Protest in Syria - coming to Israel soon?
Photo: EPA

Israelis, welcome to 3rd world

Op-ed: Cheese prices just tip of iceberg, socioeconomic equality a pipedream in Israel

My Facebook has been divided into two. On the one hand, more and more friends are supporting the cottage cheese protest, yet on the other hand I see dozens of cynical remarks regarding the sudden hysteria over cottage price hikes. They're right; all of them.


We are indeed fed up with working and then seeing how stagnant salaries end up buying us less every year. We're fed up with rising fuel prices and we're sick and tired of seeing our landlord receiving 12 checks that could have been used for a wonderful mortgage payment, if only someone around here could afford an apartment.


Calls for boycotts against companies that charge inflated prices make sexy headlines, and every story about real estate price hikes is immediately bombarded by hundreds of talkbacks wishing to see the bubble exploding. We find an outlet by raising a hue and cry over the rising prices of cottage cheese, housing, and fuel.


So you thought we're a high-tech state? You were wrong: What we care about here in 2011 is food, freedom and housing. Welcome to the Third World.


We don't care about peace processes, social equality, issues of religion and state or human rights. You want to search us with no reason or follow us using 1984-style computerized databases? Sure, go ahead, we're exhausted. Just do us a favor and first reduce cheese prices, so we can feel good about ourselves.


We are looking with a sense of satisfaction at the masses pouring into city squares in Arab states, while failing to understand that their protest is the same as ours. So our ruler has another name, and he is not necessarily one man with a moustache and palace, yet we are no less subjugated and oppressed than the people hungry for food and democracy beyond our borders.


If we only remove the rosy glasses we like to use when looking at our country, we would see that the fury over cottage cheese prices is just, genuine and burning – but is being directed at the wrong target.


Seeing the big picture 

We don't need violence; all we need is to understand that someone gains from the current situation, and it's not us. We need to want to change that. Each one of us is engaged in our own struggle against the pay slip, our boss, and the bank, yet we're not seeing the big picture – the fact that everyone around us struggles with the exact same things.


And then, when the cottage cheese that broke the camel's back arrives, we must take advantage of it – but not in order to reduce its price by 10 cents, but rather, to change the system where we all work yet only few people make huge gains.


Perhaps the time has come to look at the Egyptians, Iranians and Syrians in a less patronizing way and learn something from them. Their protest may have started on Facebook and Twitter, but eventually it prompted people to get out and hit the streets; stand up and change reality. And no, special sales on dairy products at our local supermarket will not be considered success in this fight.


So what do we need for real protest to take shape here? There is no point in waiting for our politicians, with their worn-out shticks and social agenda that evaporate the moment someone needs to form a coalition. Apparently only a more drastic price hike would prompt people to get out of the stores and hit the streets.


For the time being, all we can do is to look longingly at the revolutions around us and hope that at someone point, between the cheese and the fuel, we'll realize that we too need real change.


Ivy Lerer is the editor of Ynet's food channel



פרסום ראשון: 06.17.11, 02:48
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