Israel/Palestine social protests

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Mark.
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Aug 18 2011 22:16

It looks like the weekend protest is back on.

+972: J14 to hold weekly mass rallies in defiance of attacks

Dimi Reider wrote:
Despite calls  to cancel the weekly social justice rallies, the J14 protests will go on as planned – in the form of mass memorial processions for victims of today’s attacks. Prime Minister Netanyahu said Israel already responded to the attacks with a Rafah air raid that killed six.

The J14 movement for social justice will hold its weekly rally on Saturday evening despite today’s rapid escalation in southern Israel and the Gaza Strip. A series of attacks by paramilitaries and retaliatory raids by the IDF already claimed the lives of seven Israeli civilians and soldiers, seven paramilitaries and six Gazans since noon Thursday.

Saturday night’s main rally will take the the form of a quiet memorial march with torches and candles. It will leave from the Habima square at the top of the Rothschild protest camp at 8pm, and proceed towards the seaside park of Charles Chlore, where open discussion circles on violence, bereavement and conflict will be held. Quiet memorial marches and discussions will also take place in places slated for the usual social justice protests, such as Jerusalem, Hod Hasharon and other cities.

The decision comes after an earlier announcement by National Union of Students chief Itzik Shmuli that all protest events will be cancelled elicited a fierce backlash from rank-and-file protesters. The demand not to cancel the rallies was picked up by left-wing and right-wing Israelis alike; the former argued that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government should not be allowed to distract from the protests through an escalation on the Gaza front, while the latter were outraged by the notion of allowing a terrorist organisation to do away with a popular Israeli protest that didn’t yield to Israel’s own government.

Others pointed out the connection between the conflict and the dire situation of Israel’s welfare state, and some made a direct link between the attacks and the need to relocate more funds from the military budget to the welfare and healthcare services for bereaved families and the survivors of political violence. The Tent 1948 Palestinian-Jewish group on Rothschild issued a statement of its own “This is the time to show real strength”, the statement read.  ”Stay on the streets, condemn the violence and refuse go either home or to the Army to take part in the revenge attack on Gaza.”

The discontent with cancelation of the rallies soon spilled from online arguments into protesters spontaneously organising rallies of their own. A few hours later, the national leadership of the J14 announced the new plan for Saturday night. It made no mention of Shmuli’s controversial statement.

Meanwhile,  Israel Air Force  jets bombed a building in Rafah and killed six, one allegedly a senior Popular Resistance Committees commander. Israel insisted on Thursday night the PRC was behind the attacks, although the organisation was yet to claim responsibility.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a press conference several hours later that “those who gave the order to carry out today’s attack are dead.” He went on to state he “decided on a principle” that Israel would retaliate swiftly and strongly against any attack, “and this is precisely what was implemented today.”

The prime minister’s emphatic use of past tense led mainstream commentators on the Israeli news channels to express hope Israel will not seek further escalation beyond the Rafah attack.

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miles
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Aug 18 2011 22:21
Khawaga wrote:
The terrorist attacks in Eilat and Israeli bombardment of Gaza couldn't have come at a worse point. I wonder how this will impact the protest movement...

Depends on your point of view - isn't it the 'best' moment for the Israeli ruling class? I couldn't help thinking 'well that was a convenient moment for an attack'.

Samotnaf
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Aug 18 2011 22:57

Predictable development: see this July 31st post.

Mark.
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Aug 19 2011 10:32

There are various suggestions that the terrorist attacks in Eilat were carried out by militants linked to Al Qaida, operating from the Sinai. I don't know whether this is correct or not but as I understand it both Hamas and the Popular Resistance Committees have denied responsibility. I don't see the need to look for conspiracies to explain the attacks although the timing is obviously convenient for the government.

-----

Abir Kopty: The boundaries of July 14

Israel’s protests part 2: the revolution inside the revolution

Samotnaf
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Aug 19 2011 17:49
Quote:
don't see the need to look for conspiracies

agreed - no need, but a conspiracy's possible; still it's a distraction to look for a conspiracy; at the same time, after the killing of Osama bin Laden, it's been pretty obvious that Al Qaida would try something significant, and I'd guess we've not seen nothing yet (after from a double negative).

