On the Israeli protests
Written by T
These reflections are taken from afar. I left Israel around eight years ago, so they’re not based on experience on the ground. Thus they are necessarily limited and I by no means claim to have the “total picture” and I can assume that some important aspects of these protests may be unknown to me.
They were sparked off by this article (“How Likud’s Ashkenazi elite became the patron saints of Mizrahim”), followed by a brief chronology of recent events.
Written by a “Mizrachi” woman, this interesting short text is still very partial, as it doesn’t tackle the most fundamental problems with these protests, problems that are connected to her very critique.
From what I can see, the political nature and organization of these protests is almost exclusively center-left and Zionist in their political nature and organization, aiming to replace one member of the Ashkenazi ruling class for another (the ruling class and its money is represented equally in all big and mediocre political parties in Israel, the coalition as well as the opposition, including former generals and high commanders of the IDF). From what I can judge from afar, and I hope I will be shown otherwise, the nature and tactics of the protests so far are such that not only they do not undermine any of the fundamental aspects of and causes for the repressive nature of the State of Israel and the miserable consequences this has for its population during the Corona crisis – they are extremely careful not to do that in the least possible way, and thus, if the protests continue in the same manner, could only bring about purely political cosmetic changes or reforms, if anything at all.
Similar to the liberal American myth of “bringing our great nation back to its glory and founding ethics of democracy, equal rights and freedom to all, constitution, blah blah blah” it verges on the absurd to see how people are celebrating “their country” in these protests/festivals, how they take so much effort in showing (or trying prove to themselves?) that they are a part of its founding mythology, its military tradition, that they are just trying make Israel great again so to speak, but with a center-left, liberal twist. Except for the obvious demand for Netanyahu’s resignation and the discourse against his authoritarian “excesses” while he’s standing trial for several charges of corruption, rightly viewed by the protesters as using the Corona crisis as an excuse to remain in power, and some basic economic demands due to the way the government ruined many people’s livelihood and lives during this crisis (the small business-owners and free-lancers are the most visible part of this in these protests) – no other social manifestations are present other than these democratic demands. After all, these protests are a continuation of the “black flags to rescue democracy” groups that protested against Netanyahu’s authoritarian excesses during the confinement.
Whatever anger is present, it is religiously and compulsively restrained so as to stay “non-violent”, “positive” and abstract by all means necessary (see photos attached), all this while the police and border-police (a combination of police and military, maybe it’s the equivalent of the National Guard in the US?) are, to the best of my knowledge and with the exception of water cannons and mounted cops, without riot protective gear and could be easily attacked or taken over in some cases. In most cases, they don’t even need to resort to tear gas…
What some people refer to as the “cognitive dissonance” of our modern society and of people’s character (the self-contradictory schizoid inconsistency of society’s and people’s thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes, especially their behavioural decisions and attempts at change) is shown in the extreme in the contradiction between the generalized daily contempt the average Israeli has for the police and the pitiable respect the same average citizen has for the cops who come to repress him or her during protests or mobilizations. The contempt mentioned above is prevalent not only among marginalized populations such as Arabs, Ethiopian and immigrants from the former USSR [i], less-marginalized groups such as Mizrachi Jews but also among many Ashkenazi, the last is sometimes due to the fact that Israeli cops today come more and more from Mizrachi background, thus they are hated by the Ashkenazi not only due to their repressive and violent practices as cops but also due to their “uneducated” and rude manner, still taken to be rooted in their Mizrachi culture/origin for many Ashkenazi (though this racism is less than before, at least explicitly).
And thus, to actually and materially fight against the physical misery one is subjected to by the ruling class and their economy and against the repression at the hands of their police-force is impossible when one considers this to be a fight against “your own state” and the repression executed by its sector of violence (the police and army). This is unthinkable, unimaginable and almost without historical precedence for these flag-waving leftist Israelis (mostly Ashkenazi). Whether they be center, center-left or “extreme left” – despite the contradictory hatred they are subjected to by right-wingers (mostly Mizrachi) who consider them to be traitors and “Arab-lovers” – they are indoctrinated all the same into viewing the Israeli state and its military as essentially the savior and protector of Jews (despite its excesses which stir their leftist conscience but not their practice). All this is despite the history of the Israeli state’s collaboration with the openly antisemitic military dictatorships of South America, the fascist US-backed regimes of Central and North America, Apartheid-era South Africa, as well as the ethnic-cleansing regime of current-day Myanmar, recent arms-trading deals with neo-Nazi para-military groups in Ukraine – to name only some examples, most of which took part during Left governments. Other than physically protecting the state and its interests in the occupied territories and repressing dissent “inside its border”, the so-called Israeli Defense Forces with its obligatory enlistment of every 18-year-old Jewish Israeli citizen for a 2-3 year period (and later one month each year as “reserves” until the age of 40, I believe) is extremely important as an ideological tool, building and sustaining the myth of a “people’s army”, of serving one’s “community”, even creating for some a determined submissive will to be accepted into one of its elite squads. Obviously, the vast majority of protesters did their obligatory part in the state’s armed forces, whether this was done gladly, indifferently or in agony. Some protesters even used their elite-squad background as some sort of justification or entitlement against the ridiculed discourse of the government calling the protesters “anarchists”, while others offered their experience in elite IDF squads to protect smaller protests around the country from right-wing attacks.
