It is not as dramatic a phenomenon in Israel as, say, the bold, treacherous discord ongoing in the Arab world. And certainly the thousands upon thousands of Israeli youth (and many older citizens) already have the freedom of assembly that their counterparts in Syria, Libya, Egypt and Yemen painfully lack—thus causing so many marchers in those places to be massacred by government security forces.
What they want is normal.
The tent-ins and people parades happening in Tel Aviv and elsewhere are part of a long tradition of democratic dissent in the Jewish state. Ironically, the marches began over the soaring price of cottage cheese and rent but have transmuted into broader and more vociferous remonstrations about life in general.
The Netanyahu government recoils when this happens (or quietly drives more favorable gatherings) but there is no gunfire, few arrests, and people don’t just disappear into the shadows because they stood up in disagreement or exasperation.
The inhabitants of Israel, a churning, internationally-nuanced population, enlightened, highly literate, heavily-taxed, are tired. What they want is normal: a government that rewards them for their hard work and citizenship rather than using them for a labyrinth-like, even cynical extension of the occupation of territories. Like anybody, individual Israelis want to travel about the world not feeling defensive or even in danger.
They are weary of the global isolation forced upon them by a myopic government that is arrogant about America’s friendship, reckless with necessarily allies such as Turkey (where Israelis used to be able enjoy a touristy escape), and haughty about the built-in dehumanization of the countless Palestinians who are not terrorists and who deserve a chance for dignity, land rights, and fresh water.
Young people in Israel, almost all of them Army veterans, are increasingly vocal about their growing disdain for politics, old territorial claims, and a repugnant foreign policy. They just want to reap the benefits of the superlative modern civilization that has been built on their backs. Truthfully, as they explore other cultures (including the Palestinian community on the other side of the walls) on Facebook and Twitter, they just want peace and a chance to enjoy life.
Recently, the Maariv newspaper posted an interview with former Cabinet minister Haim Ramon, now a leading figure in the opposition Kadima Party. Published reports noted Ramons’s assertion that even as middle class Israelis make do with less, in the West Bank “the government subsidizes housing, transportation, infrastructure.”
“The government gives per capita twice as much there as the national average,” Ramon said. “If the government had treated the rest of Israel the way it treats (the settlers) there wouldn’t have been a protest today.”
For weeks, the leaders of a mass movement protesting Israel’s soaring cost of living have sought to stay above the country’s normal political fray. But it’s becoming hard to hide an elephant in the room: The staggering sums spent on West Bank settlers and ultra-religious Jews might explain why there’s not enough for ordinary Israelis. [Source: Day Press News]
And that’s the rub: the rightist settler Jews and their radical religious proponents are smothering the vast number of contemporary Israelis who just want to be ordinary.