Violence erupts at corona protests as 2nd wave continues to gain steam

With almost 1,200 new infections, hospitals continue to fill back up with coronavirus patients as police are criticized for brutality against protesters.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Israel’s second wave of coronavirus infections continued unabated Sunday with the Health Ministry announcing that another 1,148 Israelis were confirmed to have the virus in the past 24 hours.

There are now 18,940 Israelis currently confirmed to be infected with the coronavirus, 510 of whom are hospitalized with 141 of those listed in severe condition. One more person died from coronavirus bringing Israel’s death toll to 358.

As the hospitalizations steadily increase, the number of people infected over the week means the total number of Israelis currently sick with the virus will soon exceed the number of those who have recovered. In contrast, by the end of April confirmed infections had dropped to only a few dozen daily and the economy had begun to reopen after a series of nationwide lockdowns.

By last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu admitted that Israel had made the same mistake as other countries by restarting their economies to quickly without sufficient enforcement and public acceptance of wearing masks and social distancing.

Public frustration continues to build as Israel’s unemployment rate remains at about 21 percent, many remain unemployed and a number of towns and neighborhoods must endure a renewed lockdown due to local outbreaks.

Following a large protest in Tel Aviv Saturday night protesting the government’s economic response to the crisis, police clashed and arrested dozens of protesters who refused to disperse, many of them physically wrestled to the ground by officers.

Police in Jerusalem came under criticism by Knesset member Bezalel Smotrich for what he called disproportionate force against haredi, or ultra-Orthodox, Jews protesting closures on their Jerusalem neighborhoods.

Smotrich said he reviewed videos of the protests in the two cities and was appalled by “disparity in police behavior.”

“Zero patience and severe violence against the ultra-Orthodox in Jerusalem. Caution and maximum lightness towards the protesters in Tel Aviv,” tweeted Smotrich, a member of the opposition Yemina faction, who called it “a blatant declaration of discrimination” that should be the subject of an investigative committee.

In two widely circulated videos of two different incidents, police were recorded beating haredi protesters.

One video shown on the haredi news site Kikar Shabbat showed a uniformed officer grabbing one man and repeatedly punching him. The website reported that “the policeman who turned the haredi into a ‘punching bag’ was summoned for interrogation’ by the police internal affairs department.”

In the second incident, Yitzhak Bleyer, 22, is seen asking a uniformed police officer whose face mask was around his neck why he wasn’t wearing his mask properly. The police have been handing out 500 shekel fines to citizens who don’t wear mask.

As the officer walks past Bleyer he spins and smashes Bleyer in the face with a backhanded blow, leaving a large bruise on Bleyer’s forehead.

Bleyer was later arrested and on Monday brought to court in handcuffs. It is not known if the arrest was related to the altercation with the officer, or another incident.