Israel Economic Protests: “Mother of all Protests” Brings 150,000 Israelis Together

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

Demonstration on behalf of Israeli middle-class began with one Facebook posting

Tent City Protest

Israel Tent ProtestsA dramatic demonstration of power was held on July 30th, with over 150,000 people taking to the streets of Israel calling for a fortification of the middle class. This far-reaching and all encompassing demonstration, nicknamed the “Mother of all Protests,” reached from Kiryat Shmona in the north to Beersheba in the south, with its center in Tel Aviv, where it began two weeks ago as “The protest of the tents.”

It all began when a young woman in Tel-Aviv named Daphne Leaf issued a post on Facebook stating that she would not stand still for the rising housing prices in Tel-Aviv. In protest and despair of her situation, Daphne noted that she was moving in a tent Rothschild Ave until the situation was resolved.

In the two weeks since the protest began, Rothschild BoulevNard in Tel Aviv has been filled with hundreds of young people who have joined Daphne to protest the rent and real estate prices in Tel Aviv. At the same time, additional tents and young demonstrators filled public gardens and urban parks throughout the country.

The protest tents are a part of a continuum of demonstrations against the inefficiency of the government. Recent protests also include demonstrations by mothers complaining about the prices of kindergartens and the cost of raising children, protests that fuel is overpriced, doctors striking for higher wages and a boycott of the cottage cheese suppliers after the price of this product rose sharply.

The protesters are comprised of mostly educated, middle class men and women ranging in age from 21-40, most of who have served and/or are serving in the army and pay taxes. It is their feeling that they contribute the most to the state and yet, receive the least.

They are protesting the ineptness of the state’s economic and social policy.

While direct taxes, which are designed to put the tax burden on the shoulders of the wealthy are among the lowest in Western countries, the indirect taxes aimed primarily at the middle class, are the highest. The young look at the West and recognize that their buying power is much weaker than that of their Western peers and understand the simple truth: We make less and pay a lot more.

This protest is authentic. It’s not left or right, Jew or Arab, nor is it made up completely of spoiled Tel-Avivians. This protest is the last chance for us to keep a substantial part of the younger generation in the country, to strengthen the backbone of economic and state security.

In Israel, as in all democratic countries, the big decisions are reflected at the polls. The recent and ongoing social protests have generated a deep frustration which is expected to spread. The current tribulations and dissatisfaction in the country will have a great effect on the next election. The time has come for Netanyahu, Livni and Barak to be concerned.

The fact is that these protestors will be the same citizens voting at the polls. They have at long last come to understand that their votes are important and will affect the overall picture.

Advertisements

Israel Economic Protests: With protests, Israelis are seeking the revival of welfare state

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

Source: JTA, 8-2-11

The wave of protests sweeping Israel is about much more than the lack of affordable housing: It’s a grass-roots demand for the major redistribution of the nation’s wealth.

Israeli students, holding a sign reading "Welfare state now!," protest outside the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem against the high cost of living, Aug. 1, 2011.  (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

In social terms, protesters are calling for a more caring government attuned to the needs of young, middle-class citizens who serve in the army, pay heavy taxes and provide the engine driving the country’s burgeoning economy.

In economic terms, it is a call for the reversal of nearly three decades of fiscal conservativism at the expense of social services such as education, health and welfare, as well as an appeal against eroding salaries and rising prices.

In other words, the protesters are demanding that today’s thriving free-market Israel use its wealth to create conditions for a restoration of at least some elements of the long-defunct Israeli welfare state.

As an estimated 150,000 people demonstrated Saturday night in 12 locations across the country, the central theme was a demand for “social justice.” To some, it was reminiscent of the students’ revolt in Paris in the late 1960s: an alliance of students, workers and, in the Israeli case, a large, financially strapped middle class of people mostly in their 20s and 30s demanding a new economic order.

But there were key differences: In the Israeli case, there was no violence. Instead, there was a veiled, largely unspoken threat: that if the government fails to act and middle-class people continue to struggle to make ends meet, many more of the best and brightest would leave for countries where there is no defense burden and it’s easier to make a living.

As the protests entered their third week, the great Israeli paradox loomed large: Never has the country been economically stronger, yet never have so many of its young people felt so frustrated at their own personal financial status.

The current situation is partly a result of a constitutional lacuna….READ MORE

%d bloggers like this: