Hundreds of Israelis protest Netanyahu 'dictatorship' amid coronavirus pandemic

Hundreds of Israelis protest Netanyahu 'dictatorship' amid coronavirus pandemic
Wearing masks and standing at a distance away from each other, hundreds of Israelis protested against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv.
2 min read
17 April, 2020
Israeli protesters accused Prime Minister Netanyahu's government of authoritarianism and corruption [Getty]
Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in Israel's capital Tel Aviv on Thursday to demonstrate what they viewed as an eroding democracy under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli media reported.

Though Israel's Health Ministry forbade gatherings during the Covid-19 pandemic, protests are still permitted in the country.

Social media posts showed demonstrators wearing masks, clad in black and practicing social distancing by standing a number of meters away from each other.

The protesters expressed dismay at the Knesset's standstill following three consecutive rounds of elections.

Demonstrators were also unhappy at the interim government spearheaded by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which they believe to be exhibiting authoritarianism during the public health crisis.

Protesters held signs with slogans such as "Saving the country, fighting corruption" and "The corona will pass away, dictatorship is here to stay", according to i24NEWS.

"The citizens of Israel are proving today that Israeli democracy refuses to be subjected to a coup under the pretext of the coronavirus," one organiser told the Times of Israel.

"We won't back a government whose prime minister is accused of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. We cannot permit a situation in which that same accused man has a role in appointing investigators, prosecutors and judges in the State of Israel," added the organiser, referring to Netanyahu's corruption trial.

After left-wing politician Nitzan Horowitz tweeted a photo of himself participating in the protest, Yair Netanyahu, the prime minister's son, replied to the post with an apparent wish for leftists to die of the virus.

"I hope the elderly who die following this protest will only be from your camp," he tweeted.

After an ensuing wave of criticism, the younger Netanyahu doubled down on his comments.

"For two months it has been thoroughly explained to everyone in the country that mass gatherings will lead to mass infections and necessarily the death of vulnerable infected people," he tweeted. "So statistically, there is a good chance that the left-wing protesters tonight caused the future deaths of elderly people. I prefer them not to be ours."

Both tweets were deleted after the prime minister's office condemned the remarks, adding that "there are no [political] camps in the struggle against the coronavirus, and there shouldn’t be."

The Israeli government has previously faced accusations over instilling draconian measures under the pretext of containing the country's coronavirus outbreak.

One measure that elicited criticism saw the government deploying surveillance technology last month to track coronavirus patients.

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