Other than peaceful demonstrations and occasional temporary road-blocks during student demonstrations etc., there are only a handful of examples of “Ashkenazi” or ethnically-mixed revolt in Israeli history. The only one I can think of right now is the seamens strike in the 1950’s which was heavily repressed by state forces [ii](Akiva Orr, a member of the defunct group Matzpen [iii]developed his political consciousness as a port worker taking part in that strike). Other than Palestinians citizens of Israel whose revolts are relatively known (Land day, 1976, Second Intifada, 2000 [iv], etc.) the other important revolts I can think of: Wadi Salib (50’s), Black Panthers (early 70’s[v]), anti-police brutality (2014, 2019) were all led by Mizrachi and Ethiopian Jews respectively.
This is greatly due to the organized separation which became a second nature for most Israelis, the separation between those who are considered part of the mythology and those who are not, these last are, at this moment, the only ones who can even think in terms of aggression what the State projects as neutral, and who can hopefully act upon it. That separation and unofficial segregation (unofficial if you don’t consider the occupied territories) of the “other” parts of Israeli society from the “good side”, and, equally important, the false unity within the crossed-class part of the “good side” – that is, the population that considers itself a part of the founding mythology – is one of the nets that hold together the disastrous experiment which is called The State of Israel. The first step out of this disaster could only be achieved by embarking on the process of destroying all the national mythologies, mystifications and separations that I and Orly Noy have already written about. This also goes for Palestinian national mythologies, mystifications and separations, but this is not the text to begin listing some of them.
(which has various somewhat haphazardly organised links)
(also see Ethiopian Refuseniks – Ethiopian Jewish-Israelis who are currently refusing to do reserve duty in the Israeli army and claiming that there is institutional racism against their community)
Chronology of recent events
“Besides the rally in Jerusalem, over a thousand people demonstrated outside Netanyahu’s private home in the coastal town of Caesarea, while thousands protested against the premier at bridges and highway overpasses across the country.Hundreds also gathered at Charles Clore park in Tel Aviv to protest the government’s economic policies during the coronavirus pandemic. After the protest, some of the demonstrators marched toward the city’s Rabin Square, where police have barred the demonstrations from being held.”
Copy-pasted here due to paywall. Adds more nuances to what I wrote, but still keeps some things vague.
Anti-Netanyahu Protests Have No Leaders. That’s Why They’re Getting Stronger
A number of groups have been involved in the demonstrations at the Prime Minister’s Residence, but none of them is actually in charge
“Thanks, but no thanks,” is how a number of posts over the weekend began on Facebook pages from groups identified with the recent anti-Netanyahu protests near the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem. “Over the past few days, various figures have been trying to appropriate the protest for themselves. We won’t let you. Don’t leave us your funding and don’t leave us your [political] messages. We won’t be a protest ‘under the auspices’ or a protest ‘on behalf of.’ Stages and speakers, associations and political organizations, printed signs, politicians with statements on camera – not on our backs…. You have a message? Write it on a piece of cardboard and come.”
That is apparently the closest thing to a spokesperson’s statement that has come out of the wave of protests since they began and, based on conversations with prominent activists, they appear to reflect the spirit of the movement – no hangers-on, no association with establishment organizations and no organized leadership that speaks on behalf of the protesters as a whole.
Protesters arrested at the recent demonstrations have been asked under interrogation to identify the people behind the scenes of the protests, but the police and the demonstrators themselves have had difficulty pointing to leaders or identifying them by name or through photos.
“The leadership of the people here goes up to the [maximum of] 256 people in a WhatsApp group,” a key activist told Haaretz, referring to the popular cellphone group messaging service. “They drive the protest behind the scenes, but on the ground, they are just more people holding signs. The importance of the protests is in their compartmentalization. There’s no front line.”
Another prominent activist added: “They’re always looking for leaders, but this isn’t a media gimmick. There really is no leadership.”
