On Wednesday 30 September the Israeli government passed a law to suppress protests. For many months there have been weekly protests against Netanyahu in Jerusalem.
The new law states that gatherings of over 20 people are illegal and that it is illegal to travel more than 1 km to attend a protest. This is, supposedly, to reduce the spread of Covid-19.
It is true that infections in Israel have spread alarmingly. Many outbreaks have been linked to indoor religious gatherings — there is a much greater risk of Covid spreading indoors — but those have been allowed to continue. Outdoor protests have a much lower risk. Outbreaks have not been linked to outdoor protests.
Religious leaders are key supporters of Netanyahu and have applied pressure on the government to allow their religious gatherings to continue.
In defiance of the new restrictions over 1,000 demonstrators gathered on 1 October. They were attacked by a car that drove into demonstrators, running over one woman. A police horse charged into demonstrators and 15 were arrested.
But that was only one of over 100 protests that day, and tens of thousands of protesters were on the streets on Saturday 3 October, calling for Netanyahu’s resignation.
They faced violence from both civilians and the police. One protester was punched in the face, others had glass bottles thrown at them, another was tackled by the police and thrown into the path of a bus.
In trying to suppress demonstrations, Israel joins Hong Kong and other places where protests continue in defiance of repressive laws.
In some countries Covid restrictions have made specific exemptions for demonstrations. That includes the Netherlands and indeed the UK. The police have on occasion misinterpreted the law and stopped demonstrations, notably a trans rights protest on 5 September. But protests remain legal here if safety requirements are met.
Protest is a fundamental human right and a key way for socialists to spread ideas and show solidarity.
Solidarity with anti-Netanyahu protesters! Solidarity with protesters in Hong Kong!