Israeli police turn violent on peaceful anti-corruption protest

Israeli protest, Petach Tikvah, 24 Dec 2016
Marianne Azizi writes:

Israeli police have arrested three people at a peaceful protest in Petach Tikvah, seven miles east of Tel Aviv, on 24 December.

Video footage and photographs show the police wading in heavily into the peaceful protest.

The demonstrators had come with balloons and candles – also to celebrate the festival of Hanukkah – to join a growing number of people who are not afraid to protest against the corruption in the banks and across a range of government institutions, including the police, tax and welfare authorities.

Approximately 50 people had gathered outside the home of Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit for the fifth consecutive week to protest over a range of issues.

The protesters included Menny Naftali, who recently won a case against this former employer, Sara Netanyahu, the prime minister’s wife.

At 7.30pm, as a crowd of people mainly in their 40s and 50s gathered, the police moved in. The activist Moti Leybel – long persecuted by the authorities – was immediately arrested. Menny Naftali was wrestled to the ground without warning, handcuffed and taken away. Cries of medina mishtara (Hebrew for police state), reminiscent of the protests by Ethiopian immigrants two years ago, could be heard all around.

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Social media has been buzzing with comments on the police’s actions, with many calling for more people to attend the next protest.

What had been a peaceful demonstration was rapidly transformed into violence by the police. If the sentiments expressed on social media are to be believed, the year 2017 will bring more people to the streets.

The demands for investigations into corruption are falling on deaf ears. Protests such as this are common but usually attract small numbers of people as normally the police arrive within minutes to break up gatherings.

Although the protests are legal, the consequences of exercising one’s right to free speech can be tough, which explains why so many people are afraid to go out to the streets.

Many demonstrations are planned in secret as the police monitor social media sites and have been known to arrest activists merely for suggesting actions.

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