Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Chronology of the Israeli protest – August 17

August 17-18: I stayed the night in the main tents' camp in Tel Aviv.

I decided to do so as I felt that the protest was losing some momentum so I wanted to feel the vibe from within and I was sure that one more head to the count wouldn't be bad for sure.

I arrived around 20:00 and was impressed by the amount of people. There are several gathering places were meetings were taking places - in some of them were classes were given and in others there were round tables of experts debating and explaining economic, ideological, cultural and other aspects of the protest. In many other points in the camp people were sitting around talking, debating, getting a free massage or running a regular tents camp 'life'. Half a hour before I arrived there was a video conference with the tent dwellers in Puerta del Sol square in Madrid.

The sight of hundreds of people respectfully and politely debating into the night finances, economy, budget planning and society base-values is something to remember. This awareness won't die and won't fade, even when the tents won't be here anymore. Israelis were always opinionated, but the culture of street debates and finances-society oriented debates are new.

I could feel some tiredness comparing to the first days of the camp. The humidity and temperatures of the Israeli summer and the days passing by are taking their toll. However, when I started talking with people it was obvious that it's a 'tactical' weariness. The motivation for the protest is still there and even stronger. People know now that they aren't alone, that others think like them and that there is a wide public support for their demands.

At 24:00 I went to grab a slice of pizza. While I was eating and sweating outside of the pizzeria, three men in undershirts took a seat nearby and were passionately planning the next protest actions in a suburb of Tel Aviv - what is called here 'the neighborhoods' (the low and low-middle class neighborhoods). My guess is that they were followers of the ruling right wing party and one of the religious parties. They discussed how the ruling party activist in their places are trying to obstruct the protest and how they (the speakers) are successfully coordinating their actions with the protest leaders, though they insisted that they must be independent in taking new initiatives, since otherwise the protest can't succeed and if it fails the next chance to make a change will be in years.

I was generously hosted in the tents of the National Left movement. My neighbors for the night were 2 high school students, a graphic designer and its amazing puppy, a 50 years old women who was thrown of her house and 3 students. Everyone were looking for ideological discussion including the 60 years old man who joined us at 1:00am with a small bottle of beer to join with everyone. Each person had its own reasons to 'Attent', but they have formed a community, they know each others history, weaknesses, pains and even food preferences - much more than what I know about the neighbors of my rented apartment. I went to sleep at 3:00am, when everyone were still discussing the relation between state and religion.The others said they'll wake up for work at 7:00am, but I needed to wake earlier.

When I woke up for work at 5:45am, everyone were asleep, but the light was great for another round of photos. Enjoy!

Previous post on the chronology of the Israeli Social Protest

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Saturday, August 20, 2011

A photographed chronology of the Israeli social protest

In this post I will keep track and present to you an photographic timeline of the Israeli social protest events as I experience it. In category "Israel - j14" you will be able to find longer and more in depth thoughts.

August 27

August 25

August 20 

August 17

August 13

August 6

July 30

July 25 & 28

July 23

July 19

July 17

July 16


Chronology of the Israeli protest – August 13

August 13 - no central demonstration in Tel Aviv. People were called to attend demonstrations in other cities. 70K appeared in total, with many high profile artists performing.

A famous popular singer attacked the protestants during the week saying they have the political motivation of throwing over the prime minister and for being spoiled child that just complain for not having inherited an apartment in central Tel Aviv. Her comments caused fury and after 2 days she complained and even participated in August-13 protest.

The number of attendants in the 'periphery' cities wasn't a disappointment as it showed substantial support in numerous cities. On the other hand, it wasn't a head-counting achievement for relatively low number of participants that compering to the 300K of the previous week. In total, nothing that would move the government's coalition of rightist parties that seems rock solid at this point.

The protesters are aware that the more time passes, the bigger the chances are of losing momentum and getting the public distracted to other issues as the government would wish.


