Follow ysgotlieb on Twitter
by RSS
Issues of the Day Nearly Half a Million Rally to Repudiate the Government's Program


I had been among the many who worried that the call for another Saturday night rally during the summer of 2011's historic social protest movement would be a bust: the school year was starting, the memory of the eight Israelis killed two weekends ago  by Palestinian terrorists was still painfully fresh,  and a disinformation campaign had been set in motion to discredit the protest organizers.

Fears the event would be sparsely attended dissipated quickly when photographer David Blumenfeld and I reached Ibn Givrol Boulevard and joined a swelling throng. By the time we reached  the rally site at State Square, we had joined the three hundred thousand participants who had congregated there. Another one hundred and fifty thousand people rallied in Jerusalem, Haifa and elsewhere in the country.

A Repudiation of  Capitalism

The longest of the speeches delivered last night at State Square was presented by Dafni Leef, the 25 year-old prime mover of the social protest movement, who read prepared remarks encapsulating the passion and demands that sparked the largest citizens movement in Israel's history. Leef poignantly described herself as the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors who grew up feeling that there was no longer social solidarity in Israel, that the society was built on the values of people pursing their individual self-interest, on social powerlessness, and the destruction of personal dreams. 

Leef also brought into focus the prevailing view that the cause of the societal ills – the housing shortages, the high cost of living, the constant economic pressure widely felt throughout the society – are found in the system, capitalism, which has been so energetically advanced by the current and preceding governments over the past three decades.

A similar repudiation of Israeli capitalism, seldom criticized so virulently and prevalently as these past weeks,  was made by Rivka Michaeli, who for decades has been a prominent entertainer and cultural figures. She came to represent senior citizens, she said, claiming that Israeli elders fully identify with the movement that has been created by students and other young people.

The same theme was repeated by Prof. Yossi Yonah, one of the leading advisors to the organizers of tent city protest movement, who declared that the protest movement had bellowed the demand to reverse the free market policies championed by the Netanyahu administration in favor of social welfarism.

A Salient Message

It is quite clear to me that this is the most salient message of the citizens protests that have roiled the country this summer: The people want a social democratic state, not one in which twenty families control thirty percent of the economy including water distillation plants and natural resources, not to mention banks, newspapers and supermarkets.

I am troubled that the modern religious campus has not joined us. Their socioeconomic interests are identical to ours and the values espoused by speaker after speaker draw their inspiration from classical Jewish sources.  Where are the rabbis?, I ask myself, since I first heard the teachings of social justice from them when I was a boy. It seems that too many among them have succumbed to the bullying of their extremist peers, those  who espouse that justice can be dispensed with as long as territorial maximalism is advanced through West Bank settlement. Social justice and ethics are traditional Jewish imperatives. Retaining all of the Land of Israel and occupying a foreign population is not.

I expect that following the probable declaration of Palestinian statehood later this month, the citizens movement in Israel will recognize that the struggle for social justice also extends to our neighbors as well. The untenable government policy of not pursuing peace and thumbing its nose at every opportunity to reach an agreement with the Palestinians injures Israel.

I do believe that the citizens revolution of 2011 will soon reject the second part of the Likud program and demand that the government pursue peace, not territory.   

© Yosef Gotlieb, . All rights reserved