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Dublin - Event Notice
Tuesday November 15 2011
‘The tent protest movement in Israel’
Seminar: Eyal Clyne, ‘The Tent Protest Movement in Israel’
The J14 tents protest which swept Israel this summer brings up many issues for discussion.
It started with protests over the extremely high costs of housing (relative to the local pay) by an anonymous few who moved to live in tents in Rothschild Blvd. in centre Tel-Aviv, on July 14. Like many others, they were enraged at growing rents and the small selection of low-quality divided flats in the Tel Aviv area. Since this problem is shared by many in Israel, their protest rapidly spread, and within days hundreds of tents appeared in Tel Aviv, and all over the country. Although the Israeli media is almost entirely privately owned, and rarely supports social unrest on a large scale, this time it covered the protest-movement favourably and broadly. Almost all the commentary in opinion sections were dedicated to the crises of housing, of other costs, and of global capitalism. They also published many personal stories of ordinary hardworking people who cannot make ends meet. The movement quickly became the opening and main story on the news, social media and the Internet.
But its main achievements were on the streets. Inspired by the popular movements in Spain, and to a lesser degree the Arab Spring, Israeli protestors did not only sleep and eat in the camps, but voluntarily gave services and free lectures, debated politely, took decisions in improvised street parliaments, invited experts, wrote blog-posts and reports, and initiated media events. They also arranged the biggest mass protests in Israeli history, as well as strikes, and consumer boycotts. Worker unions, student unions, and many celebrities and artists joined or expressed their support, and even municipal councils declared a day of strike in solidarity. The protest quickly moved from the costs of housing to raise other issues of living costs, such as low salaries, and welfare policies, and it adopted and joined other serious labor disputes which were already in an advanced stage (usually in the public sector), most notably is the ongoing crisis with the young physicians.
At its height, about 7% of the public took to the streets, and polls show that over 80% of the public supported the movement. It definitely was/is a popular movement which grew bottom-up, and with it, some anonymous activists became familiar faces. But with great promise came high hopes, and some say, disappointment. In early September most of the camps were removed by the municipal councils, most strikes ended, most protestors returned to their everyday lives, and courts ruled time and again against the protesting workers. Other than a more sympathetic coverage to social issues in the news, and one mass demonstration, the movement lost momentum (however, it did not disappear). Most of the issues it raised, such as cost of housing and living, protectionist policies, and social cleavage, were not (yet?) addressed. Even the committee which was urgently appointed by the government, and which offered some 3rd-way solutions, will probably bring very little change.
One more subject which must be mentioned is the criticism on the selective call for "social justice". The two poorest groups in Israel, who also suffer most from the lack of planning and affordable housing, the Ultra-Orthodox Jews and Arab-Palestinian citizens, were barely participating; nor did their collective condition mentioned or accepted by the otherwise agreed call for "social justice". The movement was almost entirely Jewish and Zionist (Jews are about 75-80% of Israeli citizens), and most attempts to refer also to the conditions of the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories was strongly rejected as "controversial", "political" and "fractioning the unity of the protest".
The issues I hope to cover
In the talk I would like to briefly refer to some of the frequent questions regarding the J14 movement:
· Why are the costs so high - or - why is the pay so low?
· What social atmosphere did the protest play into?
· Who are the protestors, and why do/did they succeed where others have failed?
· Have the protest failed, and why?
· Why are Arabs/Palestinians not part, and/or why couldn't it include issues of the occupation?
· Why did settlers oppose the movement?
· How can others help to bring more equality and justice to Israel/Palestine?
Eyal Clyne is an Israeli blogger and social researcher in Israel/Palestine. His writings are published in Haaretz, Ynet, Jnews.co.uk, 972mag.com, and many more. Eyal worked with various human rights organisations and peace groups in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. He holds an MA in sociology and anthropology with merit from Tel Aviv University, and speaks Hebrew, English, and Arabic.