Hundreds of protesters turned out Sunday afternoon outside the Jerusalem District Court to show their support for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and decry the law enforcement agencies, as the premier’s trial on corruption charges began.
Cries of “antisemites,” “leftists,” “post-Zionists,” and “Israel haters,” were just some of the epithets used to describe senior law enforcement officials, while other demonstrators compared Netanyahu’s trial to the antisemitic trial of Alfred Dreyfus in 19th century Paris and called for the attorney general to be put on trial.
“We are the sovereign, we will determine who is in power,” read one placard, while t-shirts emblazoned with the words “Netanyahu, you will never walk alone” were worn by many protestors.
And demonstrators all had similar messages, accusing law enforcement agencies and officials in the justice system of seeking to topple Netanyahu because of their alleged hatred of the Jewish values of the state and their supposed antipathy for the Israeli right-wing.
“They want to destroy the Jewish character of the state, they hate us, they call us baboons,” said Rakefet Levy of leftists in general and the judicial system in particular.
Holding a sign with the word “Mandel-gate”, Levy, from Netanya, accused “the High Court of Justice” and former State Attorney Shai Nitzan of having extorted Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit by threatening to expose him over the Harpaz affair if he did not indict Netanyahu.
Sarah Schwartz said that it was not Netanyahu alone being put on trial but “the Second Israel,” a term supposedly referring working class, Sephardic or Mizrachi Jews from the Middle East and North Africa.
“The left couldn’t beat us in the elections so they’re trying to use unprecedented criminal charges such as “positive coverage,” to remove Netanyahu,” she claimed.
Schwartz said the Second Israel was “us, the common people, Likudnikim,” and then more expansively, “us from the development towns, Moroccans and Mizrachim.”
She said she didn’t believe any part of the criminal charges against Netanyahu “in any way,” although when asked if she believed that former prime minister Eud Olmert, who had headed a relatively left leaning government, had been guilty she prevaricated.
“Netanyahu has led us to great achievements, economically, in terms of security, and he should continue to lead us.”
Meir Baruchi, 65, from Nahariya, declared that “Bibi is in my blood, and said that “the leftists” were trying to remove Netanyahu from power since they could not defeat him at the ballot box.
“The left are ISIS, they’re a corrupt junta and they’re shouting about democracy? We, the people, are sovereign, and Bibi’s trial is because they want to take back control but can’t beat him at the ballot box,” said Baruchi
He described the cases against the prime minister as “nothing,” and claimed that all 120 members of Knesset would be found guilty of improperly accepting extravagant gifts as Netanyahu is alleged to have done in one of the cases against him.
He said that “the leftwing and Mapai” established the country, and that ever since Jews from the Middle East and North Africa arrived in Israel the leftwing had tried to oppress them.
“They left us behind for years, they thought we were nothing, my parents came from Iran and they were given the worst work to do. Now that the rightwing is in control they want to take it back and this is the only way they can because two thirds of the country has right wing views.”
The opposition Yesh Atid Party and the Black Flag movement have organized protests at dozens of junctions across the country under the banner: “Corrupt and Disconnected – We are sick of you.”
In a video published by Kan News, opposition protesters outside of Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem were seen opening a bottle of champagne, in celebration of the long-awaited start of the trial.