Ten Reasons Israeli Protesters Will Be Back on the Streets

Article Summary
Having realized that change is possible and that public discourse has indeed changed, Israeli activists have set up a social protest community working relentlessly for the cause, preparing to take to the streets once again, at the right moment. Ofer Barkan gives ten reasons why the popular struggle will continue as it started.

The social protest movement is gearing up for an imminent comeback. The right may call us leftist. The left may argue that in the absence of a peace process, no real change can be expected here. We, however, believe that both political sides are irrelevant. We stick with the goals we set ourselves in the summer of 2011: forming a welfare state, putting an end to privatization, narrowing gaps, increasing social allocations and untying business-government ties. Here are 10 reasons why last summer's social protest is going to make a comeback soon.

1.  We achieved practically nothing at all.

Both the Knesset and government responded to the protest by mounting an attack against us — as a matter of fact, against 99 percent of the public. Prices are rising, the media is silenced by intimidation and dismissals and the public is silenced through legislation. Even Professor Trajtenberg, head of the government's “social team,” has realized that he has been tricked (and he may yet pitch his own tent). One thing is certain — we have not achieved the welfare state we wanted. But there is no reason for despair. We are still at the beginning of the road, and we have yet a long way to go.

2.  We found that there is another way.

We found that everything is possible — if you want it badly enough. State-subsidized education for children from the age of three? All of a sudden, there is talk of the Free Education Law. Lowering the prices of dairy products? It is all a matter of public pressure. (See the case of dairy giant Tnuva.) Direct employment rather than outsourcing through contractors? If the Kibbutzim College of Education can do it, everybody can. So why believe the tales they are telling us about budgetary deficits? An alternative committee of economists, professors and field staff proposes a feasible economic structure for the State of Israel aimed at narrowing gaps and founded on social values. You don't have to be an expert to realize that we, too, can enjoy the fruit of growth, to understand that they have been leading us by the nose all these years, that privatization does not mean increased efficiency but is rather motivated by political and economic interests. Yes, we have learned that the present economic system can be changed — the very system that serves the monied and ruling classes.

3.  TV is telling us lies.

The revolution will not be broadcast on TV, as TV is designed to mislead the public. It will not be broadcast because at precisely that time, the final episode of some anti-reality show will be on air. It will not be broadcast since the media is dominated by the tycoons, and they are not interested in any revolution whatsoever. It will not be broadcast. That's why the revolution should return to the streets, where the authentic Israeli reality show plays out.

4.  We have built up a social protest community fighting for the cause.

Our community numbers today in the thousands of activists, with fire in their bellies — people who believe that they can and must create another reality. These activists, who never met before July 2011, have been running around together ever since. They go from the evacuation of a protest tent camp to one protest demonstration or another, and from there to a Knesset committee meeting, and then back to their neighborhood to organize local protest groups and then again, at the end of a busy day, to make arrangement for a protest rally. These several thousand motivated citizens remind us of the Jewish pioneers who came to the Land of Israel in the first immigration wave at the end of the 19th century, who built roads and dried up the marshlands, and who helped establish the State of Israel against all odds. All along the way, the protest-movement activists have believed that, together, they can create another reality. It is a community that has shaped a working system never before seen in Israel — a non-hierarchical system, with no single outstanding leader. Rather, they are all leaders. An outsider may not be able to appreciate it. Yet, in the absence of any guiding hand, the activists manage to organize field teams, set up the movement bodies, formulate its strategy and spread the cause of social justice.

5.  It is a multi-national struggle.

It started in Tunisia, which sparked protest campaigns throughout half the globe and faded away toward the end of 2011. However, the underlying energy is still there, and it crosses borders. Within minutes, we can find out how Spanish protesters communicate without words, how the English manage to conduct a non-violent struggle and what the Americans mean by the 99% concept. The determination of the Egyptian revolutionists inspires us.

The private sector was quick to adopt the notion of globalization. As of the mid-20th century, those of means have been taking advantage of the multi-national, border-crossing global market. All the rest of us, common citizens, caught on to the globalization effect a bit too late. And throughout the world, people have come to the same conclusion: the millions are made by few, and only a few take home a million.

The fact that we are not alone, that on the other side of the world others struggle with us for the same cause, is a source of strength. Moreover, it is impossible to stop such a colossal global process, anchored in cyber communication, a process that is shaping the human reality of the 21th century. Modes of thinking, forms of governance, cultural patterns, economic rules — they are all going to radically change in the coming decade, and every one of us, anywhere on the globe, is welcome to take part in shaping the change.

6.  Swinish capitalism is no longer in the vogue.

In 2008, it was categorically announced that Milton Friedman's methodology had failed. To be sure, swinishness is still alive and kicking, and there are, and always will be, those who are interested in nothing but making more and more money. However, it is common knowledge now that, economically, it simply does not work. The Scandinavian countries, Japan, Holland, Germany, Switzerland and other countries embrace a stable alternative, ensuring their citizens a high standard of living. An in-depth comparison of Israel's national budget with that of these countries shows that, contrary to widespread belief, security is not a factor here, but rather an excuse for failure to invest in the social spheres. Furthermore, the futility of the culture of consumption is by now universally recognized — there is a limit to how much one can buy and consume. It is not only fossil fuels that are rapidly depleting. Other essential natural resources and their derivatives are also dwindling. Our future lies in sustainability. Our capacity to endure depends on a sustainable economy, whereby individuals are no longer seeking to accumulate and consume material goods for the sake of consumption, but rather satisfy themselves with decent subsistence.

7.  Public discourse has changed.

The right and left alike are concerned about, and vote at the ballots on the security issue, the occupied territories, the never-ending wars and aspirations for peace. Now, for the first time, we are flying another flag: the social flag. It has been argued that there is no need for an Iranian nuclear bomb to shake up Israel — the bomb that is bound to blow in our faces is already there, in the social, economic and geographic periphery. The social flag will wave from now on alongside the security banner; both are going to stay on the headlines for years to come. The division between political right and left is falling apart, giving way to a unified social front, which is bound to lead both the political struggle and the public discourse.

8.  Small-time politicians are jumping on the social-protest bandwagon.

Politicians like Livni, Mofaz, Yachimovitz, Kahlon, Deri, Lapid and others are spreading empty slogans, priding themselves on their so-called social agenda. However, in effect, they are all driven by narrow political interests. We cannot abandon our social cause to unworthy persons, to the self-interested, to the yes-men and opportunists who have been around in the business-government circle for too many years, and who fail to understand the very real need for a true, deep-rooted revolution in Israel.

9.  Our momentum is still strong.

Preparations are going at full blast — the 2011 summer protest was an improvised spontaneous campaign, leaving us exhausted and confused. We have shifted gear since, and we are acting in full force now — in the Knesset, local municipalities, schools, retirement homes and poor neighborhoods, preparing for the big moment of our debut. We are no longer as naive as we used to be. We are more focused and organized now, and when the right moment comes, we will take to the streets and sweep the country.

10.  We are not going anywhere — we are staying home, in Israel.

We have fulfilled our military duty. We did our regular army service and we are now serving in the reserve forces. We have families to provide for. We are all hard-working, tax-paying, law-abiding citizens. We are not going to give up this small piece of land. It is the land we have dreamt of. It is in the land where our children will grow up, and it is here that we will fight and toil for their future. We have come so far, and we are not going to forsake what is ours by right. Our ancestors came here 130 years ago, driven by high-flown ideals. And they did it! They succeeded in building a homeland here, for us to live in. We will not surrender it, as it belongs to us all — the citizens of the State of Israel.

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