Thursday, September 1, 2011

Chronology of the Israeli protest – August 27

On Saturday, August 27, there was a main demonstration in Tel Aviv but also big manifestations in several other cities. We headed to the city were I spent most of my adolescence years - Rishon Letzion. The event was divided into a march and a central concentration with singers and speeches.

There were only a few hundred marchers, so it was a bit disappointing. They were a mix of social-democrat youth movements lads and ordinary people. I was soooo proud of this youth, my youth - finally, during this whole protest, seeing the ideological secular-liberal youth taking the streets.

When we arrived to the main park of the city, I was surprised and cheered to find that there was there a huge public of several thousand people awaiting the marchers. They were all family people, and if I know enough the city, you can count that they weren't leftist. Most of them were the common electorate of the right wing parties. They protested, they chanted, they promised to rebuild the tents over and over again and even if the tents will disappear they promised to keep meeting in 'popular gatherings' to discuss their right and planning their next steps.

They were standing and singing shoulder to shoulder with the socialist youth movements. It was a moment to remember. Let's hope both sides will know how to maintain this cooperation.

I momentarily had a dream that the left movements in Israel will stop talking on high profile on the Israeli-Palestinian-Arab conflict and instead embrace this public which joined them and raised the humanist-liberal-socialist banner above all else, and take care of the needs of this public. I hope I'm wrong, but I feel this is nothing but a dream.

All in all only 25K people protested this weekend. The optimists say people are gaining force for next week's :"1 million' protest.

Rightist and religious extremist groups all over the world do the fundamental work of teaching people their ideas from childhood, while liberals just try to convince adults on the rationality of their ideas - this is a lost war, or even better a battle who's results are clear to everyone beforehand. We should finally change the script according which we see and analyze our world. Consumerism isn't an ideology!

What's up this week:

  • The young physicians insist in resigning regardless of the agreement between the government and their trade union

  • The government is raising the taxes on gasoline

  • The students declared boycott on a major supermarkets firm, which responded by lowering its prices by 20%

  • The whole protest movement is making an effort to bring to the street '1 million' people on next Saturday's (Sept-3) evening.

  • There are rumors that this is going to be the gran-finale of the tents camps and that the protest will start reshaping

  • As we are getting closer  to the Palestinian's 'state recognition' in the UN, the social movement is in a greater risk of being 'forgotten' by the media and the political system.

  • Regardless of everything, people keep talking about having a better life, about not being poor when you work and get a salary, about the commitment of the state to its citizens and not only to its fiscal policy. Something has changed.

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Chronology of the Israeli protest – August 25

Today buses from all around the country carried protesters to Yeruham. Yeruham is a special place in the south of Israel. It's in the middle of the desert, suffers from the regular problems of any 10K people town that is far away from labor and finances centers.

1,500 people demonstrated in Yeruham supporting the tents camp started by a 16 years old leader.

We went to the tents camp in Rehovot, were people sat in a circle, read the demands phrased by the national movement. People from various social strata joined the circle and the discussion was lively and sharp. There were even a couple of guys from a misticism movement that tried to convince everyone that love among people is the most important thing and we shouldn't handle with demands form the government. A couple of researchers from a social think tank closed the evening with a long discussion into possible models of societies and their suggestion on focusing in investing resources in community and youth development on neighborhoods level.

In the past week the government got another 'gift'. A star celebrity who is a judge in the local version of 'American Idol' got arrested for alleged relations with the organized crime. A whole week that all the newspapers filled their headlines with this stuff instead of the important things, the social movement that still kicks and bites.

Though, the probably most serious problem faced by the protest till now was the demand of the leaders who grew from the tent camps themselves, to take part in the leadership. This quickly became a challenge of the "old" leaders vs. the camps leaders vs. the periphery leaders. Some of the leaders were mad about the frontal attack against the government's committee (it seems people want to believe things can be changed by the government).  Eventually, it seems that the 'old leaders' were smart enough to make a place for new faces besides them.  I have a strong feeling that some of this demands were nurtured by government supporters in some of the camps in order to remove the 'leftists' leader of the movement. I say 'leftists' because I can personally attest that this isn't so - not everyone who wants social justice or a sane free market is a socialist or a dove.

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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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