Tent Cities and Demonstrations

Telaviv8611 On the demos in Israel, first Michael Walzer in Dissent:

WHAT IS happening in Israel? As usual, no one expected, no one predicted, the massive uprising of Israel’s young people—joined last Saturday night by large numbers, amazing numbers, of their parents and grandparents. What started as a demand for affordable housing has turned into something much bigger. I can only watch, and cheer, and try to figure out what’s going on. Here are four “takes” on the uprising.

1. This is a rebellion of the mainstream against the privileged sectors—most important, though no one says this, against the settlers and the ultra-orthodox. Proportional representation makes it possible for relatively small groups of bloc voters to achieve disproportionate power, and these two groups, as key participants in (mostly) right-wing coalitions, have won benefits available to no one else. As one Haaretz columnist wrote, Netanyahu is a socialist in the occupied territories, where a fully developed welfare state exists, though only for the settlers. The settlers now include many ultra-orthodox Jews—who have been pulled into the nationalist camp by the gift of housing for their large and growing families in the territories. In the early years of the state, the ultra-orthodox had no politics beyond the demand that their children be exempt from army service and that their way of life be subsidized by the state. Given this, they were as ready to join the Left as they were to join the Right. Now they have been decisively incorporated into the Right. All this comes at the expense of the Israeli mainstream—of all Israelis, really, who live and work inside the Green Line. And who want to live and work inside the Green Line: they won’t be moved by the argument of right-wing members of the Knesset who say that there is plenty of cheap housing in the territories—the protestors should go there.

Second, Gregg Carlstrom in Al Jazeera:

The left's sudden return to politics has, in turn, led some commentators to speculate that protesters might broaden their focus beyond purely socioeconomic issues – that they might agitate for equal rights for Israeli Arabs, or push for an end to Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories.

Those issues were visible at Saturday night's massive rally in Tel Aviv, attendees say, though far from the focal point of the protests. People waved Palestinian flags, chanted “end the occupation”, and carried posters with slogans linking Israel's occupation to the broader demand for social justice. The “1948” tent on Rothschild Boulevard houses Palestinian and Israeli activists who argue for Palestinian rights. It was attacked on Sunday by nationalist Jewish extremists belonging to a Kahanist group.

But for all those efforts, activists do not expect the protest movement to speak out loudly on the occupation or social justice for Palestinians. Organisers are reluctant to touch the issue, they say, because of fear that it will divide a movement which so far has almost universal support in Israel.