Sunday, July 31, 2011

An-Nahar Newspaper: Arab Spring Fever Has Arrived To Israel

[Administrator's Note: Octavia is now writing articles for An-Nahar Newspaper each week and we will provide them here after they are printed.]

Although they’re in Hebrew, the chants in Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities are borrowed from the Arab Spring activists. “The people.. Want.. Social justice.” It was only a matter of time before the revolution fever reaches Israel and now it has, and it might succeed in shaking the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a time when nothing else can.

What started as “tent protests” demanding cheaper rent and more affordable housing, turned quickly into the middle class collective plea for change and reform towards social justice. Young couples, professionals, servicemen and servicewomen, journalists and activists have been protesting in tents for a while demanding a major overhaul of the state budget priorities. This past week a new group joined in. Young couples pushed their baby carriages in front of them to demand a better life and better services. On Monday, the strollers are scheduled to park in front of the Knesset in protest.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu couldn’t have expected that the biggest challenge to his second term might come from young people in tents or baby carriages. He now finds himself struggling to deal with an internal crisis that can potentially threaten his position. On the other hand, September’s work is already cut out for him with the Palestinians threatening to seek statehood at the United Nations. The Israeli middle class has spoken loudly and clearly and if it continues with the same rhythm and at the same pace it might prove its effectiveness by bringing social justice, apparently a right Israelis don’t want to live without anymore.

One sign at a Tel Aviv demonstration reads, “They don't build houses for Jews & they destroy houses for Arabs. HOUSING FOR EVERYONE!” Housing is the main problem that started these demonstrations but now Israelis want more and they seem determined to fight until they get the social reprieve they seek. They’re demanding their government changes its set of priorities to allow them to have a better life.

Israelis on the social networks Twitter and Facebook are abuzz with the recent developments. Many of them have suggested that among the protesters, even Likud members have started shouting, “Bibi go home.” Sounds familiar to what many Arabs have been shouting since November? Sure it does. Except their situation is not as desperate as the Arab Spring players and chances are they will not get violent. What is not predictable is Mr. Netanyahu’s reaction in case the heat is raised on him internally and externally. Would he follow his Arab neighbors’ example and resort to violence to quell the protests? Would he order an incursion or even start a war to create a distraction? Would he respond to the protesters demand and usher in a new era of social reform? Or will he simply go home?



Keep the conversation going...

Anonymous Anonymous said...

not exactly the same thing. Israel is a democracy , and government could be changed by elections if people is not happy (that's a BIG difference)

August 1, 2011 at 11:54 AM  
Anonymous Amitai Sandy said...

Sad to say, but Bibi and Barak will probably start a war, those crazy fascists.

August 1, 2011 at 7:42 PM  

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