Protesters against overhaul begin forming defense group after right-wing attacks

A civilian defense group has been formed after a series of violent incidents targeting protesters opposed to government plans to reform the judiciary, according to a report on Wednesday.

The government’s judicial plans were put on hold on Sunday amid massive protests across the country, some of which saw attacks on protesters and bystanders.

Organized in a WhatsApp group that opened on Tuesday, the defense group said its goal is to “create a determined group of people who can reach the points of conflict at demonstrations and prevent violence,” the Walla news site reported .

On Wednesday, the group had reached almost 500 members.

One member of the civil defense group wrote that it was formed in response to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s agreement with National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir to advance plans to establish a National Guard under the far-right minister’s control.

“If Ben Gvir can, so can we,” wrote one member, according to Channel 12.

The group, called “citizen police”, was opened by a 14-year-old boy and a 20-year-old boy. The teenager said he was shoved while protesting on Monday.

“The idea is to create an extra layer of protection for the protesters,” the teenager told Walla, adding that areas outside small towns and kibbutzim were particularly vulnerable to security incidents and needed civilian protection.

Right-wing protesters block roads and set fire in Jerusalem, March 27, 2023. (Israel Police)

He emphasized that the goal is to prevent any violence, saying, “We don’t want to hurt or endanger the other side.”

The group discussed different approaches to prevent the violence, including coming together to form a defensive line in front of protesters, or forming response teams of five who will be alert and able to rush to any points conflict.

On Monday, far-right activists charged and threatened drivers at the entrances to two kibbutz communities, accusing residents of opposing Netanyahu and his government’s attempt to reform the judiciary.

The attackers blocked traffic junctions at the entrances to Ein Harod and nearby Tel Yosef in northern Israel, set tires on fire, threw stones at vehicles and threw and cursed at their occupants, Haaretz reported.

On Sunday, pro-government protesters in Jerusalem attacked demonstrators opposed to the judicial overhaul, bystanders, members of the press and police officers.

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