#j14 and #OccupyWallStreet

My intensely thoughtful spouse Noa pointed out that it was the #j14 protests in Tel Aviv (and not Tunisia or Tahrir Square) that gave folks living in Western democracies a green light to launch grass-roots, leaderless protest movements of their own.   The lesson learned from #j14 was quite simple:  You need not suffer under a totalitarian dictatorship in order to protest shocking inequalities in your society.  When democracies have serious problems that government will not address, only the people can force government to act.

So, for those who have no clue as to the goals of OccupyWallStreet (as opposed to, say, the Tea Party [i.e., CUT government] or the folks in Tahrir [i.e., CUT dictatorship]), you can read the first official statement/ manifesto here.  The Guardian’s coverage can be found here.  I note the Guardian’s piece because no other major American media outlet has really given any serious consideration (besides some short pieces simply covering the event as a “curiosity” or ignoring it because it was not newsworthy [like NPR] but then reconsidered or recent efforts which echo-chamber wire reports on the protest like this) to what has been going on down the street from their Manhattan offices in Liberty Park…

You can read about #OccupyChicago here.  The folks there have a different issue to confront – no park in which to sleep.

You can read about #OccupyTogether,the hub of all Occupy efforts spreading across the USA, North America and Europe … including Toronto!

You can also check out eleven infographics about inequality in the USA that will make your blood boil here.

You can download protest posters here.

With the end, a look back at the beginning…

The text, in English, “thanks” to Google Translate.  (The Hebrew is here.)

Something great, something amazing has happened this summer. Summer 2011 is a great summer of Israel’s new hope.This hope was born, as many hopes, out of a sense of despair, of alienation, of the gaps that have become impossible for us all, the gaps that have become almost insurmountable.

We choose to be. We are not invisible. If they only understand numbers, remind them today that this was more than seven million people, and one of those people have a heart. Rothschild was one sign that said: every heart is a revolutionary cell. It’s true. Each of us is down one man’s struggle.

This summer was a great obstacle course. What hurdles did not put before us, what did not tell us, how did not try to break us.The first thing we said was: spoiled. Sushi and hookahs. That we are automatically elected officials do not take our actions with respect. Their first interest was to say – it’s nothing, nothing, just a bunch of kids. At this point the tent was only a Rothschild.They called us vague and dreamy. The result: the tents were standing all over the country. They had no choice but to understand that this is something bigger, something all of us.

My generation grew up on the feeling of being alone in the world. It’s us against the screen. The other is our enemy, which is our competitor, we grew up feeling that we live in a race that we had no chance of winning, we should not trust anyone else.Taught us that you or that. It’s capitalism – competition that keeps on giving. The fact that precisely this generation – the generation most solitary and withdrawn – stood up and took action is nothing short of miraculous. Miracle Summer 2011.Here, everything we think, what we were taught, not true! What happened here is exactly what needed to happen.

We closed each of his circle, the circle of discontent, a sense of absurdity. And suddenly we started talking, and more important, we listen.

So they told us we were the extreme left. Tried to define us.How do they know who I am? How do they know who you are?Where cheek anyway? The best answer to this argument did not come from me and my friends. She came to the camps were established in the Hatikva neighborhood, Jesse Cohen, Kiryat Gat, Kiryat Shmona, intelligence, Rahat, rendered, in Jerusalem, Haifa, Beit Shean and Yeruham and scores of places. We all, every country, we had no right and left, we all serve.

They told us go to the periphery. Which statement is condescending and horrible. What is “Go to the periphery”? This argument seems to say there are no people, where wilderness, silence. And you know what, how lucky they sent us to the periphery. That we discovered what we knew – the whole country is filled with pounding hearts. I went there and found friends and the friends for life.

And what is “Go to the periphery”? State of Israel and knocked and knocked her to the periphery and systematically organized since its establishment day. Education, health, infrastructure, housing, welfare, culture – to say “Go to the periphery” is a bunch of hypocrisy. Say this periphery is keeping to the old bush people, tell them: you aside. You are far away. Your needs and your requirements are less important than less equal. This summer proved to everyone that there is no such thing periphery – all the middle! Every one of us! We reduced the physical distance between us and we found a good thing, we want to stay close. Will fail to keep us and divide us.

