Could the group stirring up weekly protests outside Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit’s home for almost two years also be involved in this weekend’s demonstration against the nation-state law? Evidence suggests that this seems to be the case.
The protests outside Mendelblit’s Petach Tikvah home began in late 2016, with hundreds gathering weekly to decry government corruption and what they describe as the attorney general’s sluggish criminal investigations against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Anu, a nonprofit group supported by the left-wing organization the New Israel Fund, is the driving force behind the weekly protests in Petach Tikvah.
Founded in 2013, Anu describes its mission as “promoting a vibrant and influential civil society where every citizen has the ability and power to lead change, for a more inclusive and equitable society.”
“We run campaigns targeting Israel’s most pressing social issues,” Anu’s website says. “Promoting a vibrant democracy where Israelis have faith in their own ability to impact change.”
The group has an annual budget of 1.5 million shekels ($410,000) and in the 2015-16 fiscal year, the NIF gave the group a $610,213 grant. It also received funding from the European Union and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
On Saturday, tens of thousands of Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square to protest against the nation-state law that anchors Israel’s status as a Jewish state. The demonstration revolved mainly around the fury felt by Israel’s Druze citizens—many of whom serve in the Israeli military, as well as in key positions in both the private and public sectors—at being relegated to the status of second-class citizens, as non-Jewish residents of a Jewish state.
It appeared that the group was involved in both efforts—the anti-corruption demonstrations and the nation-state law protest—when the group posted a call to the public on its website to attend the nation-state protest and “support the Druze community, and fight for democracy and equality for everyone.”
The group also added a message to a map on its website, telling protesters that “due to expected participation in the protest against the nation-state law, the protests against corruption will be held on a limited scale in most locations.”
Separately, the official Facebook page of the Druze protest effort includes a plea for donations, which can be deposited in a bank account that is processed by Anu.
A statement by Anu said “last week we were approached by [Druze leader Brig. Gen. (ret.)] Amal Asad with a request to help organize the protest. We agreed to help, but Anu did not organize or oversee the rally.”
“Anu has been blessed with many donors,” the statement continued. “The New Israel Fund, which is one of them, did not contribute to the rally. The NIF and Anu are partners in promoting the direct employment [of minorities], which both the government and the Histadrut labor federation have adopted as part of their agenda over the past two years.”
Meanwhile, on Saturday the Labor Party filed a police complaint against Likud activist Nidal Ibrahim and rapper Yoav Eliasi (commonly known by his stage name “The Shadow”) for distributing online screenshots of a series of fake text messages allegedly exchanged between party members, in which they seem to admit they have been pushing Druze leaders to stage the rally.
“This entire exchange is 100-percent fake,” said a Labor Party official.
Asad also denied any knowledge of the issue.