The well-funded anarchist leadership (anti-judicial reform spending estimated at NIS 100 million over ten weeks) on Tuesday announced their plan to prevent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from reaching his plane for a flight to Germany Wednesday afternoon to meet with Chancellor Olaf Scholz. The anarchists announced that they plan to bring in thousands of motorists who will pack the access roads to Ben Gurion Airport, as well as the airport itself, driving at the minimum required speed of 10 kph.
I promised to tell you how the founder of the Jewish State, David Ben Gurion handled demonstrations, and I will after I report on Wednesday’s anticipated excitement.
Last week, hundreds of protesters waited for Netanyahu at the airport, but he managed to out-maneuver them, arriving in a police chopper. On Tuesday, the commander of the Central Police District, Superintendent Avi Bitton, called on the protesters to stay out of the emergency traffic lanes that are dedicated for use by security forces. Blocking those lanes, Bitton said, could delay the arrival of emergency rescue teams “and endanger tens of thousands of passengers on flights that take off and land in the airport every day.”
The protest organizers responded that “while the government under his leadership is trying to turn Israel into a dictatorship, Netanyahu, like many dictators in the world, chooses isolation and pleasure trips with his family around the world, at the expense of the citizens.”
I for one am not sure what makes a political leader whose party was elected by 1,115,336 (23.41% of the votes), and whose coalition government by an additional 1,189,628 voters – a “dictator”? Netanyahu’s coalition government relies on 64 Knesset mandates, while the Jewish parties that oppose him won only 46 mandates. The remaining 10 seats went to two Arab parties whose supporters stopped attending those anarchists’ protests after being told that carrying Palestinian flags made for bad optics.
The anarchist organizers made clear that they would not block the trains and advised those traveling abroad to arrive by train – “Quick, hon, hand me the schedule.”
“The dictator-in-the-making Netanyahu will meet us at every corner, flight, or conference he goes to,” said the anarchists. Considering that part of the definition of anarchy is avoiding all established organizations, these are pretty well-organized anarchists.
The police have increased their forces at the airport and warned that vehicles that block traffic will be towed. At the same time, the Airports Authority called on the flying public to arrive earlier to avoid delays. Airport employees were told to come to work early and use the train.
I’m not sure why Netanyahu can’t once again hop over all this mess in his chopper. Heck, he could avoid Ben Gurion altogether, ride a helicopter to Cyprus and take off from there. Protesters can’t drive their cars over from Tel Aviv.
Speaking of Ben Gurion: on January 7, 1952, he announced the signing of the reparations deal with West Germany. There was enormous popular resistance to the reparations, which was viewed––in a country that at the time had many thousands of Holocaust survivors––as the beginning of forgiveness for the murder of six million brothers and sisters.
The resistance to the reparations was led by Herut Chairman Menachem Begin, Ben Gurion’s arch-nemesis. While the Knesset was voting in favor of the deal, Begin addressed a massive demonstration at Jerusalem’s Zion Square, in one of his most memorable speeches, which he began by accusing the police of using German-made tear gas grenades to quell the rally (Germans, gas, get it?). He called the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, and the Transport Minister “criminals, defilers of Israel,” and ended his speech by urging the protesters: “Do not be afraid and go toward the police who are armed with gas grenades – on my guarantee!”
Immediately after Begin had finished, thousands of demonstrators began marching up Ben Yehuda Street to the Frumin building on King George V Street, where the Knesset was temporarily housed at the time. Many protesters wore yellow patches. Up the street, they encountered the first police barbed wire barrier, followed by a second chain of policemen. The first protesters passed through easily since the police hardly resisted them and did not use force.
Within a few minutes, the protesting crowd arrived at the corner of Ben Yehuda and King George Streets, very close to the Knesset building. There they were stopped by water hoses that sprayed them from a fire engine of the fire department, but when the fire engine had emptied, the firemen left.
One police officer spoke to the first wave of (very wet) demonstrators, saying: “I beg you not to cause the destruction of this precious country. Your actions lead to the destruction of democracy. Please, help me in reinstating order.”
Needless to say, the crowd didn’t heed the plea, and the swarm of demonstrators burst toward the Knesset, chanting “Kadima!” (Hebrew for Forward). Stones were thrown at the plenary hall which was located on the ground floor – there were no security guards around the Knesset. At this point, the police began to use force and threw hundreds of smoke bombs and tear gas at the demonstrators. The area looked like a battlefield, and one of the journalists who were present during the event described the place as a “horror picture,” shrouded in smoke, with the cars belonging to the government ministers smashed and destroyed. Ambulances that came to pick up the dozens of injured––protesters and police officers, “crossed the streets and terrified the crowd with their loud sirens.” Also: “Youths stood en masse on the sand hill in front of the Knesset and threw stones. Shop windows were completely smashed and the streets were strewn with glass. The stones reached the windows of the Knesset building and some of them reached the plenum.”
A counter-demonstration of the Communist party, also wearing yellow patches, rushed the Knesset entrance and screamed at the MKs inside: “Stop the Knesset meeting! The police are murdering civilians outside!” The Communists then joined the Right-wingers in rallying outside the nation’s parliament.
Despite the violence outside, Ben Gurion ordered the Knesset Speaker to continue the meeting. During the speech of MK Yitzhak Refael from Mizrahi (the precursor to Religious Zionism), the demonstrators managed to break through the police and a rain of stones fell through the broken windows on the plenum floor, accompanied by clouds of tear gas. MK Hanan Rubin from Mapam (the precursor to Meretz) was hit in the head by a stone and left the hall bleeding.
At some point, Begin took the podium, and Ben Gurion, who never-ever addressed Begin by name, yelled at him: “Who sent the hooligans?” Begin responded: “You are the hooligan!)
See, back then we called our anarchists “hooligans,” which I, for one, fits today’s protesters like the glove of an English premier league drunk fan.
Outside, the police arrested dozens of protesters, as one reporter on the scene described: “They were forcefully dragged to the police cars with beatings and batons.” The demonstrators for their part called the police “Gestapo.”
395 Herut party members were arrested, among them senior officials. Most of them were released the next day, but 75 were sent to a detention camp outside Haifa, to live among common criminals, sleep three inmates in one bed, and be served very little food. The Herut party newspaper called the place, you guessed it, a “concentration camp.”
Quick update: One of our intrepid editors was at the airport early in the afternoon. He reports about 100 cars dispersed between a number of protest groups driving slowly within the airport honking their horns. But at that point the police had them under control and were preventing them from going back around the loop.