July 19, 2012
Israel is once again engulfed in unrest. From the outset, the initiators of the numerous protests were against unreasonably high prices for housing, condemning the inaction of the government that refuses to solve the housing problem in the country. Now the leaders of the “tent protest” are trying to repeat last year’s success gathering thousands of people under its banner not only in Tel Aviv but also in other major cities. However, one cannot enter the same river twice.
This year, the activists from social movements were not able to erect tents in the center of the capital. Municipal authorities have banned protests in this manner, since, according to the officials, unsanitary conditions will inevitably develop in tent cities, and they create a nuisance to the residents of the metropolis. Parks, squares and other public places should be used as intended, the town hall believes.Supporters of the opposition, in turn, say they were not planning to deploy large tent camps in the cities. Several tents were to be the symbol of the struggle against social injustice. But municipal inspectors initially were not going to bargain and solved the issue in principle.
In fact, the Netanyahu government is doing everything to prevent a repetition of the “tent revolution” of 2011. Timely actions of police that promptly intervened in the actions of the opposition activists and did not allow setting up tents in Tel Aviv, have demonstrated readiness of the authorities for any eventuality.On June 23, social protests have reached a stage where the opposition and their supporters turned to radical action, and the situation on the streets of the city was nearly out of control. People went out into the roadways, broke into the offices of banks “Leumi” and “Hapoalim”, broke the windows, smashed shop windows.
Clashes with the police have started. 85 people were detained, and then came a relative lull. In total, it took the police over five hours to restore order. The police authorities said that the demonstrators started to behave much more aggressively, and some of them may be charged with criminal offenses. Frequent provocations do not find understanding among the organizers and ordinary protesters. In particular, the chairman of the Student Association condemned acts of vandalism committed in the course of the “protest,” and this position is shared by the protest organizers. After that, the local media started writing about “pogroms” and “riots” in Tel Aviv, exacerbating the already difficult situation. But even under these circumstances, municipal officials and police allowed the opposition to hold peaceful demonstrations – of course, not mass ones. They were offered to make a camp in a special place.
All attempts to limit the scope of social protest with civilized acts in fact made very little change. The success of the “tent movement” will be determined primarily by the existence of mass support among the Israeli population. Marches and demonstrations that took place from May to July of 2012 have not gathered a large number of participants. There was no sensation on July 14, 2012 when the march dedicated to the anniversary of the beginning of the tent protest on Sderot Rothschild in Tel Aviv gathered about 250 people. 300 participants attended the demonstration in Haifa and Jerusalem, and in Afula and Beersheba the numbers were even lower. The most numerous (two to five thousand people) was a march that took place in the capital in front of the theater “Habima”.
Different size of rallies and mismatch between the advances of the organizers and the actual scale of the events show how non-uniform is the movement of social protest. Often it is expressed in unusual forms. Recently, local media reported on a water protest when a few members have decided to use boats and yachts to express their dissatisfaction with the socio-economic policy of the government.
The Israeli newspaper “Maariv” has called the current protests artificial and theatrical. On Saturday night in Tel Aviv, an incident occurred that roused public opinion in the country. 46-year-old resident of Haifa Moshe Silman committed self-immolation at the meeting of social protest, expressing in this horrible way his protest against the indifference of the authorities to the problems of the poor. Once Silman had his own business, but then he lost his job and livelihood, and received no help from the officials. The flame on him was extinguished, but the man received severe burns and was taken to a hospital in critical condition.
Learning of this tragedy, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Ramat-Ghana, Haifa and Beer Sheva. The posters they carry have inscriptions “Each of us is a Silman Moshe”, “Despair burns. Who’s next in line?”, “Bibi, you will burn me, too.” Israeli media are causing panic again, sharing with their readers the fear that the other participants of the protests may follow Silman’s example.However, even the Sunday rally attended by several thousand people has not changed the overall picture. It seems that the “tent revolution” has disappeared before it even started. It seems that most Israelis prefer to solve their economic problems on their own.
by Yuri Sosinsky-Semikhat
…article originally appeared on pravda.ru