And the moment the penny dropped
The Background - Violating Democractic Rights Under the Guise of Covid
The second lockdown and the right to protest
During the first national lockdown, Israelis were limited to 100 meters from our homes, but demonstrations and protests were still exempted, maintaining temporarily our democratic rights of assembly and free expression.
Israel was the first developed country to have imposed a second national lockdown due to an increase in Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. Movement was restricted to 500 m, and then to a 1000 meters (1-km). Police actually checked on their Tablet applications how far we were from home…
The 3-week lockdown took effect on September 13th prior to the Jewish High Holidays scheduled for September 18-28th to prevent gatherings.
Synagogues and demonstrations
On September 22nd, our religious Minister of Interior, Mr. Der’i, with a history of corruption and a jail sentence, tied the closure of synagogues with the restriction of protests. Many complained that the issue of demonstrations was taking prominence over other matters due to Netanyahu’s wish to stop them. Yom Kippur, of course, is a natural kind of lockdown in Israel, but Sukkot, the longer High Holiday, was a bigger concern for the health ministry. On September 25th, the lockdown was therefore further tightened. The issue of the protests was left pending, though, as it required special legislation. That was put to the Knesset plenum on Septmeber 29th.
She’s 72-years old, but still no constitution
It should be mentioned in this context that due to the religious-secular rift and so-called “status quo” between the two, we do not have a proper constitution…
Furthermore, on account of the on-going state of war with neighboring countries, we are still technically under a “state of emergency” since the establishment of the country in 1948.
In consequence, it is relatively easy to take away the rights we do have legally.
My signs say: “Neither Left nor Right, Democracy is also an Essential Business”, and: “Gantz, Your Voters are Here. Vote Correctly.” As unbelievable as it might sound to the reader, a policewoman tried to confiscate these benign, home-made signs that were leaning temporarily against the wall…The red banner posted on the fence behind me says: “Dictatorship under the Guise of Corona”. All was well until police decided to wage a war against that banner, as described below. The youth protecting the sign fought with their bodies to keep it where it was. Some were beaten by police, some were pushed to the ground, Others were arrested.
Knesset Protest - They Attack Banners
Police mode A: Preparing for attack
Police, during the various demonstrations and protest, comes in two modes. Like animals on the hunt they can be observed either quiet and on alert, or on the attack trail. In the first mode, they set themselves apart, behind barricades, or as in this case, idling neaby. In the second mode, they suddenly line up and pounce. The victims can be signs and banners, sculptures, plastic submarines, and humans. The worst is the Rosh Ha’Ayin police, but that’s for a future post.
To guard and protect
To be fair, in some cities, police was non-aggressive and even helpful, notably Haifa and Caesarea. During the Haifa march, police actually escorted us, in line with its true mission to “guard and protect” the public.
Or-Ly Barlev, the “one-woman-media-channel-of -the-revolution”, keeps saying that since the protests are, as a rule, completely non-violent, police could have simply contained them, protectect the protesters and move on. Instead, they repeatedly chose to instigate violence. The orders they get are, apparently, to intimidate and scare people away from protesting.
This tactic works to some extent. Many people, especially working family people, are fearful. On the other hand, those who do come, get more determined and more resilient by the day, lighting the fire of the revolution even further. In the last tally, police completely eroded public trust in them, and did not achieve their goal. By now many police come without their name tags, scared of protesters suing them.
Another police failure to protect and guard was seen repeatedly when they ignored Bibi supporters’ violence and incitement against the protesters, as they handed heavy fines to peaceful protesters for made-up accusations.
Here at the Knesset protest was the first time I witnessed police senseless brutality directly with my own eyes, and it was as stupid and unjustified as you can imagine. Below and in the video above, you can see pictures and recordings of their “brave” attack on the banner.
Police Mode B : Pouncing.
Repeatedly at Balfour, the main focus of the protest movement, we saw how police gets out of the “containing” mode and starts pouncing. Usually it takes the form of lining up, pushing through the barricades to mingle into the crowd, and then catching victims. They find excuses to give reports, arrest, confiscate noise-makers and musical instrumetns. In the worse cases they beat, hit, push people who stand, forcefully pick up and lift people who sit, touch female protesters inadequately, break people’s legs and arms. In the early phase of Balfour, police used water cannons and horses improperly, causing heavy physical damages. Now they refrain from using these last two measures, but have them on standby. Victims are chosen randomy, according to a list, or even provoked on purpose. Repression is physical, economical, sexual, verbal.
In some cases, especially in Rosh Ha’Ayin, undercover police kidnapped protesters, and then dumped them in a dark field without giving them any official papers. Almost every protest in Balfour that started benignly and orderly up until about 9:30, became a mayhem thereafter and ended up with a busload of detainees.
Here, at the Knesset protest, the culprit that instigated their rage was an innocuous red banner posted to the back fence, as far away from the actual Knesset as the space allowed.
“Dictatorship Under the Guise of Corona”: The war over the banner
The banner stated the truth. Netanyahu’s government used and abused the coronavirus crisis to impose a de-facto dictatorship: spy on the citizenry, create black lists, attack our basic rights, among which was the threat to take away our right to demonstrate against them. This is why we were in front of the Knesset that day, the parliament which, theoretically, at least, is there to represent us, the people.
That day, police was standing idle until a certain point, and then – BOOM – they went on the attack trail.
They came to the banner as a block, not maintining social distancing among themselves or with the protesters they attacked, and for no reason whatsoever used excssive force to take down the sign we had every democratic right to have hanging there. The protesters immediatly mobilized to protect the sign, but were outnumbered and trounced by the police as you can see from the pictures and video clips (above and below).
If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it. You can see the lengths to which Israeli police went to pull down a banner hanging completely legally at a protest for the right to demonstrate. Knesset circle
Police brutality in its war against innocuous banners… The first two seconds of the video are rotated. Apologies. Keep watching to see the battle.
Mothers Against Police Brutality
Some Israeli mothers organized as an umbrella to protect “our” children from police violence and brutality. They often stand between police and the youth, blocking the police with their own bodies, trying to separate the two factions.
They can be easily recognized in the crowd by their yellow vests with “Mother” written on them in several langauges.
The Mothers show again and again the material mothers are made of when they defend their children and all children. This demonstration was no exception. They earn the “lioness” title by virtue. Frankly, I am too chicken to join their ranks, but admire them from a little distance…
Picture: Ketty Bar, founder and organizer of the “Mothers Against Violence” movement in Israel
Knesset Protest - When the Penny Dropped
Knesset protest – my eureka moment
This demonstration was a key event in my understanding of where things stood. Other people, of course, understood this much earlier, sometimes years earlier, but as the famous protest chant goes:
Good morning, we have finally awakened…
It took me a while, but I am now here. Each of us, including some politicians, have their own personal eurkea moments…
Up until now, in the several Balfour demonstrations I participated in since July, it was hard for me to see up close what was actually happening in real time. Over and over again, all of a sudden there was a congregation and it was too crowded for me to see. Protesters would chant “Shame, Shame”, or “Political Police”. I haven’t gotten to see directly who instigated what to start these commotions.
This time, however, I saw the entire absurdity of the police stance first hand. There was no way around it. It was unmistakable. No police officer standing in clean, ironed uniform in a TV studio could lie to me about what my eyes have seen.
The absurdity of police violence
I have been to numerous demonstrations in my life, in Israel and some abroad. I have never seen police attacking signs or banners, not to mention attacking humans because of signs or banners.
To push the point further for me personally, a young policewoman tried to snatch my own home-made cardboard personal signs that were leaning against the wall for a moment (see picture above). I told her off, and she stopped herself short, but ….WHAT???? Was she getting a bonus for every sign confiscated?
Eventually, for me, 1+1+1 added to 3, and the little trust I might have still had in the authorities, evaporated. I understood we, decent citizens of this country, were at war with our government, unprotected, and I was in and on it.
The uneven, failing, unjust, stupidly arbitrary, unintelligent and politically-motivated coronavirus policies were the last nail on the coffin of my trust in our democracy.
Knesset Protest and the Desecration of an Israeli Sacrosanct Principle
Certain things are sacrosanct in this country. The army and Memorial Day are two salient examples.
Our children are not sent for two or three years of obligatory service to serve a political leader. They sacrifice for the country, for our survival as a society. This is a foundation of everything Israel (except the Haredi and the Israeli Arabs, but that is a separate topic). So-called “mainstream Israel” has zero tolerance for political interference in the military.
Where are the Tel Avivis?
I kept asking my fellow demonstrators where were the promised convoys coming from the coastal cities, our long-anticipated reinforcement. The demonstration was meant to be large and crowded. Instead, it consisted mostly of the hard core Jerusalem nucleus with a few additions.
I got vague, conflicting answers.
There were rumors that some cars were circling the grounds, not allowed in. It was said some were given reports for one excuse or another and sent back.
Then came the bombshell: we heard that regular soldiers, our children, were used to stop civilian cars from coming!
