Join 3,556 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


זו הכלכלה, טמבל
August 3, 2011 2:53 PM   Subscribe

Over the past three weeks, Israel has experienced what may perhaps be the largest, spontaneous / grass roots social protest of the secular middle class that it has witnessed in decades. Thousands of demonstrators in cities and towns throughout the country have been protesting cuts in government funding to health care and education, and massive, exorbitant rises in taxes and housing costs -- and demanding change. Tent cities have sprung up in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and in public gardens and parks throughout the country. And they may not be going anywhere: polls indicate Israeli support is "exceptionally high".

Protests and demonstrations are common in Israel, but they are nearly always focused on issues of war and peace.

International media outlets don't seem to be paying much attention.

In response, Prime Minister Netanyahu said that the protestors were a "populist wave" and right wing parties have implied the protestors are trying to topple the government. But now, Netanyahu's base may be throwing their support behind the protestors. Many of Israel's Orthodox Jewish organizations and leaders are remaining silent, although that seems to be changing.

From the Guardian link:
"The current uprising has given Israeli liberals a voice again.... But the apolitical character of the protest is being challenged. Netanyahu is already claiming that the protesters are driven by political motivations. His intent is clear: he wants to delegitimise them and claim that their real goal is to topple his government. This, he hopes, will weaken nationwide support for their demands. On Monday, members of the Likud central committee started to say that the demonstrators are just a bunch of sushi eaters with nargilas (Arab pipes) – ie leftist radicals – and that the media was exaggerating their numbers.... If the Likud and Yisrael Beitenu step up their attack, the protesters will not have any choice but to confront the current coalition in the political arena as well.

They will have to say that taxpayers' money in Israel has been spent lavishly in the occupied territories; that billions of shekels go to child support for the ultra-Orthodox, most of whom do not contribute to the economy; that the silent collusion of Israel's governments with the settlers is ruining the country morally, politically and economically. In the end, the call for social justice and the demand to reinstate liberal values in Israel cannot be separated."
The New Republic: What Caused the Current Wave of Economic Protests Across Israel?
posted by zarq (58 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
There are photos of some of the protests and tent cities available on activestill.org's flickr account.
posted by zarq at 3:04 PM on August 3, 2011


There was a front-page article about this on Liberation.fr a couple of days ago, so I would downgrade "the international media is ignoring this" to "the English media is ignoring this."

The fact that every unemployed kid in the country is able to gather in one place and air their grievances makes me wish sometimes that the US was a little smaller.
posted by theodolite at 3:05 PM on August 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


(The title, incidentally, google translates to 'it's the economy, stupid'.)
posted by Fraxas at 3:07 PM on August 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


theodolite: "There was a front-page article about this on Liberation.fr a couple of days ago, so I would downgrade "the international media is ignoring this" to "the English media is ignoring this.""

OK. But it's been over three weeks since the protests began. So international press outlets do seem to be late in covering.

Fraxas: "(The title, incidentally, google translates to 'it's the economy, stupid'.)"

Yeah. I wasn't sure anyone would notice the post's headline. ;)
posted by zarq at 3:10 PM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just assumed it said: The rent is too damn high
posted by 2bucksplus at 3:11 PM on August 3, 2011 [17 favorites]


I should have gone with that! :)
posted by zarq at 3:13 PM on August 3, 2011


I actually did read about this in the NYTimes - try here, here, and here.

(The title, incidentally, google translates to 'it's the economy, stupid'.)

Very clever, zarq!
posted by lalex at 3:18 PM on August 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


lalex: "I actually did read about this in the NYTimes - try here, here, and here."

Oh, awesome! Thanks for linking. (That's what I get for relying on Salon.com *grumble*)
posted by zarq at 3:24 PM on August 3, 2011


Swedish media seems to have missed this story (or I simply missed reading it) but I've been seeing the tent-cities via the instagram photographs from friends in my feed. Odd way to get the news, but I'm not complaining.
posted by dabitch at 3:36 PM on August 3, 2011


It's interesting to note how public protests are dealt with in Israel as compared to, say, Syria.
posted by joannemullen at 3:39 PM on August 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


Swedish media seems to have missed this story

Yeah, I first heard about this on Reddit.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 3:41 PM on August 3, 2011


It's interesting to note how public protests are dealt with in Israel as compared to, say, Syria

Yet how similarly the benefits of wealth, and the levers of public policy, remain solidly out of reach to anyone who's not part of a powerful connected elite.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 3:45 PM on August 3, 2011 [6 favorites]


That's what happens when you live in a theocracy.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:58 PM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


joannemullen: "It's interesting to note how public protests are dealt with in Israel as compared to, say, Syria."