Then came the escalation. But the missiles that fell did not destroy the protests. On the contrary – they showed how strong and how much is real. We doubled the fact that she was, I said that, the most exciting thing in this protest. It’s time the term “security state” stop being a value and return to being what it is – state. And the state needs to be changed.

Missiles fell and we were silent for a few days, we walked silently. Then what they said They said the protest dies. Instead we have to recognize that pain for a million Israelis living under the threat of missiles, we hurt the people who were injured, killed, their house was destroyed. But instead of understanding that we are with them, instead of seeing that peace has come from love, they said “the protest dies.” Our solidarity they tried to make fold.

Frankly, it was sad. How dare any Israeli government to do that kind of divide and rule. She, having left its inhabitants; she, her abandoned the old people, its patients, its immigrants, its the weak. How can she come to us with this claim? Israeli governments have separated us for years, and finally became friends when we showed that we will not continue to sit in front of the TV, they told us we were not standing in solidarity. We do not stand in solidarity? Look at what’s going on here!

When talking about security come to save the life of humans – how does this fit with the policy of the Israeli government’s lawlessness?

I’m 25 years old, what is my greatest memories of this country: the second Lebanon War, the terrorist attacks, friends that were killed  then, the Rabin assassination, Gilad Shalit.  Not to mention that I am a third generation of Shoah survivors.  That was my consciousness – moments and memories all in a row with death, bereavement, pain, fear, feeling that everything was temporary.

At the Afula rally, I saw a sign: “I am proud to be Israeli for 31 days”. I stand in front of you and I’m proud to be Israeli for seven weeks. I feel we’re building here together our self-esteem as a society. To say “I deserve it” is to say that it is coming to another and coming to us all. All of us. This summer brought a lot of good moments and memories – of hope, of change, of brotherhood, of listening.

A new discourse of life was created. This awakening was the most important thing that happened here. We are not here just to survive, we are here to live. We are not here just because we do not have anywhere else. We’re here because we want to be here. We choose to be here, we choose to be a good place, just society, we want to live in a society – not as a collection of each individual sitting in front of one box, television, and every four years, put a note in another box, the ballot box.

We are here not because we have no other country. We’re here because this is the country we want. Without our noticing people were returning from abroad, was suddenly feeling something happening here that you can not miss.

We have created a new discourse here. This new discourse – changing the word pity with the word compassion. We changed the word right with the word justice. We changed the word charity with welfare. We changed the word consumer to the word citizen. We changed the word to wait for the word change. We changed the word alone with the word together. It’s the biggest thing we did here this summer. I do not know what’s with you, my friends, but for me it has been irreversible. Hence do not agree to go back! We march forward, for a better future, a more just country. Social justice!

We are all trapped in some sense our social status, where we live, our religion, sex. Then I realized it was not like we’re imprisoned – that they’ve trapped us. Everyone minus, but minus the interest of our banks, is the interest of every country’s economic system. They want to keep us always at some level of distress. Where there is distress where there is no hope and that hope is not likely to change, and where there is no chance to change there to live for. But this summer, day after day, week after week, we went out into the streets and made it not only to the government, even to ourselves, there is something to live for! And once we understood that, once we started to think about tomorrow, together, we are all free!

What will happen tomorrow, everyone asks what will happen tomorrow. What about the tents, what happens with the protest, where we go and what to do and what is on and all that. All these demands on this fateful day, the image of victory, the decisive moment – there is no such thing, friends. Was one fateful day in which the gaps in our society had become unbearable? Is there a piggish capitalism triumphant moment? Can we put your finger on the privatization of too much? Was not one. Was a process. Even now, no wait – there’s a process. Our process is just starting now. We have requirements for government and prime minister that things must change.

If you are a resident of  Yeruham – things must change.

If you are a child whose parents have no money for the annual trip – things must change.

If you are a pensioner or survivor – things have to change.

