Two Thousand Israelis Brave Coronavirus Fears to Protest Assault on Democracy

Some two thousand people gathered in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square Sunday to protest anti-democratic measures passed during the coronavirus crisis and the policies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while maintaining social distancing.

The protest included speeches by prominent lawmakers from the center-left bloc, including former co-leaders of Benny Gantz's Kahol Lavan. 

Yair Lapid speaks at the ‘Black Flag’ protest in Rabin Square, April 19, 2020.Tomer Appelbaum

"This is how democracies die in the 21st century," said Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid in his speech, "They don't die because tanks overtake parliament, they die from the inside."

The "Black Flag" protests first gained recognition in March, when a motorcade of hundreds of cars made its way to Jerusalem to protest anti-democratic measures to combat the virus, including approval of Shin Bet phone tracking of civilians. "It started with the coronavirus, when they [the government] started passing anti-democratic bills," said Tamir Hefetz, one of the protest organizers. "I woke up and realized there is no alternative, tomorrow will be too late." 

"The State of Israel is passing on to the public a responsibility that it should carry," said Gonen Ben Itzhak, another organizer.

In his speech, Lapid said Netanyahu has "turned the word democracy into a leftist word," and that Israel is undergoing anti-democratic processes similar to those that took place in Hungary and Turkey.