central Israel region. Nearly 20% occurred in Jerusalem and surrounding areas, the report said.

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