The Yerushalayim Municipality on Thursday removed a golden statue of High Court chief justice Miriam Naor that had been placed overnight Wednesday in front of the court building. Police said that the placement of the statue was likely a protest by some groups against Naor.
Whether or not police are going to investigate the matter is not clear. In a social media posting Thursday, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said that “not all protests require a police investigation, and certainly not a protest that did not involve violence, or incite others to violence. If police want to investigate this matter they need to explain exactly what crime has been committed.”
A police statement said that officers on patrol in the area had identified “several suspicious individuals who may have been connected with the incident. They were detained and questioned, but as no crime has been committed with the placement of the statue, they were released.”
Who might have placed the statue – made of paper material covered in gold – in front of the court is not clear, as Naor and the High Court have many critics. On Motzoei Shabbos, hundreds of residents of south Tel Aviv protested Motzoei Shabbos outside Naor’s home in advance of a decision by the court on whether or not Israel can deport illegal migrants to Africa. The court subsequently decided that such deportations could take place – but only on a voluntary basis, further raising the ire of residents. Commenting on the decision, Shefi Paz, a longtime activist against what she called the “takeover” of south Tel Aviv by migrants, said that “it’s like we are under foreign occupation. We have been fighting for 10 years for our survival. The state tries to pass laws to deal with this issue and the High Court strikes them down, or twists them to the extent that they are useless. Israel has an agreement with African countries and the court has even approved that arrangement. On the one hand it tells us that we can deport these people, but then makes it impossible to do so. If the court does not let the state sanction those who refuse to leave, there is nothing more that can be done.”
The placement of a gold statue is seen as a reference to the “golden lives” that top officials live in their “ivory towers.” In 2016, leftist artist Itay Zaliat set up a golden statue of the prime minister in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv. “Wherever he goes, Netanyahu is regarded by his supporters as ‘King Bibi,’” Zaliat told Channel Ten. “I decided that setting up [the statue] in Kings of Israel Square [the former name of Rabin Square, which was renamed after his murder in 1995] would be a good idea. We’ll see where we can take this. Lots of popular trends in this country started as a gimmick.”