“We’re living in an insane reality, in which someone charged with crimes is sitting in the [official] residence with security guards, and we are arrested for not observing the conditions of the demonstration,” said Amir Haskel, the leader of Friday’s demonstration against the prime minister, after he was released from detention Saturday night. It’s hard to think of a more accurate description of Israel’s absurd reality.
Haskel and six other people were arrested Friday while demonstrating in front of the Prime Minister’s Residence along with hundreds of others. Some of the demonstrators were blocking the road, which was what led to the arrests, police said. But even the police have admitted that Haskel himself was not standing in the street. Apparently the spirit of the new commander decrees that this is what will be done to whoever demonstrates against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Haskel and two other demonstrators were released without restrictions, after Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court Judge Orna Sandler-Eytan rejected the police request to bar them from Jerusalem for 15 days.
The judge made it clear that the right to demonstrate is a basic right in a democratic country and that the police request constituted “silencing.”
The judge did the right thing and her criticism of the police was also justified. Yet one cannot divorce these arrests from the context of political persecution over which Netanyahu presides, aided by a multifaceted incitement campaign.
Along with the state prosecutors and the media, the police are also being targeted in this campaign. The police are under a methodical attack by Netanyahu and his envoys only because they dared to investigate him and recommend that he be indicted. Now police are being asked to arrest demonstrators protesting against the criminally indicted prime minister who has attempted to escape justice by, among other things, inciting against the police and against Roni Alsheich, the former police commissioner.
Moreover, Netanyahu named Amir Ohana to the post of public security minister so that he could instill fear among the police using the same methods he’d previously used in the Justice Ministry. All this is happening while for over 18 months the police have been without a permanent commissioner who could stand up to the pressure brought to bear from above. That’s no coincidence.
This doesn’t mean the police aren’t responsible for their blunders, but the ultimate address for corruption is Netanyahu. On Sunday he even exploited the cabinet meeting to criticize the demonstrators. “It is not the prerogative of one side to decide it supports the rule of law and trample it at other times,” he said.
The prime minister, who is grossly undermining the rule of law by claiming selective enforcement, allows himself to preach on behalf of the rule of law.
This is another distortion in the series of distortions that lead to the same conclusion: A criminal defendant cannot serve as prime minister.