August 6, 2011
FIRST OF all, a warning.
Tent cities are springing up all over
At that point, there will be a temptation - perhaps an irresistible temptation - to "warm up the borders". To start a nice little war. Call on the youth of
Nothing easier than that. A small provocation, a platoon crossing the border "to prevent the launching of a rocket", a fire fight, a salvo of rockets - and lo and behold, a war. End of protest.
In September, just a few weeks from now, the Palestinians intend to apply to the UN for the recognition of the State of
THREE WEEKS ago I was interviewed one morning by a Dutch journalist. At the end, she asked
I answered that I have faith in the people of
On that very same day, just a few hours later, a young woman called Daphne Liff, with an improbable man's hat perched on her flowing hair, said to herself
She had been evicted by her landlady because she couldn't afford the rent. She set up a tent in
Similar tent-cities sprang up in
This"] has now become the center of Israeli life. The Rothschild tent city has assumed a life of its own -a cross between
Seeing the tents, I was reminded of the words of Balaam, who was sent by the king of
IT ALL started in a remote little town in
The Israeli government saw all this with growing concern - but they didn't imagine that there might be an effect in
But follow suit it did. People in the street spoke with growing admiration of the Arab revolt. It showed that people acting together could dare to confront leaders far more fearsome than our bumbling Binyamin Netanyahu.
Some of the most popular posters on the tents were "Rothschild corner Tahrir" and, in a Hebrew rhyme, "Tahrir - Not only in Cahir" - Cahir being the Hebrew version of al-Cahira, the Arabic name for
WHO ARE these people? What exactly do they want?
It started with a demand for "Affordable Housing". Rents in Tel Aviv,
A selection of the slogans gives an impression
WHAT IS missing in this array of slogans? Of course
This is by design. The organizers, anonymous young men and women - mainly women - are very determined not to be branded as "leftists". They know that bringing up the occupation would provide Netanyahu with an easy weapon, split the tent-dwellers and derail the protests.
We in the peace movement know and respect this. All of us are exercising strenuous self-restraint, so that Netanyahu will not succeed in marginalizing the movement and depicting it as a plot to overthrow the right-wing government.
As I wrote in an article in Haaretz
Voltaire said that "the art of government consists in taking as much money as possible from one class of citizens to give it to the other". This government takes the money of decent citizens to give it to the settlers.
WHO ARE they, these enthusiastic demonstrators, who seemingly have come from nowhere?
They are the young generation of the middle class, who go out to work, take home average salaries and "cannot finish the month", as the Israeli expression goes. Mothers who cannot go to work because they have nowhere to leave their babies. University students who cannot get a room in the dormitories or afford accomodation in the city. And especially young people who want to marry but cannot afford to buy an apartment, even with the help of their parents. (One tent bore the sign
All this in a flourishing economy, which has been spared the pains of the world-wide economic crisis and boasts an enviable unemployment rate of just 5%.
If pressed, most of the protesters would declare themselves to be "social-democrats". They are the very opposite of the Tea Party in the
WHERE WILL it go from here?
No one can say. When asked about the impact of the French Revolution, Zhou Enlai famously said
It has already produced a huge change. For weeks now, the public and the media have stopped talking about the borders, the Iranian bomb and the security situation. Instead, the talk is now almost completely about the social situation, the minimum wage, the injustice of indirect taxes, the housing construction crisis.
Under pressure, the amorphous leadership of the protest has drawn up a list of concrete demands. Among others
So where from here? There are many possibilities, both good and bad.
Netanyahu can try to buy off the protest with some minor concessions - some billions here, some billions there. This will confront the protesters with the choice of the Indian boy in the movie about becoming a millionaire
Some rabid optimists (like myself) may even dream of the emergence of a new authentic political party to fill the gaping void on the left side of the political spectrum.
I STARTED with a warning, and I must end with another one