Last summer, Israelis protested
for weeks for social justice. Hundreds of thousands rallied throughout
Hoped for change never came. Netanyahu made promises he never kept.
Public anger again erupted. On May 12, Haaretz headlined "Israelis take
to the streets in renewed social justice protests," saying:
Thousands rallied in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square. Others did nationwide
under the banner "Returning the country to the citizens."
"We want justice, not charity."
"Taking from the poor, giving to the rich, what a country of corruption."
Organizer Orli Barlev said:
"The message is one against the political system that does not count
the citizens. What we saw this week were moves that resulted from personal
interests of power and control. This government has greatly deepened
Barlev meant the Likud/Kadima unity deal. Party heads Netanyahu and
Shaul Mofaz became coalition partners. Doing so more deeply corrupted
Israeli politics. Democratic values sustained another body blow.
Growing social and economic inequality affects most Israelis. Since
the 1980s, policies disproportionately favored the rich. Social benefits
keep eroding. Wealth disparity gaps widen. Unemployment and poverty
grow. So do increasing hunger and homelessness.
Israelis face similar race to the bottom issues as Western societies.
At issue is neoliberal harshness. Only elitist interests matter. Wealth
and power are prioritized over human need.
People finally react and say no more. Grievances they want addressed
(1) Unaffordable housing. It includes intolerable burden of being priced
out of a place to live.
(2) High food and energy prices.
(3) Low wages and eroding social benefits.
(4) Onerous taxes on working households.
(5) Education and healthcare increasingly dependent on the ability to
(6) Weak labor rights.
(7) Construction funding disproportionately allocated for settlement
development. Affordable housing in Israel is disappearing.
(8) The high cost of raising children. Along with overpriced housing,
it's the most common complaint raised.
Instead of addressing these issues responsibly, Israeli officials ignore
them. Dominant party leaders speak with one voice. Only privilege matters.
Most Israelis increasingly are on their own, sink or swim.
As a result, they're struggling for social justice. They're back for
what's long been denied. Like European and US cops, Israeli ones confront
them violently. Haaretz explained in several feature articles.
On June 23, it headlined "Police violence against Tel Aviv protesters
should raise the alarm with Israel's authorities," saying:
On June 22, police brutalized protest leader Daphni Leef. They dragged
her out of a group of peaceful demonstrators violently. They threw her
to the ground. To no avail, she tried to protect herself from repeated
blows. She sustained injuries, including a broken arm.
"The horrific sight lasted for many minutes." Leef was then "forcefully
taken to a nearby police vehicle. No one should ever ignore or repress"
images of what happened.
"The brutality" against her and others "was not only direct, it was
public and unabashed."
It signaled long, hot summer weeks ahead. Orders from the top assure
On June 23, Haaretz headlined "Israeli Police deploy large forces in
central Tel Aviv as protesters gather for mass rally," saying:
Large police contingents gathered in central Tel Aviv. Social justice
activists prepared to march in protest of Friday's arrests. "(E)xcessive
force" confronted Leef and others. A dozen or more arrests were made.
Under the banner "Emergency protest! Returning the power to the people,"
activists headed for Rothschild Blvd. Rallies, marches, and tent cities
were prominent there last summer.
This year, license permission wasn't requested. Dozens of protesters
carried tents to erect. Municipal inspectors and police confronted them.
Democratic rights were denied. Police called their actions illegal.
Demonstrators rejected unjust demands. Each side faced off against the
other. Cops do it violently. Expect worse ahead.
On June 23, Haaretz headlined "Thousands of Israeli protesters block
streets in Tel Aviv, clash with police," saying:
Saturday night, police arrested dozens. They gathered peacefully to
protest Leef's treatment. They blocked Ibn Gabirol Street north to Rabin
They impeded Ayalon highway traffic. Police removed them violently.
They blamed protesters for their own brutality. They called legitimate
public gatherings illegal and unlicensed.
Free societies don't require permit permission to speak and assemble
publicly. Israel's a rogue state. Democratic rights are illusory. Jews
face police harshness like Arabs.
Activist Barak Cohen said cops injured him. "We came to" confront them,
he said. "You're fighting for your life and you have to fight them without
fear. They can carry out arrests and close off streets, but they can't
affect the choices we make in our souls."
Sunny Arazi added:
"Yesterday the police did everything to stop the protest, and it worked.
The south is on fire, and if this demonstration succeeds, the firing
in the south will continue. They'll do everything possible to disrupt
On June 24, Haaretz headlined "Violence sponsored by the state," saying:
"We can only hope that the attempt to forcibly silence the social protest
won't succeed. But the police's illegitimate action reveals system-wide
contempt for the foundations of Israeli democracy."
"The inability to come to terms with legitimate protest is another worrisome
stage in the government's disparaging approach to protecting democratic
Weak-kneed apologies after the fact don't matter. Conveying messages
like "don't cross the line" aren't legitimate. Summoning activists to
police stations for information on planned protests reflects actions
free societies won't tolerate.
Activist leader Idan Pink said:
"We're here for the same reasons as last summer. Nothing has changed.
We want justice. We can out here to get something and we won't leave
until we get it."
A June 25 Haaretz editorial headlined "Putting the protest at risk,"
Confronting police nonviolently is essential. Otherwise legitimacy may
be lost. Staying calm isn't easy when police act like thugs.
Over the weekend, they "acted violently." So did some protesters in
It's not clear if activists or police provocateurs were responsible.
It wouldn't be the first or last time state-sponsored thuggery blamed
People demonstrated against excessive force, arrests and injuries. They're
entitled to confront them forthrightly. Free societies don't commit
them. Democratic rights are inviolable.
Police "must immediately change (their) outlook and behavior toward
legitimate acts of protest. And the protest leaders must call on their
followers to eschew violence, despite the unacceptable" official conduct.
Haaretz contributor Gideon Levy said "Israelis must put a stop to the
political police," saying:
State-sponsored violence reflects disturbing police state practices.
"Something very bad" is happening. Once loved police are now hated.
Once temperate, they're now violent.
They've also become political. Confronting protesters violently and
making outrageous demands is intolerable.
Police are bullies. They're "go(ing) after one little tent on Rothschild"
Blvd instead of recognizing the right of free expression and peaceful
They attacked people "full force." At some demonstrations, more cops
showed up than protesters. "Why on earth do they need a helicopter and
hundreds of officers on the roofs for a few hundred citizens, marching
"True, this is Israel, where violence is the native language, the DNA
of the security forces. But that is not the only reason for the police's
lack of proportion."
Confronting protesters isn't for security. It's about prioritizing elite
interests. It's to sacrifice ordinary people on the alter of wealth
"Legitimate, nonviolent political protest is being suppressed with illegitimate,
political police violence. There is no other way to describe it: We
have a political police force that is making political arrests."
Protesters have two issues to address. They include achieving long denied
social justice and confronting intolerable police brutality responsibly.
Activist struggles arenít easy, straightforward, or painless. Expect
long hot summer weeks ahead.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled "How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized
Banking, Government Collusion and Class War"
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge
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