Where protesters and tycoons meet (HAŽARETZ NEWS) By Revital Hovel and Sharon Shpurer 07/09/12)
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The chairman of the National Student Union, Itzik Shmuli, continues
to strengthen his ties with leading members of the business sector.
Recently Shmuli founded a new organization that aims to raise money
for the city of Lod. Among those at the launch of the new effort last
week were Irit Izakson, the representative of Shari Arison on the
board of directors of Bank Hapoalim and chairwoman of Isracard; Yossi
Rosen, chairman of Haifa´s Oil Refineries Ltd. and a senior executive
of the Israel Corporation Ltd., controlled by the Ofer family; Shelly
Amir, director of community relations at Bank Hapoalim; and Yarom
Ariav, former director general of the Finance Ministry and presently
a consultant and director in private firms.
Shmuli has recently come in for harsh criticism from his former
partners in the social protest movement, after Haaretz published a
story about the donation he received for Lod from the IDB Group,
controlled by Nochi Dankner.
The event, held at Lod´s cultural center, was limited to only 50
invited guests from the business sector, and took place far from the
eyes of the media. Izakson even objected to having the event filmed.
Rosen told Haaretz that he was attending because he hoped
to "formulate a plan for carrying out a revolution in the city of
Lod." He stressed that he had come as a private individual and not as
the chairman of the refineries, and that as far as he was
concerned, "This isn´t a matter of financial assistance, only civic
People with ties to the student union said that before the inaugural
event, Shmuli had contacted Rosen, who promised to find contacts for
him among his friends from the business community.
Shmuli was harshly criticized for taking the donation from IDB after
he decided at about the same time not to join this year´s social
protest. In an interview with Channel 2 Shmuli rejected the criticism
and claimed that "the business sector is not my enemy. The business
sector is not against the protest. The protest wants to change the
government´s socioeconomic policy. I think that some of the business
people in Israel have become public enemies in a campaign of
delegitimization. I´m not a part of that."
It should be noted that about four years ago a foundation headed by
Ariav was established with the same objectives as the new public
group founded by Shmuli; most of the foundation´s income comes from
donors from the business sector and philanthropists.
However, Ariav said at the launch of Shmuli´s organization
that "there is no intention of constructing a redundant mechanism.
This is a public council that is made up of people who care about the
issue, who can help by bringing in donations and raising awareness."
A statement by Isracard, whose representative attended the event last
week, said: "Isracard participates in many projects on behalf of the
community all over the country. The chairman of Isracard attended the
conference in order to hear the problems of the city of Lod. In the
wake of the meeting we will investigate the possibility that Isracard
will finance a project in one school in the city."
Bank Hapoalim said it had not given a commitment to the project.
The National Student Union said: "The union will continue to protest
the government´s harmful socioeconomic policy. We are proud of the
national activity being led by the union to rehabilitate the city of
Lod, and thank the many partners and donors in the business sector
who enlisted to help the move succeed, in light of the government´s
lack of support. The establishment of the public council will create
mutual and ongoing commitment between the business sector and the
city of Lod. We would like to emphasize unequivocally that all the
activity of the National Student Union in Lod is being carried out
entirely on a voluntary basis and that no salary, stipend or perk is
being received from any group."
´Students demand democracy´
Today elections for chairmanship of the National Student Union are
scheduled to take place. Shmuli is running uncontested after
announcing that he was prepared to continue for another term. The
chairmen of the Student Unions in the University of Haifa and Tel
Aviv University, who had planned to run against him, changed their
Last week, 180 students who belong to a Facebook group
called "Students demand democracy" called for the elections to be
held on their original date, some three months hence. That way, they
argued, students would have the opportunity to influence the
composition of the union by electing a chairman from the academic
institution in which they are enrolled. (The national union is the
umbrella organization for some 60 different student groups around the
On the group´s Facebook page, they wrote: "If any citizen can run for
the premiership, why can´t any student run for the leadership of the
union? Don´t the members of the Histadrut labor federation elect the
head of their union? If the student union is the body that unites and
represents us and is supposed to take care of our interests - how is
it possible that we don´t have a right to vote in the elections that
determine who will lead this organization?" (© Copyright 2012
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