In the past few weeks, Israel has been witnessing civil unrest (some even dare call it the beginning of a revolution). Not the violent kind of unrest our neighbouring countries are experiencing in their “Arab Spring”, but unrest all the same.
First, it was the protest against the price of cottage cheese. Then the doctors started striking to protest against their working conditions. Then young people in Tel Aviv pitched their tents on Rothschild Boulevard to protest against real estate prices. Tents have since cropped up in other cities as well. Parents have marched with their prams and strollers to protest against the rising costs of raising children. A Facebook group calling for a general strike on August 1 has attracted almost 20,000 followers. It seems the entire country is up in arms against the rising cost of living in the Holy Land.
One would think the government would stop and listen. Well, not this government. The Prime Minister convened a press conference this week to announce steps that would ease real estate prices, but almost everyone saw through this half-hearted, half-baked plan for what it really is: yet another Bibi spin. It seems even some of his ministers preferred to stay mute rather than support this farcical effort at appeasing the masses. Has anybody heard from Barak or Lieberman lately?
Bibi tried to drive a wedge between the leaders of the protest and the college students who joined them, by suggesting the building of cheap accomodations for students only. Fortunately, the student association quickly saw through the divide and conquer ploy and publicly announced their support of the “tent protesters”.
The most despicable spin from the Bibi entourage is the one trying to deligitimise the protesters. The tent dwellers are depicted as nihilistic, dope-smoking, spoilt good-for-nothings. Worst of all, they are “leftists” funded by that nemesis of the Jewish State: the New Israel Fund. Some have even been labelled as “traitors”, no less. Granted, there is a political dimension to the protest (which protest is not political when it is aimed against government policy?). But to label all the protesters as “leftists”, even those who have pitched their tents in Beer Sheva or Kiryat Shmona? Does Bibi really think we’re that stupid?
The answer is: yes. Some of us are that stupid, as the deligitimisation campaign seems to be working on some people. The national-religious sector has, by and large, not joined the protest. Several rabbis, columnists and journalists from this sector have bought in on the Bibi spin and have advised against joining this immoral “leftist” campaign. Once again they have demonstrated the hollowness of their rhetoric about “unity” and “Am Israel”, and how much of a segregated and closed community they have become.
The national-religious sector were late in jumping on most of the significant bandwagons of recent Jewish history. They opposed the Zionistic movement at first, joining it only after the train had left the station. They were late in settling the country’s remote areas when it was most needed, and became settlers only after 1967 (and in areas where Jewish settlement does more harm than good). They were late in volunteering en masse to the elite combat units of the IDF, long after the kibbutzim and moshavim have led by example. Now, they seem to be hanging back on another bandwagon that might turn out to be a significant one in the history of this country. Such a pity.