Give them time.
posted by dunkadunc at 4:01 PM on August 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


I wonder if they will be as eager to run the armored bulldozers over their own people?
posted by FormlessOne at 4:05 PM on August 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


It's the group on welfare v. the group that are not. Who will win?
posted by parmanparman at 4:06 PM on August 3, 2011


joannemullen: It's interesting to note how public protests are dealt with in Israel as compared to, say, Syria.

Yes, and if Constantine XI, the last reigning emperor of Constantinople had been Kurt Vonnegut he would've asked Mehmet the Conqueror: "Why don't you take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut? Why don't you take a flying fuck at the moooooooooon?!"

I think that has much more relevance to this thread.

If we could ever discuss Israel without turning it into a conversation about its neighboring states, that would be now. While I think this is most likely a case of the global depression kicking off another local demonstration, this is a very specific Israeli manifestation, exposing societal fault-lines that have been papered over by other issues through the years. Let's try to stop papering over them.
posted by Kattullus at 4:09 PM on August 3, 2011 [25 favorites]


It's interesting to note how public protests are dealt with in Israel as compared to, say, Syria...

Or, say, Gaza or Jenin.
posted by grounded at 4:10 PM on August 3, 2011 [6 favorites]


Let's not feed the drive-by derail expert.
posted by lalex at 4:13 PM on August 3, 2011 [16 favorites]


2011 is going to make quite a year in review.
posted by tommasz at 4:16 PM on August 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, to get back on topic, this is definitely a good thing; Israel really does need to take a long look at some of the ways it's been spending it's money. even at the cost of some of it's sacred cows.
posted by happyroach at 4:16 PM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Happyroach wrote: Israel really does need to take a long look at some of the ways it's been spending it's money. even at the cost of some of it's sacred cows.

You're thinking of India.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:18 PM on August 3, 2011 [6 favorites]


Well, that's where half the youth of Israel are at any given point in time.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:26 PM on August 3, 2011 [9 favorites]


It's really weird to see such strong role reversals in left-wing versus right-wing. Can you imagine the political fury by conservatives in the US if we suggested paying for people to sit around and have babies?
posted by Malor at 4:31 PM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


If we could ever discuss Israel without turning it into a conversation about its neighboring states,

I'm not sure that we can. Or at least not without turning it into a conversation about Israel's geopolitical position. I have a friend, a historian, Israeli, who has pointed out that the success of the protest relies on its focus on the rights of young, Jewish, Ashkenazi citizens, not ethnic minorities, and she's noted that tents in south Tel Aviv were taken down because, authorities alleged, "protesters invited Sudanese refugees and junkies." How Israel treats ethnic minorities, including Muslim and Arab minorities, matters here.
posted by liketitanic at 4:41 PM on August 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Breakthrough in doctors' talks: Finance Ministry to add 1,000 hospital staff positions, fund grants
posted by homunculus at 4:44 PM on August 3, 2011


MetaFilter: A bunch of sushi eaters with nargilas
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 4:46 PM on August 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think this is most likely a case of the global depression kicking off another local demonstration
As I understand it, part of the fuel for the protests is exactly the opposite - that the Israeli economy is strong & growing, but the middle class isn't really seeing the benefits, only rising costs.
posted by kickingtheground at 4:46 PM on August 3, 2011


If we could ever discuss Israel without turning it into a conversation about its neighboring states, that would be now.

it seems to me that this might be a case of guns vs butter - which would certainly make israel's relations with neighboring states relevant

not to mention that two of those neighboring states are in social upheaval
posted by pyramid termite at 4:54 PM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Israel reduces barriers to cheese imports."

Aug 3 (Reuters) - "Israel will reduce barriers to imports of hard cheese, its finance minister said on Wednesday, a first step to opening the dairy market after a boycott of cottage cheese over high prices sparked a wave of social unrest."

"...a rolling donut"- Mehmet would have been pissed off or laughed his eyes out, I'm not sure which.
posted by clavdivs at 5:31 PM on August 3, 2011


The Arab Spring continues? Fuckin' A!
posted by stet at 5:32 PM on August 3, 2011


Stet, well, sorta. But not exactly.

Yes, this is an anti-government protest movement demanding better living conditions and equal treatment. But the Israelis are allowed to protest legally, (and protests of policies with regard to the Palestinians happen often!) they live in a democracy and their officials are elected. Really elected, not through rigged votes. Despite the inequalities of their society, this is considered internal, (domestic) and they rightfully don't have reason to fear that the gov't will oust them with tanks and helicopters.
posted by zarq at 5:51 PM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's interesting to note how public protests are dealt with in Israel as compared to, say, Syria.

I think that depends on the religion of the protestors.
posted by carter at 5:51 PM on August 3, 2011


just a bunch of sushi eaters with nargilas (Arab pipes)

So...they're cosmopolitan?

