Far-right protesters attack Palestinians during pro-government rallies [Ben-Gvir gets his ‘National Guard’]

Rayhan Uddin

Middle East Eye  / March 28, 2023

Supporters of judicial overhaul target Palestinian passers-by, as Netanyahu announces pause on legislation.

Far-right Israeli protesters supportive of the government’s controversial judicial overhaul attacked Palestinian passers-by on Monday night, on a day of nationwide strikes and protests. 

That evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced he was delaying the government’s contentious remake of the country’s courts, following 12 weeks of mass protests.

Far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir agreed to the delay, in return for allowing the creation of a “national guard” loyal to his ministry.

More than 80,000 anti-government protesters had converged outside the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in Jerusalem in the afternoon, where right-wing, pro-government demonstrators also later gathered. 

Ben Gvir and far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich were among several government figures who encouraged right-wing groups to take to the streets. 

Footage shared on Monday night from Jerusalem showed a Palestinian taxi driver surrounded by right-wing protesters, who threw objects, punches and kicks at his vehicle. 

The driver then attempted to flee towards a gas station, but was “attacked by the rioters who chased him and caused heavy damage to his car”, according to a police statement. 

A video of protesters running towards the gas station was widely shared online. Police said they were investigating the incident, and at least three suspects had been arrested. 

Elsewhere in Jerusalem, right-wing demonstrators blocked another Palestinian driver’s path and chanted “May your village burn”, while waving Israeli and Likud flags. 

In another clip shared online, a Palestinian youth is seen being frantically ushered away after being caught up among right-wing protesters.

‘Netanyahu is a threat to Israel’ 

Opposition lawmakers condemned the scenes, blaming them on Ben-Gvir and his supporters.

“Ben Gvir’s militias from La Familia are going wild right now on the streets of Jerusalem. Looking for Arabs to beat up,” the leader of the Labor Party Merav Michaeli said on Twitter.

“This is the man that Netanyahu promised to set up for him his own militia with regular salaries at the expense of the state. Netanyahu is a threat to Israel.”

La Familia, a fan group of the Beitar Jerusalem football team with a history of violence, took part in Monday’s counter demonstrations. 

Earlier on Monday afternoon, during anti-government protests against the judicial reforms, a man waving a Palestinian flag was attacked and had his flag snatched away. 

Haaretz reported that right-wing activists were using WhatsApp and other social media platforms to call on supporters to take up arms and use vehicles to attack anti-government protesters.

In one group, known as ‘The Unapologetic Right’, a member called on protesters to bring “gasoline, explosives, tractors, guns and knives”.

Labour party parliamentarian Gilad Kariv referred to attacks on Palestinians on Monday night as “attempted lynchings”. 

“This is an organized infrastructure and not spontaneous gatherings. The police and Shin Bet don’t have a proper response, in intelligence or operations, to this violent infrastructure. It’s time for them to wake up,” he tweeted. 

Ameer Makhoul, a Palestinian analyst based in the city of Haifa in Israel, told Middle East Eye that Netanyahu’s promise to Ben-Gvir of a “national guard” was a bigger win for the far-right than the judicial reforms themselves.

He said the national guard, which Ben-Gvir claims is needed to increase security around Israel and would be loyal to his national security ministry, would have as its “core ideology” hostility to Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Israel’s main labour union also called off a nationwide strike, with Arnon Bar-David, chairman of the Histadrut labour federation, praising Netanyahu for delaying the overhaul and offering to help craft a compromise reform. 

The pause comes as many warned Israel was on the brink of civil conflict. Earlier on Monday, Israel’s army chief of staff warned that a “storm is brewing at home”, as thousands of military reservists threatened not to serve in the military if the reform passes. 

Flights were also grounded at Ben Gurion International Airport for a few hours amid the nationwide strike, while Israeli embassies across the world stopped work in solidarity with demonstrators.

