Opposition decries ‘political arrests’ as several central protest leaders detained

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Several leaders and prominent members of the protest movement against the government’s judicial reform were arrested during Thursday’s nationwide demonstrations, including Shikma Bressler, Kalanit Sharon, Rotem Perelman-Farhi and Moshe Radman.

The arrests led some opposition figures and politicians to accuse the police of carrying out a “political arrest”, although in at least two cases the force insisted the arrests were made due to “disturbance the public order”.

Bressler was arrested at a protest outside the Rafael arms production firm near Or Akiva, Sharon was arrested in Tel Aviv and Perelman-Farhi was arrested in Haifa.

The arrests came during a nationwide “day of paralysis” on Thursday against the government’s radical legal reform package, in rallies that have involved acts of civil disobedience including blocking highways.

Bressler, one of the leaders of the protest movement, was arrested demonstrating at Binyamina Junction. She was later released. Bressler, a physicist and researcher at the Weizmann Institute of Science, is the founder and leader of the Black Flag movement, which was formed against the previous government of Benjamin Netanyahu in 2020.

She has been a prominent voice in the recent anti-government protests, often acting as MC at the massive demonstrations on Tel Aviv’s Kaplan Street.

She and others, including workers from the defense technology company Rafael, were protesting at the intersection in the Haifa District and managed to block route 4 for about an hour.

According to the police thousands of people took part in the demonstration, which they said was a danger to drivers and the protesters themselves. The police declared that the protest was illegal.

Police used crowd dispersal tactics to clear the road, and 12 protesters were arrested including Bressler, who was arrested on charges of disturbing public order and interfering with a police officer in the performance of his duty.

Bressler was taken to the Zevulun Police Station in Haifa but was released a short time later on the condition that she leave the protest area.

Footage of Bressler’s arrest showed her being led by police to a patrol car amid calls of “shame!” by protesters.

Speaking to a crowd of supporters outside the police station, Bressler said she did not blame the police for the difficult situation they were put in.

“I really want to thank the police, as strange as that is. It is clear to all of us that a democratic country needs a strong police force, and we have no other police force. They were put in an impossible situation and our task is to ensure that Israel remains a democracy,” said Bressler.

Former prime minister Ehud Barak tweeted that her arrest was an example of “dictatorship in action”.

MK Labor leader Merav Michaeli tweeted that “In a normal country Shikma Bressler would be given the Israel Prize. In Netanyahu’s state and [Itamar] Ben Gvir is arrested as a common criminal. [This is] Hungary and Poland on steroids. Disgraceful government. Democracy will prevail over you.”

The Weizmann Institute also said that it condemns the disgraceful arrest of Dr. Shikma Bressler,” and that “such a central person was arrested in the referendum. [anti-government] Protests during non-violent protest raise suspicions about circumstances irrelevant to its arrest.”

Perelman-Farhi, a partner in the Epstein Rosenblum Maoz law firm and a protest leader from Haifa who has been seen in the weekly Tel Aviv protests, was arrested in Haifa during protests in that city in which thousands of people participated, according to the police.

Footage of her arrest showed her being led away by police.

police said she was arrested for disturbing public order, and had yet to be released as of this writing.

Kalanit Sharon, a leader in the Pink Front protest movement, was arrested in Tel Aviv.

Labor MK Naama Lazimi criticized Sharon’s arrest on Twitter.

“They are trying to silence us. We won’t let them! We will not have a dictatorship here,” Lazimi declared.

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