Chronology of the Israeli protest – August 6

Since the previous protest, the officials and ruling party chants changed somewhat but irritating comments that the protesters are "leftists" kept propelling the protest and brought in even more people. However, the biggest motivator was the bill passed by the government pushing towards further fast and uncontrolled privatization of of lands, in spite of the public outcry against it. August 6 was an amazing day. This demonstration was the biggest or 1 of the 2 biggest in the Israeli history. It was definitely the biggest regarding social issues. Over 250K demonstrators in Tel Aviv, 30K in Jerusalem and thousands in other cities. Jews and Arabs, Middle class and low class, everyone were in the streets. This means almost 5% of the Israeli population! The veteran social militant Charlie Biton declared in front of the crowds: "40 years passed...every year I awaited a new generation..my hope faded year by year and the government injustice grew...now my vision is materializing!" The demonstrations were exciting - everyone in the street talked about making history and that the government cannot keep ignoring people's demands. There were yet two problems: 1. The demands aren't clear. "The People Want Social Justice!" is a very broad demand if don't mean to change the whole system. 2. The government did barely nothing to tackle this demand till this manifestation. After this demonstrations the government set a committee of 14 members to recommend on actions to be taken. The public got divided between suspicion and endorsement. The government scored 2 points - first, dividing the public. second, gaining some time. The tents' movement leaders have gathered a committee of experts of their own and launched a camps-cross discussion about which demands should be presented. The cynics  use to say the government is awaiting Israel's neighbors (Palestinians or Hezbollah) to save the day by a terror attack which will distract the public attention. Others believe the government does intend to make some changes.

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Friday, August 19, 2011

Chronology of the Israeli protest – July 30

The first demonstration was big, but the second one was huge and it already had siblings in many cities! It was the first one it was clear to everyone that not only 'leftists' were participating. The build up by the government was unbelievable - they kept claiming there is no real problem and that the protestants are a bunch of  leftists-sushi eaters-water pipe smoking spoiled Tel Aviv youngsters.

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Chronology of the Israeli protest – July 25 & 28

The tents camp in Rotschild boulevard keeps growing day by day. The government keeps trying to diminish the cry and claim the leaders of the protest are mere leftists wanting to throw the rightist government (which from personal knowledge I can tell you that's not exact). More and more tent camps are being set in other cities around the country (here in Rehovot). Daily street protests are being held - here in front of the government offices building in Tel Aviv.

The leaders (the first tent dwellers) keep standing for quite protest, do not demand government change and embrace a 'revolution of love'.

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Chronology of the Israeli protest – July 23

The first public protest was an important milestone to prove the public support for the case of social justice. This is also the moment where the cry "The people demands social justice" crystallized and became the movement's mantra. The 20-30 K people that attended were hard-core followers of civil organizations, and showed a wide and varied support. Read more here About July 23, 2011 protests


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Chronology of the Israeli protest - July 19

After 5 days only, it was obvious to everyone involved that something big and unexpected is occurring. More and more tents and people poured in and the media provided wide daily coverage. People out of central Tel Aviv-middle class-young-artist joined with their tents and various political and civil groups joined in too. Trade unions (physicians, social workers) and other joined too and their own protest converged into the great stream that was flowing from the center of Tel Aviv and most important the students union known for it's organizational and mobilization capabilities.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Chronology of the Israeli protest - July 17

The tents camp rapidly grew to be an organized neighborhood. The dwellers banish people talking about violence and embrace the wish to be a protest of love.

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Chronology of the Israeli protest - July 16

After a partial success of the 'Cottage Protest', a young Israeli girl with a few friends placed a tent in the heart of Tel Aviv (July-14) protesting on the housing costs. Within days scores of tents joined the initial group of tents in Rotschild boulevard gaining public space and awarness.

July 16

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Prelude: Chronology of the Israeli Social Protest

For several years already the middle class wasn't happy - students protested randomly against inequality and government's coalition money transfers to small sectors. Protests were scattered.

November 1, 2001

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The summer of 2011 started with protests over the soaring prices of cheese and gasoline (image source: MSN Israel Business)

June 2011


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Music that makes me tremble

When the ideas aren't razor sharp, when you are too tired, music speaks for your soul. Like a little children walking in darkness - songs have a magical power to re-attach you to the emotional sources of your belief. When the brain wants to sleep, emotions can still stir your soul.

Yesterday night I went for a walk in the central tents camp in Tel Aviv. Later, at home I read quite a lot of opinions and reports about this amazing creature. Exhausted, I fall asleep before sunrise.

Today, I woke up a bit melancholic trying to come up with a sharp insight about how leftist ides relate to the current events worldwide - London is burning, masses being murdered in Syria, protests in Spain and Israel, falling stock markets and others.

I have many ideas which I'll try to present in a readable manner for you in the next days. However,  now I just have a strong urge to share with you three emotive songs which summarize for me leftist gut feelings, the deeper emotions that feed my more quotidian political views.

Later I will try to find a decent translation to English.

For Life - Leon Gieco

The Memory - Leon Gieco

Luis' Christmas - Mercedes Sosa & León Gieco

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The 300K Demonstration

It was amazing! Such an amount of people walking and chanting in good mood, wanting to do something good for their society and themselves is something really outstanding. 280K people in Tel Aviv, 30K in Jerusalem and thousands in other cities.

A quick calculation shows that almost 5% of the Israelis were demonstrating, or an even more striking number - about 10% of the tax payers.

The very broad coalition that fuels this movement seems intact at this point. It seems that while the momentum is kept the differences in the movement won't really damage it. An historical leader of a low class demonstrations gave a speech: "40 years I have been awaiting this moment...I was losing faith..." he said. He embraced the middle class leaders of this movement and cracked the governments chorus claiming this are all 'sushi protesters'.

It is enlightening to see that most of the Israeli public after all believes in a just society. A society where people are equal, where working people can live with dignity and where the poor and needed are being taken care by the state. Nobody really wants a social state, but people definitely cried for a welfare state. People believe that a competitive market and hard working can go hand by hand with a just and relatively equal society.

We, Israelis, were always proud that Israel has no poor people like in the 3rd world, that its streets are safe and people are easy going. Things have changed and the public, from all sectors, wants to get back 'their state', the one they knew before. It seems that there are very little economic right wing people in Israel. The tradition of Jewish caring for community and Zionist Socialism is still latent (economically speaking of course) - it seems that the civil studies classes in elementary school weren't in vain. People in the street were talking about financial problems in the USA - everyone are aware that something must change in the system, but without destroying it.

We want back our mutual guarantee, in which members of society are helping each other in case of need.

We want a country and society of which we'll be proud. A special place on earth. We want to make things differently. We want to fix our realm and make it exemplary.

Now, let's see how the politics turn out and translates the after shocks of this movement.

Another interesting point will be to see how the Arab citizens of Israel will react to this movement and to their participation in it. The Zionist zeal to build an exemplary society is something they'll have to react to and find their place - hopefully within the consensus. As to our neighbors, I hope that the message of having masses in the streets without anyone shooting them will resound all over the middle east.

Last but not least - do not make mistakes or assumptions. This is a pure social-economical movement. Any mentioning of the Israeli-Palestinian issue will tear it apart.  Things aren't disconnected, but it is hard to anticipate how this experience will influence the Israelis and their neighbors.

I promise to upload some pictures from the demonstration tomorrow morning. Now, I'm finally off to bed.



Where is the Israeli tents protest going to

Over the last week the Israeli tents movements saw the biggest raise in support. On one hand civil organizations like taxi drivers union, women of policemen, fragments of the teachers unions, the young physicians and the milk producers are just but a few of those who joined the movement. On the other hand, for the first time right wing and religious political organizations joined the tents' cities and left aside the arguments that "these are all leftists". Even the Arab sector which was till now cautious, not sure whether they'll be welcomed, joined the peaceful demonstrations.

