Violence escalates as right-wing agitators beat up Tel Aviv protesters

Opposition leaders and members of coalition both demand police arrest right-wing group that beat up protesters in Tel Aviv.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Opposition members slammed the government Wednesday, blaming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for incitement after a group of right-wing agitators attacked anti-government protesters in Tel Aviv, leaving several of them bloodied.

A video posted on social media Tuesday evening showed a group of black-shirted men carrying sticks and clubs exchanging blows with what appear to be anti-government protesters. The altercation continues as the two groups follow each other for several blocks before encountering two plainclothes police officers. At least one of the black-shirted attackers is seen throwing his club in a garbage can as the police approach.

At least five protesters were treated at local hospitals, Ynet reported. The attacks were attributed to pro-Netanyahu activists from a group called La Familia, soccer fans associated with the Beitar Jerusalem professional soccer team who are known for their long history of brutality and racism.

“The violence and blood spilled yesterday in Tel Aviv are on the hands of Bibi and his emissaries,” opposition Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid tweeted, using Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s nickname and blaming government leaders for accusing protesters of spreading the coronavirus infection.

“Whoever sows incitement will receive blood. Whoever calls protesters disease-spreaders and incites against civilians protesting against him is leading Israel into a civil war,” Lapid said.

Internal Security Minister Amir Ohana, a Netanyahu-loyalist in the Likud Party who is in charge of the police, called on all sides to “lower the flames” and reduce the amount of hatred in the air. Ohana himself has been under fire after he was overheard trying to order the police to shut down anti-government demonstrations near the prime minister’s official residence in Jerusalem.

“It does not matter for or against who you are: I call on all of you – right, left, for or against the prime minister, against me or for me – to put out the flames,” Ohana tweeted. “The police will deal harshly with any manifestation of violence.”

Defense Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz condemned the violence, saying the attackers must be caught and punished. “No one will silence protests in Israel as long as we are here,” Gantz tweeted.

Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn from Gantz’s Blue and White Party warned that things could get out of control and called on politicians to stop their accusations against protesters.

“I think the real anarchists are the ones who beat the protesters, and every minister and every Knesset member condemns it, and the phenomenon should be stopped,” Nissenkorn said.

Economy Minister Amir Peretz of the Labor Party sent a letter to Israel’s attorney general, calling for legal restrictions to be placed on La Familia.

“We are witnessing a dangerous escalation and an organization that aims to harm the protesters. If the phenomenon is not treated harshly, the events may end in harm to life,” Peretz tweeted.