(August 2, 2020 / JNS) Twelve protesters were arrested late Saturday night on suspicion of disorderly conduct during a mass demonstration in Jerusalem, Channel 12 reported.
According to the report, some 15,000 people attended the demonstration near Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence in the capital’s Rechavia neighborhood, while thousands more held rallies in Tel Aviv, Caesarea and other population centers around the country for the sixth week in a row.
The protests center mainly on public discontent with the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, though many participants, including those belonging to the left-wing “black flag” movement, are calling on Netanyahu to resign for a host of reasons, among them the fact that he is on trial for charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
At the weekly Cabinet meeting on Sunday, Netanyahu spoke out against the behavior of unruly anti-government demonstrators and pro-government counter-demonstrators.
“I condemn any violence,” he declared. “It has no place on either side, and we have zero tolerance for any manifestation of violence or any threat of violence.”
At the same time, he said that the demonstrations were being “encouraged,” largely by the media, despite the risk they posed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Here, in the name of democracy, I see an attempt to trample democracy,” he said. “There has been a distortion of all of the rules. First, nobody is limiting these demonstrations. On the contrary, we are going towards them. They are incubators for the coronavirus. There are rules that are not being enforced. Nobody is limiting this, and nobody has tried to limit this.”
The wave of protests was being driven by an unprecedented mobilization of the media, said the prime minister.
“These demonstrations are being fueled, especially by the mobilization of the media, the likes of which I cannot recall. They [the protesters] are being encouraged. They are being allowed to paralyze neighborhoods and block roads in complete contravention of what was accepted in the past,” he said.
‘Not too late to regain our composure’
Netanyahu contrasted the tolerance being shown to the protesters with the attitude of the country’s legal system and media towards the right-wing protests that rocked the country during the implementation of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s disengagement plan in 2005.
“I remind you what Supreme Court President Aharon Barak said regarding the protestors against the disengagement plan, when he expressed himself strongly against the blocking of roads:
“ ‘Freedom of expression is not a permit to run amok. The freedom of expression does not shield the freedom to paralyze law enforcement mechanisms and bring about their collapse. The freedom to demonstrate does not shield the freedom to stop the state and endanger the security of the individual and the public.’ This was applied to those who were demonstrating against the disengagement plan, demonstrators from the right. However, when the topic is left-wing demonstrators—everything disappears, simply disappears,” said Netanyahu.
The media, he continued, were not reporting on the demonstrations, “they are participating in them. They are adding fuel. This is not just a mobilized media; this is a mobilizing media. They are fueling the demonstrations; violent demonstrations about which nobody is saying anything.”
Netanyahu also blasted the media for “whitewashing” threats against his life and those of his family.
“When there is wild, unbridled incitement, including daily calls to murder the prime minister and members of his family, the media ignores it, whitewashes it, and the politicians are silent,” he said. “It is not too late to regain our composure. The media has a responsibility. Elected officials have a responsibility. I expect everyone to condemn the violence and incitement on all sides.”
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