(freedompress.org.uk) Israel’s social protests
What began as a spontaneous tent city protest, mimicking the Tahrir square and Spain’s 15M indignados, has developed into one of Israel’s biggest anti-government protests in recent times and a universal call for greater social change. In less than a month from when activists occupied Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv and turned it into a camp in protest at rent increases and the country’s deepening housing crisis a mass movement as emerged with tent cities springing up throughout the country demanding ‘social justice’ from a unpopular government.
Thousands upon thousands of angry Israelis took to the streets in a co-ordinated day of action and although the main focus was on housing – Tel Aviv rents are estimated to take up at least half of people’s income – there was also anger about the government’s handling of the economy and disintegrating welfare state.
Despite the relative peaceful nature of the protests officials were quick to blame radicals and anarchists for their role in the protests, perhaps fearing a more revolutionary tone to the growing unrest.
Minister of Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Yuli Edelstein took a swipe at the anarchists involved declaring. “These are despicable people who have no connection to reality or to the demands being heard. This is a group that leeches on to the real demonstrators” adding “We need to separate them from the rest of the protesters.”
In Jaffa, dozens of Arab and Jewish protesters rallied against the government carrying signs in Hebrew and Arabic reading “Arabs and Jews want affordable housing,” and “Jaffa doesn’t want bids for the rich only.”
From a start of a dozen tents in centre Tel Aviv to the 2,000-tent camp there and many other local ones throughout the country, and from a few hesitant direct actions to a huge 200,000-march.
In the big Tel Aviv demonstration part of the local anarchists – including the anarchists against the wall marched as a block with flags, placards and chants. According to an veteran Israeli anarchist Ilan Shalif ”We marched from the Rothschild Boulevard where the already 2000 tent campers dwell now on the way to the museum square – who was too small to include all of us. Most participants were chanting all the one hour march. Some speeches where carried at the square. When the tent dwellers and others who live in that direction walked back following the demonstration, hundreds of protesters blocked the intersection of Kaplan and Ibn Gvirol Streets – a major junction in central Tel Aviv. People used various materials available to barricade. They chanted among others: “Revolution! Revolution! Revolution” and “Non-violence! Non-violence!”.
Police started to confront the roads blockers – detained many and arrested some of them. About 200 detained during the confrontations. More than 40 were arrested. Most of them were released during the night on signed bail. Few activists of the anarchists against the wall were among the arrestees”.