If you are Gush Katif evacuee – things must change.

If you are a Bedouin – things must change.

Forty percent of us are “financially fragile”. That means that forty percent of us can not afford unexpected child dental care, Pipe burst, injury. We all live on the edge, on the dot, pushing for more loans, consume more, save less. Our life has become a war of economic survival, while the state has abandoned our pensions, stock market games, and more and more privatized basic services.

You know what the worst expression: the little guy. There are laws against insulting a public servant, but there’s no law against insulting the citizens, and insulted us enough in recent years, pushed us into poverty, played with us, set us at each other.Ministers were to discuss improving our situation are exactly the ministers responsible for, among other things, the worsening of our situation! Do not know what you, I do not like people laughing at me and I do not like those who cover me.

The citizen is not small! The citizen is the greatest! Be a citizen, a citizen, and understand it, that’s the biggest challenge facing us. Requirements of this protest, they just realize that we are no longer willing to be little citizens, consumers, we are no longer willing to be just an audience, only a sector, only decile. We do not Ntbtzr than our little bunkers and fight the war of our own existence. This era was over. Now something new: now we are together. We demand change and we demand to be part of this change.

If a tent gets taken down in the forest, will it get its own hashtag?

Ron Kampeas wondered about a month ago why North American Jews did not have anything really substantive to contribute to #j14… when, according to a Forward editorial, it could have easily been an inspiration to a generation of increasingly disaffected young folk.  But before N.American Jews could get rightfully excited over the events in tents across Israel, the rally of 450,000 in Tel Aviv on Saturday night marked the official disbanding of #j14 tent protest movement.  

What will be its legacy?   The Trajtenberg committee report or social justice?  Will the rising up of 450,000 “little citizens” change the way Israelis govern themselves?  (And, as an afterthought, can it change the way N.American Jews think of Israel?)

Tel Aviv’s Kikar HaMedina did not end up being Israel’s Tahrir Square in that it did not bring Bibi or his government down.

But #j14 might become something else… a resurgence of a voice seemingly long forgotten, the call of the prophets seeking justice for the workers, the strivers, the poor and the vulnerable.  Perhaps a new hashtag is in the offing… #tzedekhevrati anyone?

What sense do you make of #j14?

The tent city protests (twitter hashtag #j14) began in Tel Aviv on Friday, July 15.  A few tents suddenly appeared in Habima Square.  There had been an internet call for protests against rising rents.

Tent protesters on Rothschild Boulevard, Tel Aviv

 

By Motzai Shabbat, the tents spread to fill a block on Rothschild Boulevard (since renamed “If I Were a Rothschild” Boulevard).

 

Some folks went down to the Likud Office on King George and threw cottage cheese containers.

 

The story soon made its way into the news cycle.  Some government ministers made snide and derisive comments about the wannabe-bourgeois protestors.  By Tuesday, tents appeared in Kikar Tzahal in Jerusalem, Mercaz HaMorim in Beer Sheva, and Kikar Tzahal in Kiryat Shmona … (click here for a g.map of all the tent protest sites).

Fast forward to July 30.  Over 150,000 people crowded Rabin Square to demand that something be done about housing in Israel.

A friend forwarded me a link to the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) announcing “The Revolution is Here.”

One cannot think of “revolution” these days without thinking of Mohamed Bouazizi, Tahrir Square, or the Ramadan Massacre in Hama.  Is the Tent Protest Movement driving Israel to its Tahrir Square moment?  Will these folks drive PM Netanyahu from power like the people did with Ben Ali, Mubarak and inshallah, Assad?

IRAC seems to think so… or perhaps not.   Having read and re-read the piece, I really cannot tell.  Can you?  Is a revolution truly afoot when its proponents swear up and down that their movement is apolitical?

What I can say is this:

There are three classes of citizens. The first are the rich, who are indolent and yet always crave more. The second are the poor, who have nothing, are full of envy, hate the rich, and are easily led by demagogues. Between the two extremes lie those who make the state secure and uphold the laws.

…And I did not even say it first.  Euripides did over 2,400 years ago.

What say you?

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