50 arrested, reporters attacked in violent Jerusalem protest; politicians rush to condemn

About 50 were arrested in a violent demonstration the Jerusalem police chief characterized as “left-wing.” 

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Elected leaders from both sides of the political aisle on Wednesday harshly criticized anti-Netanyahu protesters after a demonstration outside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence erupted in violence.

Towards the end of the demonstration hundreds of protesters stormed the police barricades and hurled objects at officers trying to prevent the mob from breaking through and reaching the prime minister’s house on Balfour Street in central Jerusalem.

Journalists were also attacked. Yossi Eli, a reporter for Channel 13, said Wednesday, “We started the broadcast near the riots that began over there. People smashed windows, tried to snatch the microphones and the camera from us, and attacked us with wood boards.

“Our photographer was violently attacked. People came to demonstrate for democracy, so they claim,” Eli said.

Rioters also targeted veteran Channel 13 news reporter Avishay Ben Haim, calling him “Moroccan garbage” as he covered the demonstration.

“I took a lot of horrible and threatening shouts yesterday, but only this racist stabbed me right in the soul,” Ben Haim said.

Transportation Minister Miri Regev from Netanyahu’s Likud Party slammed the protesters for attacking police and a reporter. “You are not protesting against corruption, but are merely agents of anarchy, on a mission of left-wing organizations,” Regev tweeted.

“Demonstration and freedom of expression, yes. violence and incitement no. It’s time to stop before it’s too late,” Regev said. “Even when it is painful and difficult, social solidarity, restraint and respect for the law are required. It is time to wake up.”

Opposition leader and Yesh Atid party chairman Yair Lapid tweeted, “The Balfour [Street] protest is justified and correct but nothing justifies violence against police and journalists. Protest yes. Violence no. We have no other country, we have no other police.”

The demonstration was billed as a protest against the government’s perceived failure to cope effectively with the coronavirus crisis. But it appeared from the placards and banners to be essentially anti-Netanyahu activists given renewed energy as a result of the pandemic.

Jerusalem Police District Commander Doron Yedid described the protest to reporters as “left-wing,” adding “It was a pretty violent event – we have not experienced such an event here.”

“We ended up with around 50 detainees – they are currently under investigation,” he said.

Protesters who overheard Yedid’s comments during his comments rejected his characterization of the protesters as left-wing, calling it “nonsense.”

Anti-Netanyahu demonstrations have been taking place for months, calling on the leader to step down in light of the corruption charges against him. Netanyahu denies the charges, referring to them as an “attempted coup” by overaggressive police, biased prosecutors and a hostile media.

From the prime minister’s residence the protesters then marched to Jerusalem’s Jaffa Street and blocked the light rail before being dispersed by police.

“Hundreds violated order in the city center, throwing stones, eggs and objects at police forces, causing extensive damage to businesses’ properties,” police said on their Twitter account.