The White House said it welcomed the delay to move forward with the overhaul and urged the Israeli parties to leave space for compromise.

The proposed judicial reforms would give parliament both the power to override Supreme Court decisions through a simple majority vote, and de facto control over court nominees, a role currently held by a mixed panel of politicians, judges and bar association members.

It would also limit the court’s ability to overturn unconstitutional legislation.

Rayhan Uddin is a Middle East Eye journalist based in London


Far-right groups attack Palestinians at pro-Netanyahu march

Namita Singh Liam James

The Independent  /  March 28, 2023 

Protests still raged after Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul postponed.

Three arrests were made after far-right groups attacked Palestinians during pro-government protests in Israel, as Benjamin Netanyahu delayed an incendiary power grab which would see politicians given a greater say in the courts.

Police said dozens of members of the extremist right-wing La Familia group were filmed attacking several Palestinians in Jerusalem, in one case “savagely” beating a taxi driver and causing damage to his car.

Monday night saw clashes between opposing groups of protesters, who were out in their thousands on the streets of Israel’s major cities for a second night despite the prime minister’s attempt to diffuse the anger over his proposed judicial reform.

Mr Netanyahu in a prime-time speech on Monday night acknowledged the divisions roiling the nation and announced a month-long delay for the legislation, saying he wanted “to avoid civil war” and seek a compromise with political opponents.

Opposition parties have started building teams to negotiate an alternative to the ruling right-wing coalition’s reforms, which would give Mr Netanyahu, who is on trial on corruption charges, and his allies the final say in appointing the nation’s judges, among other measures which critics say will weaken Israel’s system of checks and balances.


Israeli right-wing protesters attack Palestinians in Jerusalem

Al-Jazeera  /  March 28, 2023

Reports say that one man was “savagely beaten” in Jerusalem, after pro-government supporters had gathered.

Three people have been arrested as part of an ongoing probe after far-right groups were filmed attacking Palestinian citizens of Israel who were passing by pro-government protests in Jerusalem, according to Israeli police quoted by local media.

Reports say that one man was “savagely” beaten during the attacks on Monday evening – at the end of a day of nationwide protests against government plans to alter Israel’s judiciary.

Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets starting Sunday night and continued on Monday amid a general strike. Pro-government demonstrators also rallied in various parts of the country before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the postponement of the move.

The largest protests by both camps took place in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, prompting fears of possible violence between the two sides.

Reports and videos shared on social media suggested that right-wing protesters in Jerusalem accosted Palestinian passersby and drivers during their rallies.

People who were attacked included a taxi driver near a petrol station and a youth walking by the protest near Yitzhak Ben Zvi Boulevard in Jerusalem, the Israeli daily Times of Israel said.

A video shared on social media showed a large crowd of what seems to be demonstrators and security forces rushing into a petrol station in Jerusalem.

According to another short clip, a Palestinian appears to be caught up in a right-wing protest until he is saved by security forces.

Another one purportedly showed protesters with Israeli and Likud flags who blocked a Palestinian driver’s path and chanted slogans.

Far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir had backed protesters who took to the streets supporting the judicial amendments.

He wrote on Twitter: “Today the right stopped sitting on the sidelines and being silent. The right is usually indifferent to demonstrations, and active at the polls. But when they want to cancel our vote, when they try to steal the election results from us, when they tell us that our vote is second class – this is the result.”

He also shared a photo from the pro-government demonstrations.

The plans by the governing nationalist religious coalition to hand control over judicial appointments to the executive while giving parliament the power to overturn Supreme Court rulings has ignited one of the biggest internal crises in Israeli history and led to massive protests against the move in the past few months.

The decision to suspend the overhaul followed an extraordinary weekend in which Defence Minister Yoav Gallant was sacked after warning the divisions caused by the plans had affected the military and were threatening national security.

His dismissal by Netanyahu stirred mass protests once again as Israel’s President Isaac Herzog urged a halt to pushing the amendments through.