Classy.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:52 PM on August 3, 2011


I have a friend, a historian, Israeli, who has pointed out that the success of the protest relies on its focus on the rights of young, Jewish, Ashkenazi citizens, not ethnic minorities

this.

so.

fucking.

hard.

these protests have created a huge cognitive-dissonance for those of us with an eye on the Israeli government's apartheid shenanigans, the #BDS movement and the whole Arab Spring protests. they won't touch the occupation; but they've categorically refused to invite settlers into their protests or take up Bibi on stealing more Palestinian land.

it's this huge elephant in the room they're dancing around, allegedly because it's necessary. i dont completely buy it even though i understand where they're coming from on this one.

anyhow, 972 Mag, which Zarq links to, has become my go to for better understanding the political choices of the #j14 movement. Joseph Dana, who i follow on twitter via the #MENA info stream i've curated, has been particularly illuminating. if you want to see anti and prozionist israeli's reactions to #j14 along with BDS palestinian activists and arab spring "veterans", i urge you to take a peek at that stream for a day or two.

#j14 is a big baby-step to building a real political opposition in Israel but it's still small even though the tent city is getting larger and larger.
posted by liza at 6:05 PM on August 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


Now turn your attention to that other Democracy, the US, and then explore the Israeli issue.
Israel had all its energies focused upon an external threat--Arabs who wanted to destroy them. The US has had its focus upon all those baddies out there who wanted to do us harm.

Now the threat to Israel is viewed as under control. Not so in the US. And so the Left, virtually a lost cause in Israel, as in the US, has turned its attention to economic problems at home--no ability to buy homes, rents high, cost of living high, salaries stagnant, most of the wealth in the hands of a few--sound familiar? So the Left has taken to the streets!

And in the US? 50% of the voters believe the GOP might fix things up!
What never did get mentioned: in a nation as small as Israel, with a population of about 6 million people, there are some one million Israelis that have left, gone to live abroad! Why? It is very tough to make a decent living in Israel. But those who left and most who are still there feel very connected to the nation, be they religious or secular.
What we seem to have is capitalism that has fully replaced the socialist dream of the early settlers, and the typical gap between Haves and Have Nots.

As for neighboring Arab states. No need to bring them into the equation except to note how much of the Israeli economy, like the American, goes into military needs...sound familiar?
posted by Postroad at 6:30 PM on August 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


It's interesting to note how public protests are dealt with in Israel as compared to, say, Syria

Well, when it's not Palestinians protesting.
posted by empath at 8:52 PM on August 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm imagine that, if these protesters cause some political turnover, that'll indirectly benefit the Palestinians. So maybe we're all better off focusing on the issue at hand?

Israel has a parliamentary system that supports more than two parties, Postroad, which saves them from this two-party divisiveness. I'm sure average Israelis are significantly better educated too. Also, their right-wing crazies have been spewing exactly the same bullshit for longer, while our theocrats mutate more.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:15 PM on August 3, 2011


but they've categorically refused to invite settlers into their protests or take up Bibi on stealing more Palestinian land.

That's heartening, because when I saw some Guardian coverage of this, my immediate thought was, "yeah, and giving the dominant political groups in Israel these days, I bet I know the answer to "cheaper housing" is going to involve tanks as well as bulldozers. So good on the protesters.

Not wanting to touch the occupation... the presence of a Bantustan economy is surely part of the low wages and high unemployment for a lot of Israelis.
posted by rodgerd at 11:30 PM on August 3, 2011


If we could ever discuss Israel without turning it into a conversation about its neighboring states, that would be now.

I think you are being unfair Kattulus. The FPP brought up the subject:

International media outlets don't seem to be paying much attention.

From the linked story:

"Ami Kaufman, a blogger on the left-wing opinion site 972mag.com, returned home from the 150,000-man march in Tel Aviv Saturday night and published a post entitled, "So suddenly Israel isn't a story anymore?"

"I checked my usual two international papers, the New York Times and the Guardian sites. But there was nothing. Oh well, might be too early. I'll check in the morning. This morning, 7 hours after the demo ended, 10 hours after it began, nothing to be found on the homepages of both respectable outlets. Not a word," Kaufman wrote.


In this context, joannemullen's comment "how public protests are dealt with in Israel as compared to, say, Syria" seems perfectly reasonable to me. I concur with this comment that Swedish media really covered the protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and now Syria, but there has been scant coverage of the protests in Israel.

I think it is fair to say that western media coverage of the protests in Arab countries has been instrumental in defining public policy towards those countries and drawing international support to said protests.

