Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Five good things to read on Israel’s July 14 movement

People keep asking me when I’m going to write about the Israeli Tent Protests, which have been dubbed the July 14 Movement. I always shamefacedly explain that I haven’t said anything because I don’t know anything. So finally the other day I spent some time seeing what people I respect over there are saying.

Much of the U.S. and Israeli left have been quick to dismiss the protests as reformist and bourgeois, pointing out that they have deliberately avoided the issues of occupation and apartheid. One thing I do want to point out is that I did not hear those same critiques leveled at the mass mobilizations in Wisconsin and Ohio last spring. Those movements were also not left-wing. They did not have an anti-war, anti-occupation, anti-capitalist agenda. They did not call for funding education by eliminating prisons and the police occupations of Black communities – if they had, the police and prison guards would not have been participating in the demonstrations. They did not have a broad critique of institutionalized racism. That’s not to say there were not leftists, anti-capitalists and anti-racists involved, but they chose to be involved for the same reason that many Israeli leftists are choosing to be involved in a big-tent movement.

In fact, the July 14 Movement seems to me not very different from the Wisconsin revolt, except that 1) it has mobilized a much larger proportion of the country’s population (up to 10%), and 2) it is, at least, taking on core policies of neoliberalism. It is demanding a welfare state and includes demands for the unemployed, as well as for those workers lucky enough to have union jobs.

The other thing that struck me is that there's a peculiar symmetry between this protest - tents springing up all over the country, some huge, some tiny, and the tents that sprang up in every Palestinian village and town in 2004 to support the prisoners' hunger strike.  That makes it doubly ironic that the Israeli protesters are not engaging the issue of Palestinian self-determination.  But of course, appropriating Palestinian cultural memes is as Israeli as ... falafel.

I won’t bore you with any more of my unfounded opinions. Here are five pieces I found very enlightening, and each of them is on a different site which will provide you with more links to various perspectives.

Israel’s protests Part 1: a tragic wasted chance (Part I) and The revolution inside the Revolution (Part II): “While it’s easy to decry the insistent shunning of “politics” that leads this movement, there’s plenty to find and celebrate if you rummage around. … As and when the central events dwindle, the committed, political and mixed-race protests will become more vulnerable, but those remaining around them will be more politicised and committed. …There is already an anticipation of a crackdown. The politicians who have spent the past few years lovingly crafting increasingly racist laws to silence and intimidate the Palestinian minority must be itching to stop this blatant demand for their rights.… Many people are on edge, expecting trouble. Police and prison pay has been quickly hiked up by 40%.”

Tent 1948, by Abir Kopty, “If you are Palestinian, it will be difficult to find anything to identify with in Tel Aviv's tents’ city on Rothschild Boulevard, until you reach Tent 1948. My first tour there was a few days ago, when I decided to join Tent 1948. Tent 1948's main message is that social justice should be for all. It brings together Jewish and Palestinian citizens who believe in shared sovereignty in the state of all its citizens….”

The Tent Protests in Israel: Can They Break Out of the (Zionist) Box? by Jeff Halper  “…This is an uprising worth following. Not an Arab Spring perhaps but a promising Israeli Summer. A process of consciousness-raising has certainly begun amongst mainstream Jewish Israelis who for generations have been locked in "The Box" of conformist thinking.”

The people want a reset. by Amira Hass  “As the movement grows, some will continue to think and demand "justice" within the borders of one nation, at the expense of the other nation that lives in this land. Others will understand that this will never be a country of justice and welfare if it is not a state of all its citizens.”

Arab-Israelis should find an ally in the Israeli tent protests, by Asma Agbariyeh-Zahalka  “…I think the time for complaints has passed, and there is no point in boasting about our victimhood, about the fact that we are the more oppressed, as if our identity is bound up with our misery. It’s time to come out of the Arab closet. The Israeli protest movement has initiated and represents social and economic change. Arab society must ask, Are we in favor of such change or not? Can this movement which demands social change also open itself up to the Arab population? Does the movement have a rightwing, fascist aura, or is it left-leaning and democratic, able to include social justice for Arabs too?”

No comments:

Post a Comment