Thursday, September 1, 2011

Chronology of the Israeli protest – August 20

On August 18 a terror attack on the Israel-Egypt border which was planned and launched from Gaza,  left 7 dead and dozens wounded and threw the media and public opinion into the 'security, Palestinians and more security' discourse. Israel responded to the attack killing the responsible militant leaders and as result the whole south of Israel was attacked by rockets from Gaza. Definitely not a good atmosphere for social protest.

The protest movement decided to change its regular plans and instead hold in Saturday (the regular day for big demonstration) a 'Silence March'. The idea was to achieve 2 things: 1. Maintain the protest and not stop it because of a 'security event'; 2. Make the demonstration different in order to pay respect to the dead and not to antagonize the public.

Over the last couple of weeks the government's 'committee for social economic change' started its discussions and interview of public representatives.This gave some credit to the government for trying to 'do something', mainly among people who aren't natural sympathizers of the the tents movement. The committee's head, Prof. Trachtenberg, is a very nice person but also a hardcore adherent of the current system - he declared changes are needed but that the state's budget won't be reopened. On top of this it isn't clear at all what the government will take from the committee's recomendations if any.  It seems the public isn't yet sure what to think about this.

The first tent dweller and uncrowned leader, Daphne Leef, demanded Prof. Trachtenberg to resign and boldly said that the committee is a farce aimed at dragging legs and await the protest to disintegrate. Some of the movement's participants, mainly the Students Union which is the strongest and best organized organization, oppose this aggressive approach of Leef. They have made public their disagreements, but at the same time declared they remain part of the protest movement and are committed to making a social and values change in the Israeli society.

Eventually about 15K people appeared to the 'Silent March' on Tel Aviv on August 20 - Saturday night as usual. It was a special event in many aspects. First of all a manifestation of silence, no music, no chants, no slogans crying. Second, some people in the street reacted against the protester with signs calling for free market or shouting that we are shameless protesting while people get killed. Eventually, these were about 5 individuals, but yet it was something new. Third and most important it's the first time that the society-wide tissue of this protest was challenged. The very minor-ton speeches were given by a settler, an Arab political leader, a girl from a Hamas bombed city in the Israeli south border and a combat pilot. Each voiced his own view and expectations of the protest. Needless to say there were some contradictions. However, both the speakers and the public who was sitting in circles in the grass managed to hold themselves and respect those different from them. A group of ultra-left lads didn't manage to hold themselves and chanted anti government slogans against the spirit of the event. They were hushed by the public.

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