Meanwhile:

Quote:
Arab Riots in Jerusalem, Police Respond
Arabs threw rocks at police in Jerusalem, and elsewhere, broke through a checkpoint. Police manage to quell unrest, thwart attack.
19/08/11, 1:46 PM
Dozens of Arab men from Jerusalem managed to break down a police barrier early on Friday afternoon. The incident took place outside the Shechem gate in the Old City.
Police responded immediately, using water blasters and stun bombs to restore order.
The night before, a young Arab man was caught with a knife at the Shechem gate. He admitted to planning to stab a police officer, and was arrested.
On Friday morning a group of Arab men attacked police with stones elsewhere in the capital city. The police were unhurt. The attackers were arrested.
Police remain on high alert following a wave of terrorist attacks in southern Israel and the IDF's subsequent assassination of several senior terrorist leaders in Gaza.

http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/146977#.Tk5FgvRJ_iA

Any response to this from the tent city movement (apart from not knowing which way to turn)?

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Khawaga
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Aug 19 2011 17:29
Quote:
Depends on your point of view - isn't it the 'best' moment for the Israeli ruling class? I couldn't help thinking 'well that was a convenient moment for an attack'.

Sure it is, but I try to interpret these things from a class struggle point of view. But the thought did occur to me as well, especially since three (or four) Egyptian soldiers were killed as well. And recently troops moved into Sinai to deal with terroists, Israel demanding temporary control a few miles into Taba etc. and all this occuring at the same time as Mubarak is on trial and the Israeli summer is heating up? Too good to be true, but likely it's an attack perpetrated by militants who have been preparing this for a long long time, before anyone knew of either the trial or that Israelis would even start to protest.

Mark.
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Aug 19 2011 20:23

Israel blames the PRC. The PRC deny responsibility...

+972: Who is behind the Eilat terror attack?

------

The drumbeat of war looks to be heading in Egypt's direction...

Ynet: Let IDF into Sinai

Mark.
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Aug 19 2011 23:48
Haggai Matar wrote:
Wednesday night (Aug 17) a first meeting of its kind was held by activists who have decided to facilitate an encounter of the ‘tent struggle’ movement and ‘Palestinian September’. The path we have taken might lead to a mass movement of refusal to prefer occupation wars to peace and struggle for social justice. Here is a summary and some conclusions of this meeting...

http://onedemocracy.co.uk/news/we-will-be-a-jewish-arab-people/

Mark.
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Aug 19 2011 23:54

.

Samotnaf
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Aug 20 2011 04:50

re. the Arab riot in Jerusalem yesterday, which I mentioned:

Quote:
Israeli police and Palestinian youths clash in Jerusalem – video

Water cannon used to disperse Palestinian youths trying to break through a barrier to the al-Aqsa mosque ahead of Ramadan prayers, in Jerusalem's Old City. Citing security precautions, Israel has imposed a minimum age limit of 50 for Muslims wishing to pass through the Damascus Gate into the district and anyone younger has been met with mounted officers and batons

Video here:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/video/2011/aug/19/jerusalem-clashes-palestinians-water-cannon-video

Re. the tent 1948 called demo for today, which Mark links to; this call was before the recent attacks and cross-border killings - be interesting to see how the tent city demos will take to this call now.

Mark.
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Aug 20 2011 11:07

Tent 1948

Quote:
‎#Tent48 statement: An open call for #J14 protesters in the tents protests around the country: This is the time to show real strength, stay on streets, condemn the violence and refuse go home or go to the army & take part in the revenge attack on Gaza

...

Bibi is having it his way, starting a war. We should go out and shout tomorrow: against violence from both sides, against the occupation, against the siege, against the discrimination, against capitalism and for social and civic justice for all! People dying shouldn't shut us up; it must make us shout louder! @Tent48 @J14

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Reza Aslan: The coming showdown in Israel

Quote:
This is how it always seems to work in the Middle East. Are the people rising up against you? Are they demanding greater rights, economic equality, social justice? Don't worry. All you need to do is point the finger at an external enemy -- some outside force that threatens your borders, your identity, your very way of life -- and hope that the people will forget their troubles and rally around you instead. That's how it works in Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt, and Palestine. Why shouldn't it work that way in Israel, too?

For the past month, a coalition of leftists, student unions, journalists, doctors, and social groups -- popularly known as the J14 Movement -- has been hounding the Netanyahu government through a series of massive protests that have shaken the very foundations of the state. What began as frustration with high housing prices has transformed into the biggest social movement Israel has seen in years. Protesters are demanding the government address the growing class disparity among Israelis, that it make fundamental changes to its education policy, that it cut military spending, even that it stop the expansion of settlements in the West Bank.

The J14 protests have opened deep cracks in Israel's civil society and posed a severe challenge to the country's right wing government. Indeed, some have taken to calling it the "Israel Summer," in homage to the Arab Spring. Which is why the Netanyahu government has been desperate to refocus the people's energies away from the rising price of healthcare and gasoline and toward a more manageable problem: national security.

Right on cue, a group of as-yet unnamed Palestinian militants launched a series of coordinated attacks in Eilat on Thursday, killing eight and wounding dozens more. Israel immediately retaliated with a series of air strikes on targets in Gaza that have thus far killed at least a dozen Palestinians including a two-year-old boy. In retaliation for the Israeli retaliation, more than a dozen rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israel, injuring six Jews near a religious school in Ashdod.

And the cycle continues.

[…]

So then, the question remains: will this generation keep up its efforts to hold the government accountable for its failed economic policies, or will it fold under the banner of national security? Will the protesters continue putting pressure on the government to address domestic issues with the same zealous resolve with which it deals with security issues, or will they pack up their tent cities and go home? Will the demonstrations push on undaunted by the inevitable charges that they are "risking Israel's safety" or will Thursday's attack mark the beginning of the end of the "Israel Summer"?

We may find out this weekend.

-----

Noam Sheizaf on twitter

Quote:
By reporting only rockets fired 2 Israel in its top stories & hiding news over dead in Gaza, Israeli media is making public want more blood

Reporting on Palestinian casualties is not "unpatriotic". It's part of picture the public always misses. Then they say "we had 2 retaliate"

Joseph Dana

Quote:
Israel is apparently preparing itself for an invasion of Gaza. These events point to something...

A reserve call up is close and so the social justice revolutionaries of #j14 will have to put on those green uniforms & kill Palestinians

we can only speculate how many will go. Depending on what happens in Gaza this weekend, I think we will see a call up

the bottom line is the bulk of J14ers are in the reserves and so any call up will effect the movement

I do not have specific info on a reserve call up. I am speculating based on events in Gaza, demos in the West Bank next week and September.

The fact, however, is the bulk of J14ers have reserve duties and will be faced with a serious problem if they get the call up.

Time will tell but I am not betting on mass refusal. I have yet to see anything that would point to it.

@ygurvitz they will not even talk about occupation and you think we will see mass refusal. It does not add up to me but I could be wrong.

-----

Meanwhile in Cairo the Tahrir protesters are targeting the Israeli embassy (also here).

Al Masry Al Youm wrote:
“We don’t want their embassy here anymore, we don’t want their ambassador in our country, and we don’t want to see that,” said Hisham Ahmed Abbas, a 17-year-old protester, pointing to the Israeli flag hanging from the roof of the building housing the embassy. “We are tired of the unacceptable offenses routinely carried out by Israel against Egypt and the rest of the region, and we want them gone.”

“This protest will not end as long as the Israeli embassy still has a place in Egypt. We will not leave here until they do, and if that fails, we will go back to Tahrir,” Abbas said. “This is not a protest, this is an uprising.”
 
Many protesters reiterated demands that Israel’s embassy be closed.
 
“What is it that they [the Israeli government] are holding against us? How can they still be controlling us?” one woman called out to the crowd. “Mubarak is gone, so why is this injustice still tolerated?”

The protest was largely organized via Facebook. The social networking site now seems to be doubling as an army recruitment center, with online groups existing solely to encourage individuals to sign up as “volunteers” for an attack on Israel—a development echoed by the crowd’s chant: “Give us weapons, give us ammo, send us to Jerusalem.”

I've no idea how this is going to go. Jewish and Palestinian Israelis uniting to oppose a war? Or the first middle east war with tent protesters fighting on opposite sides?

Mark.
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Aug 20 2011 21:53

From +972

IDF Spokesperson: We DIDN’T say PRC was behind Eilat attack

Arab citizens of Israel increasingly supportive of J14

Mark.
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Aug 21 2011 00:03

Various numbers given for the protest in Tel Aviv tonight but 10,000 being reported on twitter.

Photo

Mark.
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Aug 21 2011 10:32

+972: Photos and report from last night's protest

-----

Blog post on Egyptian relations with Israel from RadicalArab:

What the Arabs can do

Mark.
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Aug 25 2011 23:50

'Olive Revolution': Palestinians to march on Jerusalem on Friday

http://twitter.com/#!/search?q=%23OliveRevolt

http://www.facebook.com/OliveRevolution

Edit: from +972

Tomorrow: Palestinian non-violent protesters “knock on Jerusalem doors”

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Entdinglichung
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Aug 24 2011 08:29

http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/union-man-s-wedding-brings-ashdod-port-to-total-standstill-1.380122

Quote:
Yesterday it was the wedding of Alon Mualem of the mechanical equipment workers' union, headed by Alon Hassan, who is also chairman of the port workers' union. More than 900 people were invited to his wedding, including all those in charge of loading and unloading at the port. Their absence effectively paralyzed the port's activity.

In the past three years Hassan has held two bat mitzvah parties for his daughters, each time stopping the port's activity for several hours.

piter
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Aug 24 2011 08:39
Quote:
Yesterday it was the wedding of Alon Mualem of the mechanical equipment workers' union, headed by Alon Hassan, who is also chairman of the port workers' union. More than 900 people were invited to his wedding, including all those in charge of loading and unloading at the port. Their absence effectively paralyzed the port's activity.

In the past three years Hassan has held two bat mitzvah parties for his daughters, each time stopping the port's activity for several hours

weddings and bar mitzvah parties as class struggle weapons! wow!!

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Aug 24 2011 09:01
piter wrote:
Quote:
Yesterday it was the wedding of Alon Mualem of the mechanical equipment workers' union, headed by Alon Hassan, who is also chairman of the port workers' union. More than 900 people were invited to his wedding, including all those in charge of loading and unloading at the port. Their absence effectively paralyzed the port's activity.

In the past three years Hassan has held two bat mitzvah parties for his daughters, each time stopping the port's activity for several hours

weddings and bar mitzvah parties as class struggle weapons! wow!!

Yeah, that is fucking cool! cool

Mark.
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Aug 26 2011 21:37

Report on the Olive Revolution - I'm not sure it amounted to much - photos

Edit: According to Abir Kopty

Quote:
We were not so many as I expected we will be, maybe few hundreds. I could not stop asking myself: where are the people? At some point, when we were attacked by the Israeli army and then came back to the military checkpoint, it seemed like there are more Israeli and International activists than Palestinian demonstrators.

-----

And in another apparent non-event

'Million man' anti-Israel rally in Cairo attracts only hundreds - which is fine by me.

Mark.
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Aug 27 2011 11:49

A critical take on J14 from Joseph Dana and Max Blumenthal on +972

J14: The exclusive revolution

This may be my prejudice but I find some of the comments more interesting than the article itself:

Quote:
Nothing particularly interesting here, just a front-loading of quotes by Zionists (which are obviously upsetting) and a thin link to the current movement accomplished by the occasional inclusion of the appendix “Socialist” to the word “Zionist”, but there is no context or argument.