That major mismove naturally brought about clashes between soldiers and civilians, who could have been their parents. Gantz, our defense minister, admitted to a mistake and promised not to repeat it, but he did not really lament the abuse by the authorities of the military as much as protesters’ reactions to being stopped by soldiers. Two women told soldiers to disobey orders, that they were participting in a military coup. This is deplorable, of course, but understandable. Soldiers should have never been posted at roadblocks to police civilians in the first place…
Benny Gantz, we voted for you three times. You were the chief of staff of the IDF. You know better than anobody what the military should and should not do.
Later on I read that hundreds of cars circulated the Knesset. Only about 30 vehicles were allowed in. We applauded their arrival, as can be seen in the following video:
Knesset Protest Vignettes
One great aspect of the protest movement is the artistic and creative. That ranges from major exhibits like the Israel Hero sculpture, the Submarines and the Trojan Horse, to the home-made signs and banners. Here is a link to a previous post regarding protest movement creativity:
More to come.
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In this relatively modest protest, however, there were mostly home-made signs ( I keep running to the local grocery store to pick discarded cardboard boxes…) and some larger banners courtesy of the major protest movements. Everybody contributes..
Following the attack on the “Dictatorship Under the Guise of Corona” banner and its confiscation, a new placard was almost instantaenously produced: “To be a Free People in Our Land” (a line from our national anthem, Hatikva).
To be a free people in our land
Soon enough yet another banner was added: “You closed off the Country and Thought That we will Keep Quiet? You are Dealing With the Wrong Generation” This last sentence is part of a popular protest chant sung by elderly and youth alike. We are proud of our young generation. And they will not cower or obey sheepishly when pushed.
This protest movement, like any protest movement, has many eccentrics and individualists in its ranks. The man below has been carrying this five-load sign of signs from one protest to the next. The texts ask Bibi to resign and criticize his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and destruction of society and economy.
In the picture on the right, the protester eventually got his sign of signs to lean against the very symbol of Israel, the Knesset Menorah,
Netanyahu is commiting a mass terror attack on our society and economy
The sign below (left) refers to Bibi’s wife’s habit of carrying the dirty houshold laundry to Washington on official state trips…
“Honorable Knesset, You are not Bibi’s laundromat. You are there for ME! “
The couple is known for being cheap. They are known to never carry a wallet, expecting the state, that is, us, to pay for all their expenses and whims.
The sign on the right refers back to George Floyd’s strangulation by American police: “I Can’t Breathe. Undersigned: Israeli Democracy”.
The Knesset is not Bibi’s laundromat. Israeli democracy: Can’t breathe
Below: Sign on left refers to the famous Braslev (Jewish religious sect) slogan: Na-Na Nachman from Breslav. Don’t ask me what that means. But the answer is: Ne Ne Netnyahu is dangerous to Israel. On the right: one of many families who come routinely to demonstrate with their children.
Ne-ne Netanyahu is dangerous to Israel, Resistance is duty. More Explanation of the pictures in this section to be found in the text.
Knesset Protest - The Real Patriotism
Ask any demonstrator and they will tell you: This is the real patriotism. We are trying to save the soul of the country – no less.
Our flags are multiple-colored – the black signifies our mourning the Israel we loved and that is now fast disappearing under the creeping dictatorship; the pink symbolize hope and female spirit, and the blue and white are what we are all about, what we all love.
The protest by the Knesset ended with the singing of the national anthem, Hatikva, “The Hope”, which for us now takes a new meaning every day.
Knesset Protest -Failure or Success?
On the face of it, we lost – partially. The Knesset decided to restrict demonstrations to a 1000m from home (the 1 km ruling), in “capsules” of 20 people each. Demonstrations at Democracy Square (Balfour) were limited to 20 such capsules, or 2000 people living at a 1-km distance from there… That was a compromise between Netanyahu’s wish to prohibit the desmontrations altogether, which is unconstitutional, and the coronavirus limitations that gave him such an unexpected and rosy opportunity and power to limit and restrict them.
But…as I describe in the sequel post, this backfired on Mr. Netanyahu. Instead of everybody concentrating at one spot, he got the protests exploding all over the county. The movement now renamed itself: One Kilometer It Is.
For the aftermath of this crucial demonstration, its repercussions, effects and some more highlights, the reader is referred to the sequel post (in preparation):
Knesset Protest Aftermath – Creeping Dictatorship, new Patriotism and the symbolism of attacking symbols.
For more videos from this event and from other protests and demonstrations around Israel see my You Tube playlist: Wave of Demonstrations Israel
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