Tent camps were set up in many new locations in new cities and in cities which already had camps. The police tried to remove some of these. However, SMSs and Facebook immediately brought reinforcements and made the police and municipalities to retreat. A judge that discussed the case of protesters that stopped the traffic in a street released them saying they should be praised and not arrested. The tents camps are voting on the demands list that should be presented to the government.

Juan says this is great. It's an inclusive movement and not an exclusive demonstration, thus making a bigger impact than the Spaniard Indignados movement, M-15. Indeed, we are about to experiment in Israel what would have happened if the Spanish movement had turned out differently.

So, if all looks good - why am I worried?

As more and more organizations are joining there are more people and interests to satisfy. The longer the protest takes the more chances there are that one of our neighbors will make a favor to the government and start with a new round of hostilities. Actually, this week several rockets were launched from Gaza to Israel, heating pretty close to the tents camp in the city of Ashkelon.

There aren't yet any clear demands from the government. Some of the leaders of tent camps started questioning the legitimacy of the leadership of the founders of the first camp in Tel Aviv. This is a gift for the government who's looking for any way to discredit and murk the leaders of the movement.

But on top of everything the main problem is that everyone speak about only one of the two main problems - the brutal capitalism imposed on Israel in the past 20 years.

Since everyone wants an inclusive movement, no one speaks about the fact that several sectors in the Israeli society do not share the burden carried by the low and middle classes. The Arab, Beduin and Ultra orthodox populations who make much more children than what they can support and live in chosen or imposed poverty (all have dedicated parties who take care of them), the settlers in Judea and Samaria who get big subsidies from the government. These are all complicated issues which are put aside right now. The low-middle class is demonstrating, demanding social justice - but social justice equals to money, and currently  the same low-middle class is the main tax payer in the country.

The overall problem is a matter of values - the western and capitalist values. People without knowing are opposed to the values of plain figures oriented capitalism. They support the value of men and women, their natural rights...but all these still can't be discussed. Something, I can't explain what, isn't mature yet.

The government means to keep using capitalist methods to tackle the situation - they have an hammer to they'll keep looking for nails to hit.... and the leaders of the movement keep saying 'we don't want to throw the government' and they don't have yet a defined list of demands.

Currently, it seems that the most important change this movement will do is throwing the Israelis back into the street, teaching them they can and should fight for their social and economical rights and not only for a secure survival in the tormentuous middle east. Let's hope this will teach people to be more critical and analyze the real problems, the failure of the existing political system and values.

Another Sabbath of Demonstrations

A week as passed since the last big demonstration.

In this week, the government used its sheer majority in the parliament allowing quick selling of lands without proper ecological or ethical checks. The protesters warned the government this will break the rules of the game. The government boldly ignored it.

Moreover, on one hand the prime minister kept saying the grievances are real, but insisted he'll resolve all the problems with the same tools that created them - more privatization, more capitalism. Government supporters from the ruling party called the protesters - "sushi eaters", leftists, drug addicts, "spoiled children", etc.

It seems that the government made the perfect build up towards today's demonstrations. Today, there will be only 3 central demonstrations as opposed to the 11 last week. The concentration, plus the fury caused by the government this week are expected to make the Tel Aviv one the biggest ever seen in Israel. Let's hope so.

I'll report as soon as we are back.



Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Day the Revolution will Begin

Today morning the Israeli parliament is supposed to vote for a baaaaad law. In order to tackle the peaking housing prices, the government wants to intensify its capitalists practices and allow fast sales of public lands for construction with minimal checks and controls.
All the civil, demonstrating and ecologist, organizations strongly oppose this, knowing the lands will go to the rich who'll make more profits and will destroy public lands and green spaces.

All the organizations promised the government that if the bill is approved, all hell will break lose. This will be seen as a rules breaking move, and the demonstrators won't see themselves committed to any rules.

Now, let's await and see how stupid or blindly capitalist this government is?