Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Israel’s tribal protest

Op-ed: Despite effort to speak on behalf of nation, social protest represents just one Israeli tribe

Yoaz Hendel
Israel Opinion

The tens of thousands of people who marched through the streets of Tel Aviv Saturday night constitute yet another show of force for the protest movement that emerged here out of nowhere.

Even an objector such as myself, who has no special sympathy for the hidden politics of the organizers, cannot deny the process they facilitated; the fact that they managed to bring indifferent Israelis out to the streets in an era of individualism; the fact they managed to stir discourse about justice and society; and mostly the fact that they prompted all of us to examine things in a different way. However, with all due respect to the achievements and numbers, a protest is measured by results and not by slogans. Despite the great desire and Shlomo Artzi’s music, it was not the “people” that hit Tel Aviv’s streets last night, but rather, only a particular tribe within the people.

The “people” wants “social justice” but is having trouble agreeing what that means.
The middle class or the poor? Well-to-do young people who seek normal prices in order to make ends meet, or poverty-stricken Israelis who can’t even start to make ends meet? With all due respect to the reports from the media induced national bonfire last night, it was a display of one specific tribe, and we should keep that in mind.

We must admit the truth – this protest, from its very beginning to the rally last night, was created by the media of this same tribe. It’s the project of the century for Israel’s largest public relations agency, with numerous news items and headlines that present a consistent picture. When Israel’s media outlets carry the uniform message that “the protest is spreading,” the protest spreads, regardless of whether this is good or bad.

No room for questions

The masses who hit the streets last night were intoxicated by the sweaty media embrace from Rothschild Boulevard and by the fact that everyone is seemingly backing them – the singers, artists and politicians. They hit the streets knowing that objection is impermissible. This is pleasant and heart-warming, yet the problem is that in a democratic state it may prompt the opposite process. This protest is seemingly so justified that it appears questions are no longer allowed. And with the abundance of historical significance here, it seems there is no room for discussing practical results.

The tents, the protests, the philosophical discussions and even the political fantasies constitute a celebration of democracy. The problem is that in these types of celebrations there are always some who get too intoxicated. The State of Israel should be grateful to and embrace the initiators, regardless of their political views. Personally, I hope that they will soon become volunteer activists, that they will enlist to the cause of making the Negev and Galilee flourish, and that they will enter politics, regardless of which side they choose.

Yet as an Israeli, I hope that they will soon understand that speaking on behalf of this people - even when the cause is just - is dangerous.

No comments: