J14: whose mahapecha is it gonna be?

Since July 14 a crazy thing has been going on in Israel/the ’48 territories. It started as a bunch of Tel Avivians camping in Rothschild Boulevard to protest the cost of housing. It’s spread around the country, tens of thousands of people have joined protests calling for mahapecha (revolution). Now even the Western media is paying attention.

This is all very exciting, because it’s exciting when people stop taking shit from the state and take to the streets demanding things they are entitled to. It’s also concerning, because this is one of those movements that really could go either way. Are a bunch of young middle class Jewish Israelis demanding a better deal for themselves going to make the connection between their struggle and other social justice struggles in Palestine/Israel? Are they going to start demanding an end to the occupation and equal rights for non-Jews? Or will they be quite happy to keep perpetuating racist oppression as long as they are getting their share of the benefits? Whose social justice are these people fighting for?

This video of the Tel Aviv protest made me feel hopeful:

My favourite bit is the Russian woman who talks about the way the Israeli state uses ‘security’ as a subterfuge to distract from all the social and economic inequality in Israeli society. It’s great to see Israelis realize that ending the occupation is in their own interest. The bit where they tell the settlers to fuck off is also gold.

But I don’t think it reflects the whole July 14 movement. Friends in Tel Aviv tell me they’ve encountered settlers in the tent cities, and organisers of the movement have made it clear that they think linking their struggle with Palestinian struggle is too divisive. I would say that linking Israeli struggles with Palestinian struggles is unifying. It’s the settlers who are being divisive by demanding justice for only one ethnic group, and so is anyone who panders to their racism.

Missing from the video above are the voices of the people who are the most screwed over by the state of Israel: Palestinians, refugees, migrant workers. I am really holding out hope that those voices get heard too. The July 14 movement is diverse, these kinds of spontaneous people’s movements always are. It includes racist Zionist settlers and it includes anarchists who’ve been organizing against the occupation for years. I am hoping like mad that the people who want justice for everyone win out, that this doesn’t become a movement of already privileged people fighting for more power and privilege.

I suppose we’ll live and see. In the meantime here are some recommended readings:

Amira Hass talks to Palestinian commentators about their reaction to July 14.

Abir Kopty writes about Tent 1948, the protest tent erected in Tel Aviv to demand social justice for everyone.

Jalal Abukhater gives a damn astute assessment of the protests.

 

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