Some of my Israeli friends are literally weeping from the joy, exhilaration, and sheer decency of last night’s J14 protest through the streets of Tel Aviv. The rally drew almost 400,000 people, well over twice as many as last week’s. Sol Salbe, who was there, said it was the largest demonstration he’d ever attended.
Demonstrators chanted, under the influence of the Tahrir revolution, “The people wants social justice.” They marched for a higher quality of life and standard of living. They rallied against the deterioration of housing, educational, and job opportunities, the decline in quality of health care. They demonstrated against a slavishly capitalistic, laissez-faire government which cares only for corporate profits and a draconian anti-Arab foreign policy.
Thanks to Sol Salbe for translating this portion of a Haaretz article (Hebrew) quoting the protest movement’s founder, Daphni Leef’s address to the crowd [Sol’s and my interjections are in brackets]:
Daphne Lief who addressed the crowd at the end of the rally said: “We are not in love with protest as protest, but we are in love with the kind of future that we need to have here. We’re in love with the spirit of freedom. The Knesset may have gone on recess but the spirit of freedom will reach its destiny there. Lief finished with the [movement slogan]| “The people demand social justice.”
[As a sign of broadening of the movement, a Rabbi addressed the rally. Hitherto the only mass rallies addressed by rabbis have been right-wing ones.]
“Blessed be the Holy One that we have arrived at this time,” said Rabbi Benny Lau. “We’re two days before Tisha B’Av and usually do not recite this blessing [because of an approaching fast day]. But when you see hundreds of thousands who have come out from their homes, and are joined by tens upon tens of thousands across the country, we realise that something has happened in this country. I came to offer a big thank you.”
[An even more remarkable development has been the appearance of a Palestinian citizen of Israel on the platform]
Writer and journalist Ouda Basharat who also spoke at the Tel Aviv rally said: “That‘s the way revolutions happen: they sneak upon you and spread out like a flood. Long live the youth revolution. The miracle of July arose in the sauna of heat and humidity. The movement, long dead and buried, has come back to life. It is time to make this the struggle of all the oppressed, Jews and Arabs. Arabs and Jews refuse to be enemies.”
Now that’s a revolution I can get behind! Could this be the beginning of the end of the Netanyahu government? And if it is, can there be something better in store? Dare we hope?
Yediot Achronot published on its front page David Grossman’s meditation on the meaning of the new movement, A Window to a New Future (Hebrew). And don’t trust the bulls(&t peddled by Ethan Bronner in his NYT article yesterday in which he claimed that Grossman all of a sudden has regained favor inside Israel after being out of style for some time. Grossman may not always be right given his classical liberal views and he’s certainly worth wrestling with, but he never goes out of style.