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Protest in Tel Aviv Photo: Yaron Brener
Protest in Tel Aviv Photo: Yaron Brener
 
 

Protest needs real leaders

Op-ed: Israel's social protest too important to be squandered by exaggerated zeal, vandalism

Ziv Lenchner
Published: 06.27.12, 00:32 / Israel Opinion

The most tormenting and challenging thing (and also the most dangerous to one's leftist and media image) is to slam Israel's social protest and what has become of it, based on enthusiastic support for its principles, messages, and targets.

Aftermath
'Rioters crossed every possible red line' / Eli Senyor
Morning after unprecedented socioeconomic riots in Tel Aviv, police gear to file charges against 20 protesters; say violence planned 'to get media attention'
Full story

 

The bottom line is that at this time, a year after it emerged, the social protest has failed. It managed to change the public discourse, but not the agenda, and certainly not the situation. The cost of living is still skyrocketing, working citizens are increasingly suffocating, and the public health, education and welfare systems are weak and defeated. Even in the polls, the social protest doesn’t defeat anyone.

 

The frustration and fury felt by protest leaders are understandable and justified. They gave rise to a huge movement, yet in fact achieved nothing. Yet here is where the understanding and justification ends. While the firm hand of the Israel police is also to blame for the violent, dangerous vertigo which the protest found itself in, police brutality is not there alone.

 

This is no “Israeli spring,” because Habima Square is not Tahrir Square and because Israel is not Egypt, Libya or Yemen. In these countries, there is no other choice but to embark on a violent revolution. Here, there is a choice; we have elections. How can the social protest blame others for not sweeping the masses?

 

Igniting the street will bring nothing, and the hilltop youth of Rothschild Boulevard will give rise to no revolution. Beyond the legal and moral injustice inherent in vandalism and hooliganism, such attitude will drive away the natural partners – that is, the critical mass of peaceful citizens – who reinforced and boosted the protest last year. One cannot win without this mass.

 

Losing public support

Just as grave is the fact that the false label of radical anarchists maliciously attributed to protest leaders by elements who wanted to kill the protest is sounding much more convincing in the wake of the latest riots. And so, leaders of this struggle are losing their public support, sympathy, legitimacy and hold.

 

If these leaders cannot mature, shift to a new phase and turn into political leaders (because, as noted, everything is political: The principles, the targets, the struggle and the means), they should move aside and leave the stage for those who can do it.

 

This protest is too serious and important for us to abandon it to zealous adventures against police officers, broken shop windows and burning garbage dumpsters. This protest requires a well formulated, well thought out and constructive path. It requires practical, wise leadership that will lead the protest to the moment where dozens of representatives who identify with its aims and work to realize them are sitting in Israel’s parliament.

 

Anyone who truly supports this protest must demand this of it, rather than the next broken arm of another protest leader.

 

 

 

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