"Israel is in a state of social chaos," a senior police official said behind closed doors, N12 reported last week as violence broke out at anti-government protests.
Four demonstrators protesting against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in central Tel Aviv were hospitalized last week after being attacked by far-right activists. The group reportedly infiltrated the demonstration, attacking a group of protesters with pepper spray and glass bottles.
The photograph of 27-year-old protester Shai Sekler, who was injured by the group, began circulating social media following the violent incident.
בנאדם לא אמור לסיים ככה הפגנה. המשטרה צריך בראש ובראשונה לשמור ולהגן על המפגינים ורק אחכ להתעסק בלפזר אותם. pic.twitter.com/yBXqBPYmho— Guy Camelmacher גיא קמלמכר (@GuyCamelmacher) July 28, 2020
"When the rally reached the Cinematheque area, a group of ten people in black joined [the protest]," Sekler said in an interview with Ynet. "At first, we thought they were undercover detectives because they moved as an organized group," he added.
"At some point, they began attacking [protesters] with knives, bats and glass bottles," he continued. "I ran to help those injured and then one of them attacked me with a sharp object and another two toppled me."
תיעוד: עשרה שתולים מתחזים למוחים עם דגלים שחורים, ואז תוקפים את המפגינים עם בקבוקי זכוכית, אגרופים, וגז פלפל. מזכירים לכם מי כאן המסוכנים. להפיץ pic.twitter.com/YhljmyKk0b— איתמר קציר (@ItamarKatzir) July 28, 2020
After the attack, "I ran after them with other demonstrators to film them and call the police. Around Kaplan Street, they tried attacking us once again and sprayed us with pepper spray," Sekler told the media outlet.
"Covered in blood, I saw undercover officers and asked them for help, that they'd call for backup or an ambulance, and they ignored me," he recalled. "The moment that scared me the most out of all that happened yesterday was that police are here not to protect public order and civil rights," he said.
"As far as I am concerned, they chose the side of the regime, and that is the result of incitement."
An undercover police officer was reportedly injured by a rock thrown at the group by the anti-Netanyahu protesters. Speaking to Jaffa Precint Commander, Chief Superintendent Yitzhak Cohen on N12, Sekler accused police of collaborating with the attackers, allegedly affiliated with the far-right La Familia group.
"The officers did not understand who is who when looking at the group fleeing the scene," Cohen told Sekler. "A rock was thrown, and had it hit [the officer's] head, the damage would have been more significant," he added.
"The reason why that officer was injured was that he was walking within the attackers group, with them," Sekler said, responding to Cohen. "I came up to the officers asking for help, and they refused."
Three members of the group were arrested by law enforcement after being identified on video footage from the incident. They were subsequently freed from police custody following a court hearing, as the judge said it was unclear who started the fight.
Following the violent incident, Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz said violence between conflicting factions could lead to a civil war. "Violence against protesters could lead to civil war," Gantz said in an interview with Channel 13 last week. "We must stop this hatred and incitement."
Gantz continued, saying neither Netanyahu's supporters nor those rallying against him "can engage in this hatred of the other," adding that former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin "was not assassinated because of hate on the Left."
President Reuven Rivlin also warned of an escalation of political violence in Israel, saying the "murder of a demonstrator protesting in Israel nor that of an Israeli prime minister are not imaginary scenarios."
Posting an image of Transportation Minister Miri Regev (Likud) with two far-right activists wearing shirts saying "[Rabbi Meir] Kahane was right!" and "Jews, go in and possess the land," left-wing NGO Peace Now wrote on Twitter that "whenever they tell you those are stray weeds, remember Likud is the garden."
Last night pro-Likud thugs from the La Famiglia group attacked a protesters in Tel Aviv with glass bottles and pepper spray. The picture below shows longtime Likud Minister Miri Regev posing with such racists. See footage of the attack here: https://t.co/DV57pLuNzI https://t.co/pwGaXEVAvc— Peace Now (@peacenowisrael) July 29, 2020
On Saturday, around 1,200 people joined MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz), demanding Gantz designate La Familia as a terrorist organization. A Channel 13 news crew was attacked Friday near Netanyahu's Balfour Street residency by members of the club.
Eight La Familia members were arrested for attacking the crew and allegedly throwing rocks at cars near Jerusalem's Central Station. Some 16 people were arrested on Friday for attacking protesters and a police officer. Some 13 are facing a bail hearing. According to The Jerusalem Post's sister publication, Maariv, half of those arrested are minors.
Back in late April, a team from the National Security Council tasked with combating the coronavirus outbreak discussed an armed revolt scenario caused by the economic crisis, according to Haaretz.
The 30-member team that brought together government officials, analysts and representatives from the IDF, the NSC, police and academia, reportedly discussed the circumstances that may lead to such a civil uprising alongside ways to suppress it.
The team claimed that distress and anger "will not lead to large-scale social phenomena on their own, at least in the short term." The second scenario, however, holds the potential to cause substantial "long-term damage to Israeli society and democracy."