There was a right-wing shutdown in favor of the government’s judicial reform plans on Thursday evening in Tel Aviv, as reports emerged that some attendees have announced their intention to engage in physical violence during the demonstration.
The right-wing organization Im Tirtzu announced a “March for Freedom” in the heart of Tel Aviv on Thursday night aimed at “being free from the constraints of the High Court,” and proclaiming that “the people have chosen judicial reform.” Several government ministers asked their supporters to attend the event.
Many pro-government activists are unhappy that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu halted progress on judicial reform legislation for talks, believing the democratically elected government should not have to compromise.
Police said several major streets in central Tel Aviv will be closed for the event, and heavy foot traffic is expected. Im Tirtzu has organized shuttle buses from a range of cities across Israel for those who wish to attend.
Several members of the WhatsApp groups that organized the events issued disturbing calls for violence and plans to attack anti-government activists and journalists.
“Today we are going to fuck them and nobody will stop us … we have to shut their mouths,” wrote one member of the group on Thursday afternoon, after claiming that the left “incites murder and hatred against us , the right wing. “
״ Now לא ה ה לז לז לז
— فيك ريفورتر | FakeReporter (@FakeReporter) March 30, 2023
“I’m dying to punch them in the face,” wrote another member of an organizing group. Others shared images of the weapons they said they would be bringing to the rally.
In a group of supporters of the far-right party Otzma Yehudit, one participant wrote that any left-wing protester “who comes to provocation will leave in an ambulance.”
In a voice note from one of the groups shared by Kan News, an individual said “we have to go into the media pen and stick them – we go in, we take their heads, we break their bones – we have to burn it. everything down.”
On Thursday, Im Tirtzu asked participants to heed instructions from security officials and “not to give signs or make calls that incite violence.”
The rally follows a large pro-government demonstration in Jerusalem on Monday, in which several extremist protesters attacked journalists as well as an Arab cab driver.
Before the rally in Jerusalem, police and Shin Bet officers tracked down and arrested three people who shared a video on social media of themselves going to the demonstration and saying they were bringing eggs, knives and a gun to attack protesters the left wing.
Three suspects – including a minor – have been arrested so far on suspicion of involvement in Monday night’s attack on an Arab cab driver in the capital during the protest. The three were ordered released to house arrest under restrictive conditions on Tuesday morning, after appearing before a judge at the Jerusalem Magistrates’ Court.
Among the pro-reform protesters in Jerusalem were dozens of members of the right-wing extremist group La Familia, some of whom were filmed attacking Arab migrants. Members of the group have also been blamed for other reported attacks. The ultra-nationalist La Familia is nominally a fan club for the Beitar Jerusalem soccer team, although the team has repeatedly distanced itself from the organization due to its racist rhetoric and violent antics. Security officials have previously called for it to be outlawed as a terrorist organisation.
A television news crew from Channel 13 was also attacked on Monday night during the demonstration. Channel 13 reporter Yossi Eli was hospitalized with a broken rib and suspected damage to his spleen while cameraman Avi Cashman suffered a head injury. In another incident, pro-government supporters harassed Tamer Alkilani, a reporter for Kan 33, the Arabic-language division of public broadcaster Kan, at a demonstration in Jerusalem as he attempted to provide a live update.
Weekly mass protests have been held for nearly three months against the proposed legislation, which critics say will politicize the court, remove key checks on government power and seriously damage Israel’s democratic character. Proponents of the measures say they will stay judges who they claim have overstepped their bounds.