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Escalating Israeli Street Protests
by Stephen Lendman
Email: lendmanstephen (nospam) sbcglobal.net
08 Aug 2011
Escalating Israeli Street Protest - by Stephen Lendman
Ongoing since mid-July, Israeli street protests are unprecedented in size, scope, and (so far) determination to stay the course for social justice.
Two previous articles discussed them, accessed through the following links:
What began as a Tel Aviv middle class protest for affordable housing, mushroomed to include all segments of Israeli society (except its super-rich) to include many other social justice issues.
As a result, small protests became huge ones nationwide in 11 cities. More on the largest ones below.
At issue are the following grievances:
(1) Along with America and Britain, Israel has the greatest wealth disparity and social inequality among developed nations, causing unemployment, poverty, hunger, homelessness, and eroding benefits.
(2) Unaffordable housing, creating an intolerable burden for growing numbers being priced out of a place to live.
(3) High food and energy prices.
(4) Low wages and eroding social benefits.
(5) Onerous taxes on working households.
(6) Lack of free education and better healthcare benefits.
(7) Weak labor rights.
(8) A disproportionate amount of construction funding for settlement development, leaving too little to build affordable housing in Israel.
(9) Israel spends double the amount per settlement resident compared to others Israelis. In fact, since the 1990s, it's been official government policy to encourage population shifts to West Bank and East Jerusalem locations, depriving most Israelis in the process. In addition, Israel spends over $700 million annually on occupation, besides an inordinate amount on defense at the expense of social needs.
(10) The "high cost of raising children," the common ignored complaint voiced by most Israelis.
On August 8, four Haaretz writers headlined, "More than 300,000 demonstrate across Israel to protest high cost of living," saying:
From Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to Haifa to Kiryat Shmona to Modi'in to Hod Hasharon to Eilat and elsewhere, about 300,000 turned out Saturday evening in a growing show of force and determination for social justice.
"An entire generation demands a future," and "The people demand social justice," they chanted. They know what they want and demand it, from Netanyahu or someone else if he refuses or does too little.
On August 7, Haaretz writer Yair Ettinger headlined, "Revolution picks up steam," saying:
City elders nationwide "stood by as if they couldn't believe" what was ongoing - unprecedented nonviolent determination to end neoliberalism's chokehold on Israeli society. People rallied, shouting "revolution," suggesting what's happening has legs.
On August 7, Haaretz writer Gideon Levy headlined, "The miracle of the rebellion," saying:
It erupted when least expected "from a generation (raised) on idiotic game shows (with) no room for meaningful debate; on the club sense, another wasteland (in) bars and cafes....(involving people) raised (in) a school system (that failed them, and in) colleges and universities....turned into grade stores; on media that brainwash (and) spread fear; and (with) student unions" more concerned about "singers who perform on Students' Day" than preparing young people for adult life.
Participants include people "raised on materialism, designer labels, trends and gadgets, (and) escapism, (comprised partly of) drunks and druggies (who also became) racist and nationalist."
Who'd have expected a revolutionary spirit from participants never before imagining it, let alone rallying in solidarity for over three weeks with a determination never before shown for social change.
"The nothing generation....surprised us all." Suddenly they discovered social justice and demand it. "It's nothing short of a miracle," and suggests if possible in Israel, perhaps anywhere, even in America where bread and circus distractions take top priority.
Yet after years of quiescence, there it was, resonating powerfully without letup, demanding what politicians won't do anywhere without pressure too strong to contest, provided participants stay the course, retain their energy and won't quit, come hell or high water.
America's Media: Serving Power, not People
The second above-linked article discussed how America's media suppressed an event too important to dismiss, but they did. Except for a few woefully inadequate print articles, virtually nothing's been reported.
It's what passes for journalism in America, especially on issues relating to war and peace, corporate power and privilege, as well as anything negative about Israel.
New York Times writer Ethan Bonner missed the mark earlier. The above link comments on his July 31 article, typical of how their writers fall short. At best, they go so far and no further, omitting what's most important to know. Readers have to go elsewhere to learn them.
On August 6, Times writer Isabel Kershner outdid Bonner in her article headlined, "Protests Grow in Israel, With 250,000 Marching," saying:
In the largest protests so far (yet downplaying their size, except for briefly mentioning 300,000 in her text), they "demonstrate(d) against the high cost of living and lack of affordable housing...."
She also briefly mentioned high taxes, food and gasoline, a growing gap between rich and poor, and eroding social services with no background, context, explanation, or analysis of what caused today's crisis and why.
It didn't arrive like "Topsy," the "Uncle Tom's Cabin" slave girl, who when asked if she knew who made her said, "I s'pect I (just) growed." Israel's crisis "growed" over decades of social neglect before boiling over.
Bonner's article was longer, yet inadequate. Kershner's was woefully weak and short. In both, readers came away with no understanding of longstanding Israeli social injustices. Nor were they given context to understand them, or why they happened in the first place, what's most important to know.
Notably: Who gains? Who loses, to what degree, for what purpose, and an explanation of the curse of neoliberal extremism, ravishing all Western societies, Israel one of the most unequal.
The best from Kershner was to say "Netanyahu announced a series of measures late last month meant to alleviate the housing shortage. The organizers dismissed them as insufficient," and who knows if he'll even follow through.
Politicians notoriously make promises they won't fulfill, especially right-wing ones. Obama, in fact, broke every major promise he made, yet too few Americans know it.
Netanyahu offered to dialog with protest leaders through senior officials without explaining that Israelis want action, not talk.
In addition, Bonner and Kershner omitted a key issue entirely - Israel's rage to develop settlements, disproportionately benefitting residents in them at the expense of mainland social justice, besides stealing Palestinian land, a topic America's media never mention.
Neither writer discussed disproportionality, yet Israelis prioritize it, wanting all of them treated equitably. It's why why protests began in the first place - over unaffordable housing, because settlement development takes precedence over providing it.
It's a policy protesters want changed, but don't expect America's media to explain, including Times writers like Bonner, Kershner and all others.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen (at) sbcglobal.net.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.
This work is in the public domain