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Police, protesters clash in front of Likud headquarters in Tel Aviv

This post has been updated, 23 November, 2011.

By Noam Sheizaf and Dahlia Scheindlin

Protesters clashed with police on Tuesday evening after a demonstration against a string of anti-democratic legislative initiatives recently brought forth in the Knesset. Some 200 people demonstrated in front of the headquarters of the ruling Likud party, blocking King George Street in the center of the city. Police sprayed the protesters with pepper spray and at least one person was arrested.

The protesters had marched from a larger demonstration of about 2000 people held earlier in the evening at the square of the Habima Theater at the end of Rothschild Blvd., the birthplace of the summer tent protest. The demonstration had been called in opposition to a series of laws that are widely perceived to threaten democratic freedoms. The most recent of these was the new version of Israel’s libel law, which passed the first reading in Knesset on Monday; but the leaders of the protest read out a series of laws currently being debated, including legislation to change the makeup of the panel that chooses Supreme Court judges and the process of their confirmation, legislation against foreign funding for NGOs, and laws passed earlier this year, such as the laws allowing acceptance committees for small communities in Israel.

Demonstration Tuesday evening in Tel Aviv. Sign reads, "The right won't silence me." (photo: Dahlia Scheindlin)

Protesters, many wearing masking tape or masks over their mouths to symbolize the repression of freedom of speech, railed against what they called the extreme right-wing government, chanting “When the left gets together, the right gets frightened!” and “The response to the legislation – revolution!” and the main refrain: “No-confidence!” By contrast to the social protests of the summer, this was an explicit anti-government protest.

More photos of the demonstration, all by ActiveStills:

Protesters and police clash in Tel Aviv November 22, 2011 (Photo: Oren Ziv ActiveStills)

Protesters and police clash in Tel Aviv November 22, 2011 (Photo: Oren Ziv ActiveStills)

Protesters and police clash in Tel Aviv November 22, 2011 (Photo: Oren Ziv ActiveStills)

Protesters and police clash in Tel Aviv November 22, 2011 (Photo: Oren Ziv ActiveStills)

Protesters and police clash in Tel Aviv November 22, 2011 (Photo: Oren Ziv ActiveStills)

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    1. Here’s my storalyis:
      During and after the suicide bomging campaign Israel moved to national unity governments. Those opposed to State policy where, more or less, socially silenced (by coworkers, friends, relatives); and, truly, no alternative to State policy seemed plausible. The terror has receeded, but social silencing allowed some people to move up in the political economy and has become a patriotic tool (Patriots, during the American Independence War, were quite proud of silencing Loyalists to the Crown); one does better in life while helping Israel. But disqueit over the Occupation has grown in the international media, prompting an extension of silencing via the Boycott Law. While the law is motivated as defense against “those harming Israel,” its immediate effect is to further limit the genesis and growth of alternative social/economic networks; believe as we or stagnate where you are. The Knesset is in an orgy of such bills/laws, always to protect Israel they say, but in effect to prevent a mobilized electoral/party opposition. Those in power, everwhere, listen to their networks for threats of alternative networks; and in a democracy, mobilizing networks during election decides the day.
      I think this orgy a sign of real disqueit among the powered, as too was (is?) the J14 rallies. The Knesset is telling you there is something going on, out there, in the land, that worries them. Of course, those who silence know little else, save silence more. Clearly the libel bill, if made law, could chill (I like the US jurisprudence word) future networks spurred by J14. While those in the Knesset will say these measures are to protect Israel from oustide onslaugt, I think their impetus an internal Israeli concern.
      I am strangely optimistic. But I aint’ a player.
      God’s speed, writers. I have never been able to figure out what that means, but I say it anyway.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Mikesailor

      Watching the slide toward outright fascism does not make anyone feel ‘strangely optimistic’, except those who are benefiting from this quest for absolute power. The J14 rallies failed to address the real problem: the definition of an ‘Israeli’ and whether or not all born or naturalized within the country have the same rights and equal protection of the laws. Whether the polity, as a whole, can change the direction and values of the country, or instead maintain a system wherein every small ‘shtetl’ can make their own laws and look out only for their own well-being. Instead, it avoided the ‘elephant in the room’ of the occupation and out of control ‘security services’ without addressing the concentration of money and power and those who benefit from the status quo.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Mitchell Cohen

      FWIW, I am against the boycott bill and I have voiced this on other forums. While it is no secret I am “right-wing” in my views, I believe the current government is going overboard with some of the bills they are proposing. I do see a place for limiting the amount of foreign funding NGO’s receive, but ALL NGO’s (regardless of political persuasion) should be subject to this limit.

      That being said, to say that this government (or only right wing governments)is the first one to attempt to stifle opposing points of view is deceiving (to put it nicely). For many decades after the founding of Israel, Mapai was an expert at stifling opposing opinion (to the point of threatening to take people’s jobs away, if they could even get them in the first place). Also, during the Oslo highs, and specifically after Rabin’s assassination, virtually anyone skeptical of Oslo was branded a “trouble maker” or “obstacle to peace” or even accused of being responsible (even if indirectly) for Rabin’s murder.

      Yes, I know, two wrongs don’t make a right. This does not make these bills that the current government is passing right, but let’s not pretend this is a Likud/Yisrael Beitenu invention….

      Reply to Comment
    4. Mitchel Cohen,
      I know not the history you mention, but suspect you are right. Glad you posted this, and hope others will amplify or disagree (with the facts). The rule of law is very weak in your country. It is as true of the United States at times, perhaps in some places therein now. Jobs are at stake in Israel, as they were in the past you point out. We have to be able to articulate how social/political process works and at least limit naturally occurring abuses. If the law defends the target of these abuses you can at least redirect them; they never go away completely. In the United States, affirmative action, envisioned as a cure for racial exculsion, ultimately locked in a conservative opposition which I believe is a strong plurality if not majority of the electorate. For the remedy created its own preferred social networks. These processes are ideologicaly neutral; they ride ideologies, ideologies do not control them.

      Reply to Comment