Israel Palestine Infos
May 19, 2012
The New Protest
RABIN SQUARE in Tel Aviv has seen many demonstrations, but none quite like last Saturday’s.
It has nothing to do with the event which gave the square its name: the huge rally for peace at the end of which Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated. It was different in every respect.
It was a joyous occasion. Dozens of NGOs, many of them small, some of them slightly larger, each with a different agenda, came together in an effort to restart last year's social protest. But it was not a continuation of last year’s Israeli Spring by any means.
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The whole effort called itself “apolitical”, rebuffed politicians of all stripes, and resolutely refused to deal with any national problem such as peace (what’s that?), occupation, settlements and such.
All decisions were made by an anonymous leadership grouped around Daphni. Some of the names became known, others did not. The masses who took part were quite content to accept their dictates.
Since the square is big and the audience amounted to some thousands, it worked. Many different – and some contradictory - versions of social justice were advocated, from a group called “Revolution of Love” (everybody should love everybody) to a group of anarchists (all governments are bad, elections are bad too).
They all agreed only on one point: they were all “apolitical”, all shrank back from the taboo subjects (see above).
Gideon Levy called the scene “chaotic” and was immediately attacked by the protesters as lacking understanding (with a hint that he was too old to understand.) Chaos is wonderful. Chaos is real democracy. It gives the people their voice back. There are no leaders who steal and exploit the protest for their own careers and egos. It’s the way the New Generation expresses itself.
IT ALL reminded me of a happy period – the 60s of the last century, when almost none of this week’s protesters was yet born, or even “in the planning stage”’ (as Israelis like to put it).
Claude Lanzmann, the secretary of Jean-Paul Sartre and lover of Simone de Beauvoir, and who later directed the monumental film “Shoah”, described the atmosphere to me like this: “The students burnt the cars in the streets. In the evenings I parked my car at distant places. But one evening I told myself: What the hell, what do I need a car for? Let them burn it!”
But while the Left was talking, the Right gathered its forces under Charles de Gaulle, a million Rightists marched down the Champs Elisees. The protest petered out, leaving only a vague longing for a better world.
ON SATURDAY’S rally, young Daphni Leef and her comrades wandered around in the crowd like a relic from the past, hardly noticed. After only one year, it seemed as if a new New Generation was taking over from yesteryear’s New Generation.
It was not that they were unable to unite around a common agenda – rather, they did not see the virtue, or even the necessity of having a common agenda, a common organization, common leadership. All these are, in their eyes, bad things, attributes of the old, corrupt, discredited regime. Away with them!
I am not quite sure what I think about it.
On the one hand, I like it very much. New energies are released. A young generation that seemed egoistic, apathetic and indifferent, suddenly shows that it cares.
So I should be happy, watching a dream coming true.
Social Justice is a leftist demand and always has been. A demonstration shouting “The People Demand Social Justice” is leftist, even if it wants to avoid this stigma.
But the adamant refusal to enter the political arena and proclaim a political agenda is disturbing. This could mean that it will all peter out just like last year’s effort.
When the demonstrators insist that they are “apolitical” - what do they mean? If it means that they do not identify themselves with any existing political party, I can only applaud. If it is a tactical ploy, in order to attract people from all existing camps, ditto. But if it is a serious determination to leave the political arena to others, I must condemn it.
Where can this be done? Only in the Knesset. To get there, you need a political party. So you have to be political. Period.
An “apolitical” protest, avoiding the burning questions of our national existence, is something that is outrageously divorced from reality.
Last year I compared the social protest to a mutiny on board the Titanic. I could expand on this. Imagine the wonderful ship on its maiden voyage with all the lively activity on board. The band throws away the old-fashioned music of Mozart and Schubert, replacing it with hard rock. Anarchists dismiss the captain and elect a new captain every day. Others reject the Boat Drill – a ridiculous exercise on the “unsinkable” ship - and organize sport events instead. Also the scandalous difference between first class and the steering passengers is abolished. And so on. All deserving causes.
But somewhere along the route there lurks an iceberg.
Does this mean that we must give up the struggle for social justice? Certainly not. The fight for social solidarity, for better education, for improved medical services, for the poor and the handicapped, must go on, every day, every hour.
to be successful