Anti-Netanyahu Protests: Five Signs That His Supporters Should Be Worried About

The wave of protests that has swept through central Jerusalem in recent weeks has several characteristics that ought to worry Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s supporters.

First, look at the signs. Saturday night’s demonstration included hundreds of different types of homemade signs, handwritten in Hebrew, Arabic, English and emojis.

Some are almost inflammatory, like “Mussolini, Ceausescu and Gadhafi also refused to resign.” Some are childish, like “Bibi-zibi” (“zibi” is Hebrew slang for “no way”). Some are clever, like “Voldemort would be better.” And some are political: “There has never been democracy here.”

There were also signs at the small counterdemonstration nearby, but they were all printed at a print shop. If handwritten signs are a measure of authenticity, then the anti-Netanyahu protest is extremely authentic; it has emerged from the grass roots.

Second, there’s the sheer number of protesters and their willingness to be arrested. In the two weeks since the demonstrations began, the number of protesters in Paris Square has swelled from around 1,000 to the roughly 10,000 who were there on Saturday night.

Protesters calling for Netanyahu’s resignation demonstrate near his official residence, Jerusalem, July 25, 2020.Emil Salman

But even more important is the number of people arrested, or the number who arrived knowing there would be a risk of being arrested. At 1 A.M. Sunday morning, hundreds of young people sat in the street as police started dragging them away and arresting them. All had apparently taken the possibility of arrest into account and accepted it with equanimity, even with joy.

Though only 15 people were arrested Saturday night, down from the 55 arrested on Thursday, the decline wasn’t because people were less willing to be arrested. Rather, it was because the police apparently realized finally that arrests only fan the protests’ flames. “Each person arrested brings 20 friends with him to the next demonstration,” one protest organizer said.