The rest of the piece reflects, in my opinion, a weak analysis of leftist movements and movements in general. There is the continual portrayal of the “movement” as monolithic, when in fact it is, in the opinion of “radical left” activists on the ground, a contested matter. (This reflects a larger issue, that of 1) seeing movements as process, not static and 2) encouraging process if one believes in the ends (stopping occupation).) Nonetheless, Blumenthal and Dana, as they do in their tweet-fests addressed to the personified “J14″ and “the J14 leadership”, imagine some singularity to which they attribute intention. What’s more, they actually seek out intention in this singularity in the form of the Rothschild Tents – while at the same time criticizing the obvious problems with the Euro, middle-class/elite, pro-Zionist elements that make up this privileged group they valorize. I was in tents outside of TLV where poor Mizrahim were discussing how occupation is a cover for neo-liberalism (Max & Joseph’s point here) and that they won’t let their kids go into the army (that’s radical change, my friend.)



There is also the strange psychologization of “the radical left” as in passages such as: “Matar believe they have found the influence they always sought among mainstream Israelis” and, “If this new movement welcomed leftists, and upheld them as its vanguard, how could it not be revolutionary?”. It could not be revolutionary if it’s not challenging the state, which this isn’t. I’m almost positive the movement hasn’t “upheld the left as its vanguard”. I don’t think ANYONE on the left believes they have “found the influence they always sought”, rather we believe we have an opening to bring the issues of the occupation into the mainstream, by piercing the usual divisions and distractions through a shared struggle over economics. Furthermore, anyone who thinks what has happening to now is a “revolution” has no purchase on history – most leftists who actually have historical analysis do see the moment as having potential, to be an opening for revolution, but none are so foolish as attributed here.



What is most disappointing is statements such as: “there was little evidence that the July 14 movement’s rank and file had any interest in overthrowing the “system,” or that they would ever be willing to acknowledge, let alone engage, the occupation.” DUH. Since when did a social movement or burgeoning revolution begin with acceptance by “rank and file” of all the principles of equality that the most radical sought in the outcome. This gap is the ENTIRE POINT OF BEING AN ACTIVIST!!! Absent a diachronic view of movements and social change (which anyone who is an activist or student of social movements/revolutions would take), this article at best simply describes the state of affairs 2 months into this, but it fails to provide anything else.



I agree with Richard (someone kill me), but it’s true – “a social movement encouraged, not complained about, will succeed”. What we have here is two observers, Max and Joseph, who for some reason or another (it’s not stated what strategic goal their view/take on the movement achieves – other than they might be “right” if it fails) merely describe the present state of affairs in a negative way, rather than becoming engaged in trying to pursue a change in Israeli society.



The retort “Israeli society can’t change from within” is actually the unspoken assertion – I disagree and I think that the revolutions of this year prove that previous assumptions about the potential of societies to overturn their status quo have been brought into question. Minimally, there is evidence we should encourage them against bad odds if we care about the outcome, not merely report how shitty the odds look in the beginning.

-----

It remains to be seen how much is left of J14 after the security scare of the last 10 days. I haven't seen anything about protests planned for today although I presume plans for marches on 3 September are still on.

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Tojiah
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Aug 27 2011 15:18

That is a very good comment, good thing you pointed to it.

A published response to that article, by Akiva Orr, of the late Matzpen:
Akiva Orr on J14: “The longest journey starts with one small step”

Quote:
Your article on the “social-protest” is excellent. Full of factual data and ideological insights. I found it excellent and learnt facts I did not know. I fully agree with its content but I still consider this protest unique and politically important in Israeli politics. This is so due to my own political development. Let me explain.
I was politicized by my participation in the great Israeli seamen’s strike in 1951. By the way, a film about that strike was shown in Rothschild tents recently and I was asked to comment.
Until the seamen’s strike I was just an ordinary Israeli kid imbibing all the Zionist education without questioning it. I grew up in a non-political home, as a Tel Aviv ‘Beach Boy.’ I joined the “Hagannah” in 1945 when I entered High School. So did 25 of my other class mates out of which three joined Begin’s ETZEL and one joined the Stern Gang. The remaining six class mates joined nothing. Keep in mind that this was typical to all Jewish high schools at that time. In the “Hagannah” we did military training in summer holidays and fly-posted Tel Aviv streets with weekly at nights. We also participated in anti-British demos. We never did anything anti-Arab. I participated in “Hagannah” activity as a cog participates in a machine. I became platoon commander at 16 and trained 30 kids in drill and use of fire arms but we never fired a bullet (too expensive). All this sounds very political but I was totally a-political. I knew nothing about Marx, Lenin, or the USSR and could not tell the difference between the various Jewish political parties in Palestine. I detested all politics. It reeked of emotional blackmail.
I visited neighbouring Jaffa often as a kid and though it was 100% Arab it never occurred to me that the Arabs might oppose Jewish independence in Palestine. To me – and to most of my generation – the Arabs were part of the physical landscape like the mountains and the vegetation. We did not hate – or fear – them. It never occured to us that a lengthy military/political conflict with them is inevitable. It was simple: our enemy were the British who ruled us, not the “natives”.
Only during the 1951 seamen’s strike did I become politically critical because I read the various press reports about the strike. At that time most Israeli newspapers belonged to political parties. I read them and saw that most press reports were biased against the seamen, and distorted the real facts of the strike. Only one paper gave a factually accurate reporting – and supported the seamen.
It was the paper of the Communist Party (CP). So I joined that party knowing nothing about Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, or the USSR. It took another 2 years of CP membership before I became an anti-Zionist. In the CP, I met Palestinian comrades who were not “Uncle Tom’s” and when I sold the CP paper in Jerusalem (every Friday for 6 years), I encountered violent hostility and opposition that forced me to learn the facts about Capitalism and the Zionist-Palestinian conflict. The 1950s were the peak of the “Cold War” and anti-communism was rough and rampant. I acquired my political education not by books but by political confrontations. I firmly believe that political confrontations with adversaries is the best political education.

Now back to Rothschild tents. Most young people in the tents face their first political confrontation in those tents. Before July 14 they were just fodder in politics. Now they are becoming politically critical – and aware. Whatever the outcome of this unique protest – their minds and attitudes are changed and will stay so. They will not be political fodder again. Give them time and many will become anti-Zionist. One cannot be weaned in a week from what one embraced uncritically for many years at home, in nursery and school. This confrontation/protest changes their minds – and lives. Nothing similar ever happened in Israel before. Moreover, thanks to the mobile phones, Facebook, and the Internet, this protest is completely self-managed. No external organization hatched it or runs it. Massive Citizens’ self-organizing activity never existed in Israel before. This makes all political parties tremble. They know that this protest changed the rules of the political game in Israel. Israeli citizens cannot be treated as “election fodder” in the future. Whoever will treat them so will pay dearly at the ballot box.
My political activity aims to make the ballot box obsolete by direct participation of all citizens in all political decisions.
This protest is a “first small step” in that direction, and as Mao used to say: ”The longest journey starts with one small step.” Though I am not – and never was – a Maoist, I agree with him. That is why I support this protest despite all its drawbacks.
Keeping up the struggle – and enjoying it
Aki

(post itself includes background, and links to an interview with him from last Summer as well as to a documentary about Matzpen (Hebrew w/ English subtitles).

Mark.
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Aug 28 2011 21:18

Protests went ahead tonight but with much lower numbers than before the Eilat attacks

Haaretz wrote:
Tens of thousands of Israelis took to the streets on Saturday night to participate in demonstrations protesting the high cost of living in Israel.

In Tel Aviv, around 10,000 protesters marched from Habima Square to the intersection of Ibn Gvirol and Shaul Hamelech streets, where a rally was held...

In Jerusalem, around 2,000 protesters marched to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's residence. The rally was held under the banner "Protest creates reality, we are building a just society".

In Rishon Letzion, around 4,500 people demonstrated, according to a police estimate.

ynet report

Edit: +972 -- Photos: low turnout for J14 weekend demonstrations

Samotnaf
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Aug 28 2011 07:52

Aki Orr was also a member of the old Cardan-influenced Solidarity group for several years.

Mark.
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Aug 28 2011 11:22
Samotnaf wrote:
Aki Orr was also a member of the old Cardan-influenced Solidarity group for several years.

If anyone is interested Aki Orr is answering questions on the comments for that article.

Aki Orr wrote:
28/8/2011


Dear all talkback writers:


Being 80 its too much work for me to comment
 on comments.


However, if you ask clearly formulated questions I shall do my best to answer all of them factually, without scorn or abuse.


No need to be polite, I’ll reply factually 
to all questions, including rude and insulting


I’ve been spat on by Jews and Israelis for my 
views ever since 1951. I’m used to it. I know its not rain and always carry a towel.


I enjoy the fray – and learn from it.

Expecting an enlightening confrontation


Aki

Caiman del Barrio
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Aug 28 2011 11:42
Aki Orr wrote:
I know its not rain and always carry a towel.

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Aug 29 2011 19:29

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/aug/28/israel-squatting-campaign-housing

Israeli activists squat empty Jerusalem buildings to protest over costly housing

Social justice activists have embarked on a series of lightning squats of unoccupied buildings as part of a six-week protest against rising rents and house prices in Israel.

The protesters, who aim to "inspire a national squatting movement", unveiled Jerusalem's first "People's House" on Saturday night, occupying an abandoned state-owned building close to prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu's official residence, where several thousand demonstrators called for social justice and better living standards.

The four storey building in the city centre has been empty for 15 years, say demonstrators. It is owned by the Jewish National Fund (JNF), which was established by Zionists more than a century ago to buy up land in Palestine. Plans to turn it into a hotel more than a decade ago never came to fruition.

A coalition of activists broke in through a back window on Friday, cleared away rubble and set about transforming the interior in anticipation of Saturday night's launch.

About 200 Israelis came to celebrate the building's occupation on Saturday night, according to the organisers.

The flicker of hundreds of candles lit up poems inspired by the social justice protests which were daubed in white paint on the walls.

Esther Witt, one of the activists behind the initiative, said the political statement was designed to put pressure on the government to deal with state-owned buildings that stand empty and encourage the thousands of foreign owners of "ghost apartments" in Israel to rent them out.

"We're trying to make a point – this building could easily house four families but it has stood empty for 15 years," said Witt, a special needs teaching assistant and mother of two young children.

"We want those people who own apartments in Israel but only come to the country for two weeks a year to feel that if they leave their apartment empty, it'll be squatted, and so it's in everyone's interest if they rent them out instead."

The takeover of the building followed two similar "guerrilla occupations" in Tel Aviv.

Last Monday, dozens of housing protesters occupied a building owned by the Tel Aviv Municipality before being evicted by police the next morning.

And on Friday afternoon, protesters broke into and briefly occupied another mainly empty municipal building in the city, hanging protest signs on its exterior and leaving before police arrived.

Discontent with spiralling rents, high house prices, the exorbitant costs of education and raising children, as well as a range of other social issues, has seen a national social justice movement blossom since the first "tent city" protest in Tel Aviv on 14 July.

Mass rallies have been held in cities and towns across Israel since then, with an estimated 300,000 people taking to the streets on 6 August in the largest demonstrations over social issues seen in the country.

Unimpressed by the government's establishment of a committee of experts to consider the demands, activists are calling for a "million-man" march in 50 cities next Saturday.

However, demonstrations in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and a handful of other towns and cities on Saturday night saw a markedly lower turnout than in previous protests, with about 20,000 Israelis taking part, according to local media reports.

Protests planned for last weekend were cancelled after terrorist attacks hit the south of the country, and an anticipated Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN threatens to eclipse the sizable media coverage and publicity that the demonstrators have garnered so far.

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Aug 29 2011 19:44

As can be seen from the above, the movement in Israel was not buried by the clashes in Gaza.
The last paragraph of the Guardian article is not strictly correct: demonstrations did go ahead last Saturday and the Saturday just after the bombings. They were smaller but there were real signs of internationalism growing. Below is an attempt to synthesis where things stand at the moment (written just before news of the squatting movement came in)

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In the article on the ‘social justice’ movement published on August 7 on ICConline, we wrote that “numerous demonstrators have expressed their frustration with the way the incessant refrain of ‘security’ and of the ‘threat of terrorism’ is used to make people put up with growing economic and social misery. Some have openly warned of the danger that the government could provoke military clashes or even a new war to restore ‘national unity’ and split the protest movement”.

These fears proved to be well-grounded. On August. 18, 80 rockets crashed into Beersheba, Ashdod and elsewhere in southern Israel, killing eight people. There have been doubts about whether the rockets came from Gaza, or whether they were fired by the Popular Resistance Committees or Hamas. Either way, the Israeli government responded in its characteristically brutal manner, with air strikes in Gaza that left a number dead, including members of the PRC but also civilians and several Egyptian border guards.

Whoever initiated this latest spiral of violence, an increase in war tensions can only benefit the nationalists on both sides of the Israel-Arab conflict. It will create major difficulties for the development of the protest movement and will make many hesitate about continuing with the tent cities and demonstrations at a time when there is enormous pressure to maintain ‘national unity’. Calls to cancel the protests came from the like of National Union of Students leader Itzik Shmuli, but a significant core of the protestors rejected this call. On the night of Saturday 20 demonstrations went ahead although they were to be ‘muted’, and were on a far smaller scale than in previous weeks. The same was true for the demonstrations on Saturday 28th August.

And yet what is significant is that these demonstrations did take place, attracting up to 10,000 in Tel Aviv and several thousand in other cities. And there was no shying away from the question of war: on the contrary, the slogans raised on the demos reflected a growing understanding of the need to resist the march to war and for the oppressed of both sides to fight for their common interests: “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies”, “social justice is demanded in Israel and the territories”, “Life in dignity in Gaza and Ashdod”; “No to another war which will bury the protest” . The “Tent 1948” Palestinian-Jewish group on Rothschild issued a statement of its own: “This is the time to show real strength”, the statement read. ”Stay on the streets, condemn the violence and refuse go either home or to the Army to take part in the revenge attack on Gaza.”

A speech by Raja Za’atari in Haifa also expressed the emergence of internationalist ideas, even if still couched in the language of democracy and pacifism: : “At the end of the day, a homeless family is a homeless family, and a hungry child is a hungry child, regardless whether he speaks Arabic, Hebrew, Amharic or Russian. At the end of the day, hunger and humiliation, just like wealth, have no homeland and no language… We are saying: it is time to speak of peace and justice in one breath! Today more than ever, it is obvious to everyone that in order to curb talk of justice, this government might begin another war”. http://onedemocracy.co.uk/news/we-will-be-a-jewish-arab-people/

The fact that these slogans and sentiments should become so much more popular than they were only a year or two ago indicates that something profound is happening in Israel, and especially among the younger generation. We have seen comparable glimmerings of youthful protest against the Islamic status quo in Gaza.

As in Israel, the ‘Gaza youth’ are a small minority and they are weighed down with all kinds of illusions – in particular, Palestinian nationalism. But in a global context of mounting revolt against the existing order, the foundations are being laid for the development of a genuine internationalism based on the class struggle and the perspective of an authentic revolution of the exploited.

Mark.
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Aug 30 2011 09:10
Alf wrote:
The last paragraph of the Guardian article is not strictly correct: demonstrations did go ahead last Saturday and the Saturday just after the bombings.

This seems to reflect the reporting within Israel immediately after the Eilat attacks with the 'cancelation' of the demos being widely reported but not the calls for them to go ahead, including by more liberal sections of the media (Haaretz for example) which had previously sounded quite sympathetic to J14.

Alf wrote:
These fears proved to be well-grounded. On August. 18, 80 rockets crashed into Beersheba, Ashdod and elsewhere in southern Israel, killing eight people. There have been doubts about whether the rockets came from Gaza, or whether they were fired by the Popular Resistance Committees or Hamas.

The facts are mixed up here. There's no doubt that the rockets fired into southern Israel were from Gaza. What isn't clear is who was responsible for the original attacks in Eilat (and the eight deaths), given that the PRC and Hamas denied any responsibility for them, and whether there was really any Gaza connection. +972 magazine has various articles on this.

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Alf
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Aug 30 2011 09:11

Yes, the situation was confused, and the Israeli government has no doubt profited from the confusion. Thanks for the clarification.

Mark.
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Aug 30 2011 23:25

From +972

J14 takes up cause of Gilad Shalit in a bid to keep momentum

Israeli and international radical left: Time for a divorce

J14 and the rift between Israeli and international activists