This summer, a protest in Tel Aviv started with a few tents and grew to a huge tent city, culminating in a massive march of over 350,000 people who were angry over the lack of jobs, unaffordable housing and economic justice in Israel. It included Jews, Christians and Palestinians, and at its peak, was pulling huge support in public polls, with even 85 percent of Netanyahu’s Likud voters saying the protest was justified.
And yet, there was almost no TV news coverage of this in America, which was spending so much time covering the Arab spring. From August 3rd:
The Tent Protest has been dominating the news cycle in Israel for two weeks, and now there are also a couple of interesting polls regarding its possible political impact.
While it would be unwise to try and predict what sort of effect these unprecedented demonstrations will have on Israeli politics, the polls do confirm some of the hunches we had in the last three weeks, and most notably, a potential for far-reaching changes in the political system in the years to come.
- The support for the protest crosses sectors and party lines. According to Channel 10’s poll conducted on Monday, 88 percent of Israelis support the protest. The middle class parties lead the way: 98 percent of Kadima voters (!), 95 percent of Labor’s and even 85 percent of Netanyahu’s Likud voters find the protest just. Even if these figures dropped in the last couple of days—which had some fractions and public disputes in the protest movement—they are still exceptionally high.
- The attempts to discredit the protest have mostly failed. Government spokesperson and rightwing organizations tried to tie the protest to left wing movements, claiming that it is a politically-motivated move aimed personally against PM Netanyahu. Still, 74 percent of the public think that the protest is a genuine one, and only 22 percent find it to be politically motivated.
- The hard right is the only group not identifying with the protest. Half of Shas’ voters and most of those voting for the settlers’ parties think the protest is politically motivated. Voters of those parties are more inclined to oppose the protest than any other group. I believe that these groups sense that the protest might challenge the dominant political arrangements in Israel – ones [which] benefit the settlers and the religious parties.
- The protesters reject the major opposition and the coalition parties alike. I wouldn’t take the headline of the Globes-Jerusalem Post’s poll—about a possible social party winning 20 seats in the coming elections—too seriously. There is a long time until the elections and it’s impossible to know which issues will dominate the campaign. Still, it’s very interesting to see where these 20 seats (roughly 16 percent of the votes) come from: 4-5 seats from Kadima, 2-3 seats from Likud, 2-3 seats from Labor, and some more votes from Meretz and undecided voters. The Arab parties and the extreme right are not hurt by the protest.
[...] To sum it up, all figures point to a unique phenomenon: the secular middle class – usually the backbone of society—is unsatisfied with the political and economical trends, and more important, with the entire political system (usually it’s the other way around – the more you move to the edges of the system, the less satisfied people there are). Under these circumstances, the potential for major political changes—though not necessarily immediate ones—is enormous.
A series of marches and rallies was due to be held around the country with the main focus in Jerusalem. This weekend will be the first for five weeks with no Saturday night demonstrations.
In a statement, the National Union of Israeli Students said the protestmovement was "lowering its head on this difficult day, joins the families in mourning, and wishes the wounded a speedy recovery". NUIS leader Itzik Shmueli told Army Radio: "We decided given the events to cancel them." He said the campaign for "social justice" and over the high cost of housing, childcare, fuel, electricity and food would continue.
[...] Some participants have said only a major security event would deflect attention away from the protests.
So what can we learn from this? The Powers That Be don't seem to want us to know that even in countries that aren't run by dictators, citizens everywhere are unhappy with huge economic inequalities and lack of opportunity, nor are they willing to support the huge military expenditures that suck up money away from everything else.
We also learn that whether by design or circumstances, if the people are too restless, the establishment will look for ways to divert us.