Despite the wishes of many — if not most — of the people in the streets, the masses who identify with the ‘social protest’ are callous to those whose complaints are so much more urgent than theirs.
Even though I’ve always agreed with the stated goal of the “social protest” – to redistribute Israel’s wealth more equitably – I can no longer sympathize with it. While many if not most of the people in the streets would like to turn the movement against the occupation and not only against “swinish capitalism,” this hasn’t happened after two years of protest. It’s not going to happen, either, because the moment it does, the social protest loses its legitimacy to speak in the name of “the people,” because “the people” of Israel couldn’t care less about the Palestinians. This was clear to everyone from the beginning; left-wingers hoped that what began as a demand for economic justice would extend to a demand for justice for the Palestinians, but that hope remains as hollow today as it did in the summer of 2011.
Regardless of the politics of the street protesters and the organizers, the masses at home who identified with the cost-of-living protests two years ago, and who identify today with the protests against the new budget, are dominated politically by the Jewish middle-class and their concerns. Those concerns not only exclude the Palestinians, they exclude the Arab citizens of Israel – and they largely exclude the genuinely poor Jews of this country, too. While many middle-class demands happen to coincide with those of the poor – for instance, opposition to higher consumption taxes and to cuts in education – the poor are hangers-on in this movement. (Again, I’m not talking about the protests in the street, but the wave of popular discontent over the economic policies of Finance Minister Yair Lapid and the government.)
The days when poor Jews from the urban slums and peripheral “development towns’ could mount an attention-getting protest in this country are over. (For Palestinians and Israeli Arabs, of course, they never began.) Those days ended in the early-to-mid 2000s when then-finance minister Netanyahu outlasted the single mothers’ hunger strike led by Vikki Knafo. At the same time, he was slashing aid to the poor amid the worst recession and terrorism in the country’s history, which in turn expanded poverty and economic...Read More