‘Life in danger’? Security guard fires at right-wing protest

“Unfortunately, the justice system is biased in favor of one side of the political spectrum, which does not represent the majority of Israelis,” Maor Tzemach, chair of the Zionist NGO Your Jerusalem, told World Israel News.

By Adina Katz, World Israel News

The Kibbutz Movement defended a security guard who fired in the air after right-wing protesters gathered at the entrance to Kibbutz Hatzerim – while ignoring left-wing demonstrators who blocked Ayalon Highway for hours on Monday evening.

Police arrested a security guard, who is a member of the kibbutz, and six right-wing demonstrators following an impromptu protest by judicial reform supporters at the community’s front gate.

In clips of the incident circulating on social media, an armed man is seen charging protesters – who appear to be scuffling with kibbutz members – and firing in the air above their heads.

A statement from the Kibbutz Movement said the man had fired because he “felt his life was in danger.”

However, the video shows no physical contact between the security guard and the demonstrators. Rather, he is seen charging several meters towards the protesters, choosing to enter the fray and placing himself in close physical proximity to them.

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The Kibbutz Movement’s statement claimed that the guard took action only after protesters pounded their fists on a car transporting a mother and baby, an event for which there is no recorded documentation.

Police confirmed that they detained the shooter and six other men. Hebrew-language media reported that police requested to extend the armed man’s arrest.

The clash began when several dozen supporters of the judicial reform parked their cars in front of the gate leading to Kibbutz Hatzerim, near Beersheba, saying they were following a precedent created by opponents of the overhaul.

In recent months, left-wing protesters have repeatedly blocked major highways, thoroughfares and streets, snarling traffic throughout the country – an act which is illegal under Israeli law.

As a result of the demonstrations, drivers have been trapped in their vehicles for hours, with some ambulances delayed or even prevented from reaching hospitals.

But while the police have generally granted protesters hours to clear roadways and used limited force when dispersing them, the kibbutz security appeared to be far less patient.

Bastions of the Left

Israel’s secular kibbutzim are widely perceived as bastions of left-wing advocacy and politics, and the Kibbutz Movement, which represents the communities on a national level, has publicly expressed its support for protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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Many kibbutz members are active in the anti-judicial reform movement and have participated in civil disobedience, such as blocking highways. In recent months, some residents of right-wing towns near kibbutzim have set up their own roadblocks, claiming that the members of the left-wing communities should experience the same inconvenience.

Right-wing commentators have noted what they see as selective enforcement by police when breaking up demonstrations, depending upon the political orientation of the protesters.

For example, during the 2005 disengagement, Israelis who attempted to block roads as an act of protest against the expulsion of Jewish communities from the Gaza Strip were swiftly arrested, with police officers often using forceful means to take them into custody.

Some of those arrested were held in pre-trial detention for months, whereas there has not been a single indictment filed against anti-judicial reform protesters who have repeatedly disrupted traffic and day-to-day life in the country.

“Unfortunately, the justice system is biased in favor of one side of the political spectrum, which does not represent the majority of Israelis,” Maor Tzemach, chair of the Zionist NGO Your Jerusalem, told World Israel News.

“This is a political movement to topple the right-wing, democratically elected government, and it’s leading to borderline dangerous anarchy and rebellion,” he added, emphasizing the importance for both sides of the debate to refrain from violence.

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Speaking about selective enforcement by police, Tzemach stressed that “the law should not be applied differently, depending on the identity [of those protesting.] I hope that soon we’ll see an end to this policy, because it’s really unacceptable in a democratic country.”