Social Justice Protests Make a Comeback as 10,000 Israelis Take to the Streets of Tel Aviv
Originally published in Tikkun Daily
Over 10,000 Israelis took to the streets of Tel Aviv this evening to protest new austerity measures in the country’s budget, echoing (and perhaps renewing) Israel’s historic social justice protests from two years ago.
Many activists who played a central role in those protests were involved in this evening’s renewed call for Israelis to march in the streets against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Finance Minister Yair Lapid and their budget, which proposes cuts in social welfare programs and raised taxes on lower- and middle-income workers.
One of those activists, Itzik Shmuli, is now a Knesset Member and marched this evening. He told Ha’aretz:
“Lapid’s financial plan will severely hurt the working man and will trample the weak sectors. To block it, we will wage a persistent battle on the streets and in the halls of the Knesset. Israelis don’t expect their finance minister to be a socialist, but they don’t expect him to be a populist, either.”
Another protester echoed Shmuli’s sentiments in less measured terms:
Alon Lee-Green, one of the activists heading the renewed round of protests, accused Netanyahu and Lapid of choosing Israel’s rich over the middle class.”Bibi and Lapid had all the options on the table,” he said on Saturday. “They made their choice… So we say here tonight: The tycoons should pay, and not us. The awakening is palpable.”
While the protests – also held in Jerusalem and Haifa – were sparked by unpopular austerity measures, Israelis brought a diverse array of messages to the streets, some of which directly challenged geo-political issues, such as Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian Territories.
While it remains to be seen whether these protests will spark the types of historic marches Israel witnessed in 2011, it’s clear that those in the streets have been noticed. Lapid released a Facebook post just before the protest, assuring Israelis that the budget can be revised.
However, it may take more than a Facebook post to quell the beginning of what some hope will be a new round of social protests in Israel.
Follow David Harris-Gershon on Twitter @David_EHG