As such any lack of media coverage of the protests in Israel is something of interest and certainly a fair subject for discussion.
posted by three blind mice at 12:31 AM on August 4, 2011


I'm not sure why there is surprise that international media isn't covering some non-violent domestic protests. While we get a good diet of US domestic news here in Australia, there is little reportage of other countries domestic stories unless there is an international angle (e.g. 3 Australians were among the wounded).
I would tend to put it down to a story of little interest internationally, rather than a conspiracy. But I guess there are some people who find I/P such a monumental hot button they won't want to believe that.
posted by bystander at 1:28 AM on August 4, 2011


The Guardian's covering it: a quick look at their site shows articles on 29 July, 31 July and 2 August.
posted by Infinite Jest at 1:50 AM on August 4, 2011



International media outlets don't seem to be paying much attention.


As far as 'international', I can tell you that I've been in Moscow for three weeks and this story is a lead story EVERY NIGHT on RT, BBC, Russia1 and Russia2.
posted by spicynuts at 2:43 AM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yet how similarly the benefits of wealth, and the levers of public policy, remain solidly out of reach to anyone who's not part of a powerful connected elite.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 3:45 PM on August 3


Obviously Israel is not like Syria where a ruling clan with an iron fist and its allies control the country's wealth. Notwithstanding the discontent of these protesters, this describes the U.S. more accurately than Israel, which is comparatively egalitarian in terms of wealth distribution. Israel is mostly a lower middle class country. While there is a wealthy elite (as in most places), it is not a country where people like lawyers and doctors often get rich, and financial types get seven figure bonuses, etc.

I wonder if they will be as eager to run the armored bulldozers over their own people?
posted by FormlessOne at 4:05 PM on August 3


She stood in front of it. May or may not have been an accident on the part of the individual driver. It's not as if running over Rachel Corrie was an Israeli government policy. Not relevant either.
posted by knoyers at 8:17 AM on August 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Welfare State Now! As the U.S. and European governments turn toward austerity, Israel’s economic uprising against “piggish capitalism” keeps growing.
posted by homunculus at 12:50 PM on August 6, 2011


"We are prepared to die for our country ... but we can't live in it" (Guardian, autoplaying video).
posted by Kattullus at 1:54 PM on August 6, 2011


The Israeli daily Ha'Aretz claims that 300,000 people marched on Saturday night. If true that would be extraordinary: it's nearly 4% of the population. Netanyahu has offered to form a committee.

The Israeli academic Shlomo Avineri has an interesting perspective on the demonstrations: Social protesters represent real Zionism
In his book "Altneuland," Herzl describes the Land of Israel of the future as a social welfare society, a third way that would position itself between capitalism and socialism.

posted by Joe in Australia at 3:21 AM on August 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Loud Awakening of Israel's Secular Middle Class

"Between 300,000 and 400,000 people took to the streets under the banner of demanding 'social justice,' doubling the numbers from the week before and rivaling the largest protests the country has ever seen. In Tel Aviv alone, around half the city's population turned out in front of the Defense Ministry to listen to speeches from community leaders that span the political spectrum. Proportionally speaking, the numbers that turned out Saturday would be the equivalent of 14 million people protesting in the United States."
posted by homunculus at 5:49 PM on August 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Will the Israeli left talk about occupation? Many protesters are reluctant to talk about the occupation and settlements for fear of dividing a unified movement.
posted by homunculus at 6:33 PM on August 9, 2011


Tens of thousands take to streets in social protests across Israel: Mass demonstrations take place in Haifa, Be’er Sheva and Afula with smaller protests taking place elsewhere throughout Israel.
posted by homunculus at 2:14 PM on August 13, 2011


Israel go-ahead for West Bank settler homes dents peace hopes
posted by homunculus at 8:56 AM on August 16, 2011


If Israeli-Palestine peace hopes get any more dented you can start using it as a golf ball.
posted by Kattullus at 9:49 AM on August 16, 2011


Seven Israelis and seven militants killed in multiple attacks

J14 to hold weekly mass rallies in defiance of attacks
posted by homunculus at 12:34 PM on August 18, 2011


Israeli activists: Social protests must continue despite escalation of terror
posted by homunculus at 11:08 PM on August 20, 2011


Social Justice Postponed
posted by homunculus at 12:28 PM on August 24, 2011


Quiet, Fragile, and Unexpected: In a side effect of the Arab revolutions, Egypt pushed Israel and Hamas to stop before war.
posted by homunculus at 6:22 PM on August 25, 2011


'Million man' anti-Israel rally in Cairo attracts only hundreds
posted by homunculus at 9:42 AM on August 27, 2011


Some 450,000 Israelis march at massive 'March of the Million' rallies across country

LIVE BLOG: Over 400K participate in largest protest in Israeli history
posted by homunculus at 2:34 PM on September 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


« Older Closed to the public for more than 300 years, St. ...  |  Earth, formed in 1989 by Dylan... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments