The new face of Israel´s social protest (HAŽARETZ NEWS) By Gideon Levy 05/13/12)
HA'ARETZ} NEWS SERVICE
HA'ARETZ} NEWS SERVICE Articles-Index-Top
Social protest showed a new face last night: What began in the summer
of 2011 as a small tent protest, aimed at bringing down housing
prices, is in the summer of 2012 a strange and endless coalition of
interests and agendas that have yet to find common ground. If the
slogan of the 2011 protest was "the people demand social justice,"
the slogan this year is "the people demand all kinds of things."
Rabin Squarelooked more like Woodstock, without the drugs, than the
Bastille, on Saturday night. The music was loud and contemporary, no
more Eyal Golan or Shlomo Artzi, and the average age has gone down.
The language is completely different and the burning anger that was
so missing last summer, was, unfortunately, absent last night as well.
The founding fathers and mothers were walking around in the square,
among them Daphni Leef and Regev Kuntas, but they were like
strangers, interviewed on TV in an appearance that seemed more
nostalgic than political. The protest, generation 2, has not produced
new leaders like Leef. The organizers took care to put unknown faces
on the dais, who read from prepared texts passing the microphone on
as if this were a Shavuot play at a kibbutz.
"Ask yourselves why you know more about the Iranian nuclear reactor
than the Jesse Cohen neighborhood in Holon," one said, referring to a
poor neighborhood. "Why is there such a broad government with such
narrow interests?" another asked.
The texts were interrupted repeatedly by the call, for those present
to put down political protest signs. "This is a demonstration of
being together. This is not a political demonstration." Not
political? If that´s the case, then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
can continue to rest through another summer of settlements, bombings
and social injustice.
Since last summer the government coalition has broadened and public
support of it has not decreased at all, according to the polls.
Perhaps that is last summer´s failure. Since then, taking to the
street in protest has become almost a matter of course. That may be a
good sign. But it is doubtful that a coalition consisting of the
Social Guard; the Social Darma movement; the First Cooperative for
Social Change; New Peace - Come Learn and Create; and the Suckers
Encampment; My People - the Future of Israel; the Venus Project; a
group organizing fun days for Palestinian children; and a group
supporting the legalization of cannabis, are more threatening to the
government and the existing order than the cries of the homeless that
echoed last summer.
The good news is that (very ) young people took over the square, the
bad news is that they were much too diffused. Someone counted no less
than 30 groups, and not one major group was there. TV monitors showed
live broadcasts of protests elsewhere in the world, in Madrid,
Barcelona and London, May having been declared the month of
international protest and "we are not alone."
But the globalization of the protest is unlikely to help the
residents of the Jesse Cohen neighborhood in Holon. They were (once
again ) missing from last night´s rally, although it had begun with
the march of the few from south Tel Aviv, it was (once again ) a
rally of young, secular, Ashkenazi Tel Avivians from Facebook. It´s
good to see them disconnect from their computers, going out into the
streets, worrying not only about themselves, and at least imagining
that they are protesting.
About an hour before the protest started, a big circle of dancers
covered the square to "hold hands" against the sunset. Two women
invited me for a hug; two others for two minutes of silence together.
Only a man collecting tin cans asked a traffic policewoman, "what´s
the protest about," and she did not know the answer.
Yes, the police were there last night, as at every Israeli protest,
far too many. But last night at least they were not violent, for a
change. The emcee spoke of the "amazing voice" in the square as if we
were in an ashram in Pune or an evangelical church in the southern
Of all people, it was the promising leader of this summer´s protest,
the veteran and devoted social activist Shaul Mofaz, who was absent.
Only one or two MKs dared appear, with hatred for politics and
political parties having grown with the expansion of the
coalition. "All the parties have failed," one speaker said. And that
is not necessarily a good sign. (© Copyright 2012 Ha´aretz 05/13/12)
Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY