One thing that’s NOT really feeding the protests, contrary to some media reports, is inequality.” One hears often from the Israeli left that Israel has among the greatest disparities in income of all industrialized countries, but those statistics are largely an artifact of the fact that while almost all “secular” Israeli adults are employed, in the Arab sector (20% of the population) very few women work, and in the Haredi sector (over 10% of the population) 2/3 of men don’t work. Also, the center of the country has far more economic opportunity than the periphery. Given that the protestors are overwhelmingly secular young Jews from the center, these concerns are quite obviously not at the forefront of the protests.More to the point, it appears that one of the things the protest are now about is politics.
Jonathan Spyer, a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, agrees that there are valid issues that the protesters want addressed. At the same time, Spyer notes how the protests in Israel have become politicized:
That demonstration leaders and organizers indeed have a political agenda is easy to spot. Many have clear affiliations indicating their hostility both to the current government and to mainstream Israeli positions. Funding is coming from the New Israel Fund and its operational group, Shatil.Another contributor--literally--to the protests is billionaire S. Daniel Abraham, who liberal views are well known. In fact he spoke about in a recent interview available on YouTube. (While the program is in Hebrew, the interview is in English)
Yehudit Ilani, for example, a leader of the protests in Jaffa, is an Israeli-Jewish member of the hardline, Arab nationalist party Balad, which openly supports dismantling Jewish statehood and the ‘”right of return” of Palestinian refugees, that is, Israel’s destruction. The party’s original leader, Azmi Bishara, fled Israel after coming under suspicion of spying for Hizballah and is now openly backing that group from exile. One of its elected members, Haneen Zoabi, supports a nuclear Iran.
Dafni Leef, another protest leader, is an employee of the New Israel Fund. Alon Lee Green, another of the most prominent organizers, is a member of Hadash, the Israeli Communist Party. And so on.
Their motive in promoting social protest is highly political. The Israeli public long ago rejected their positions on the key national issues facing the country, thus consigning them to political irrelevance. They hope social issues will gain them re-admission to the debate.
Abraham claims his funding of the protests do not make it political. Perhaps if there was a significant number of right-wing Israels his claim would be more believable.
The liberal Israeli media is also supporting the protests--not only in terms of framing these protests as apolitical, but apparently also by fudging the numbers. While the media reported that the rally on August 7 had 300,000 protesters, there is good reason to believe that the media exaggerated the numbers of the protesters at the Tel Aviv rally. Instead of 300,000 at the rally, it is more likely there were 62,000 to 65,000 there--based on examining how many people the space could actually hold. Likewise, a rally in Jerusalem that the media reported was attended by 30,000 was likely attended by no more than 5,000.
The infiltration and the overall support of the left has turned off many of the religious Israelis and those on the right who joined the protests at first--giving the rallies the ability to represent a wide swath of the general population. However, according to a report from Rotter, after initially joining it appears Israelis from both the religious and the right are abandoning the protest. According to the report, only recently did the religious start leaving the protests--as a result of the organizers revealing more about their intentions, members of the radical left have started to assume leadership roles at the rallies and a more aggressive atmosphere at the protests.
How far the protests will go and where they will lead is anyone's guess. Netanyahu has appointed committees to look into solutions, but so far the protesters have have rejected those measures.
Technorati Tag: Israel.