There are, in fact, three rather organized groups involved in the demonstrations: Ein Matzav (“No Way”), a protest movement that coalesced around retired army Brig. Gen. Amir Haskel; the Hozeh Hadash protest movement, which uses the “Crime Minister” slogan and is made up of long-time protesters against corruption who staged regular demonstrations near Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit’s home; and the Black Flag movement, which coalesced around individuals from around the country. But none of the groups leads the protest or sets its agenda.
They have also been joined by a number of groups of young people, including Balebatim, which roughly translates as “those in charge,” who are known for their pink bandanas; Hitorerut (“awakening”); Kumi Israel (“arise Israel”); and Helem Tarbuti (“culture shock”).
Some were specifically founded as protest groups or in the run-up to a particular demonstration. From time to time, all of them have joined forces with more established organizations, such as the Movement for Quality Government, which has provided stages and sound systems for several demonstrations.
‘The word “organize” is ridiculous’
In practice, the protest movement appears to run on its own, in keeping with collective wishes, and no one can take credit for what takes shape on the ground. Generally the protests don’t feature organized speeches, and anyone with charisma and a megaphone can lead a march.
“The word ‘organize’ is ridiculous,” one key figure replied when asked who organizes the protests. “People find an event on Facebook, and if it catches on, there’s a demonstration.”
Someone posting a new event might end up with a demonstration with 10,000 people, she added.
Thursday’s demonstration near the Prime Minister’ Residence was not preceded by any Facebook notice, and just hours before, people known to be key activists in the protest movement couldn’t say for sure it if would take place or how it would unfold. In the end, a measure of momentum and a sense that threats of violence needed to be responded to resulted in a turnout of about 1,500 people.
From conversations with protest activists, it appears that most of the organizing takes place on WhatsApp or other messaging platforms, some of which are encrypted. There are groups focused on discussions of general principles, groups that coordinate transportation and others involved in filming the protests. There are also groups dealing with police violence and legal representation, and even some devoted to artists’ protests.
A sign bearing the image of Netanyahu with the caption ‘Anarchist,’ held by a protester during a demonstration against the Israeli prime minister, Jerusalem, August 1, 2020Credit: Emil Salman
The atmosphere is creative and marked by an approach that “if you want to do it, go ahead,” somewhat reminiscent of Midburn, the Israeli version of the Burning Man event in the United States – or a youth movement for grown-ups.
Every afternoon, leadership meets to refine the protest messages, among other places at the outpost set up (to the displeasure of Jerusalem municipal officials) in Jerusalem’s Independence Park. Anyone can attend the meetings.
The activities and transportation, activists say, is from crowdfunding or from small donations provided by passengers on the buses going to and from the demonstrations.
When the need arises, there is still coordination among those involved in the demonstrations, as occurs, for example, when legal representation is necessary for protesters who are arrested. There is a regular group of volunteers available who leave the demonstrations and wait for those detained at the entrance to Jerusalem’s Moriah police station, and then call lawyers to represent them. There is a similar group of 30 volunteers from various protest groups who arrange transportation to the demonstrations.
“The aim is to create a calendar of events” and arrange transportation to them, said one member of this group, who rejected being labeled a leader. “It’s a place for exchanging information about what exists,” and to facilitate the organization of the protests, she said.
At Saturday evening’s protest, one person was put in charge of a logistical situation room that handled arrests as well as the photographers, “so we can tell our story rather than what the police and the media are saying,” as one person described it.
Speaking before the demonstration, he said “the situation room will help connect the many groups, but in the end, everyone will do what they want.” He also expressed confidence that there was no need for leadership of the protests, and in fact, opposed such leadership.
“If someone comes and says: ‘I’m leading this thing,’ they would be out of touch with [the situation] on the ground,” he said, which “belongs to the young people who turn out, and that’s what counts.”
Thousands of protesters calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu throng Paris Square, Jerusalem, August 1, 2020Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
The more long-standing groups have more well-known leadership and spokespeople, but they too realize that the protests are not within their control. Things have evolved, said Crime Minister activist Yishai Hadas.
“At the beginning, the protests were organized, but it hasn’t been like that for a long time,” he said, adding that “the stars aligned” at the protest in front of Prime Minister’s Residence on July 14, which he said gained momentum from what he described as the Jerusalem municipality’s “pogrom” in seeking to dismantle Amir Haskel’s protest encampment there – and due to the economic situation. “Since then, it’s been running and no one has controlled it. It’s a popular protest. There’s coordination among us, but it’s the wisdom of the crowd that decides. We can’t control the agenda.” Hadas said.
Prime Minister Netanyahu posted a distorted photograph on social media of another prominent Crime Minister activist, Gonen Ben-Itzhak, over the past week, in a post in which Netanyahu reported being a target of death threats. Ben-Itzhak said that the picture was an effort to portray him as a protest leader.
“We, the old guard of the of the protests, are no longer relevant. Today the young people are the leaders. I can’t decide what the protest will look like.”
Difficult to suppress
The compartmentalization of the protests, activists say, makes it particularly difficult for the target of their protests, the prime minister. When it’s impossible to put a face on the protests, it’s also difficult to suppress them.
Journalist Shimshon Ofer addressed that issue in his book “Sanverim Batzameret” (“Blinded at the Top”) in connection with protests against Prime Minister Golda Meir’s government after the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Ofer wrote of the need to get close to protest leaders and soften them up and to spread rumors to tarnish the reputation of others.
This, according to Ben-Yitzhak, was the approach taken by authorities in the social justice protests of 2011. “They embrace some of them and turn them into Itzik Shmuli,” he said, referring to the 2011 protest leader who is now a cabinet member from the Labor Party. “Some they break physically, as when they broke the arm of Dafni Leef,” another protest leader in 2011. “At the same time, they infiltrate with a whole bunch of collaborators.”
“They have no face to throw garbage at,” one activist involved in the protests at the Prime Minister’s Residence said, “so they’re trying to talk about ‘anarchists,’ about [former Prime Minister] Ehud Barak and [Knesset opposition leader] Yair Lapid,” as instigators of the protests, “but it’s not catching on.”
Beyond that, it has been suggested that the lack of leadership is making a statement. “People say ‘only a strong leader will beat Netanyahu,’ and we see that no leader has managed to bring down this government,” one protester commented. “We are creating the opposite – a bunch of people who don’t draw attention to their strength vis-a-vis the government. That’s consistent with the foundations of this protest – no longer believing leaders – and in protest, there is action based on trust. If I find people who I’m comfortable working with, we will do something. There’s a deep connection here to something we’re protesting against. It’s an approach that is managing to create an alternative.”
In any event, it appears that there is one thing that everyone involved in the protests agrees upon. “Everyone has an agenda on some issue, but everyone comes together over the fact that as long as Bibi is in power, nothing can be resolved,” the spokesman for the Black Flag movement, Roi Neumann, said referring to the prime minister by his nickname.
Another activist seconded that: “The ideological disparities among the groups are not small. But everyone understands that there’s a problem that has to be dealt with,” she says.
Israel, Jerusalem: Protesters Call to Release ultra-Orthodox Man Detained for Spitting at Policewoman (see also 14/7/20 below). More here (includes video comparing with Portland).
“13 detained during protest against the continued detention of Benjamin Friedman, who has been in custody for three months. Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox Jews demonstrated Wednesday night in Jerusalem in protest of the continued detention of Benjamin Friedman, who was arrested more than three months ago on suspicion of spitting at a policewoman. Demonstrators blocked Bar Ilan street, which goes through ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods in northern Jerusalem and was the setting for riots over the closure of the roads on Shabbat in the early 2000s, set fire to cans and confronted police. Police in riot gear stormed a rally on Friday, removing hundreds of protesters by truck. Benjamin Friedman, a resident of Beit Shemesh, in central Israel, remains in custody following his refusal to carry an electronic handcuff on Shabbat. Since his arrest, members of extremist factions have occasionally taken part in demonstrations in the Mea Shearim neighborhood of Jerusalem. Police forces in the area have often used violence against demonstrators. Footage circulating on social media from Wednesday’s demonstration shows a police officer kicking one of the protesters hard and punching him in the face. Other images show police pushing demonstrators who fall to the floor. In addition, the demonstrators surrounded a car that got stuck in the place, threw objects at it and tried to open the doors. The driver fled the scene, running over a protester. Police said they have launched a search for the driver.”
T additionally writes:
Reading about the Azov Battalion tas well as the official responses from the state of Israel denouncing antisemitism brings to mind Israel’s secrecy and dodginess regarding its arms deals with the same neo-nazi groups that it claims to be worried about:
“Is Israel trying to hide arms exports to neo-Nazi militias in Ukraine?”. Which comes as no surprise considering Israel’s long (and semi-secret) history of diplomatic, military and tactical collaboration with fascist and openly antisemitic regimes responsible for the disappearance and murder of thousands of Jews, such as the Chilean and Argentinian juntas.
See also this about the acquittal of 2 Israelis for beating an innocent asylum seeker to death after cops had wounded him (from 21/7/20).
Jerusalem Has Seen Many Protests, but This One Was a Turning Point for the anti-Netanyahu Movement
‘We’re young and no longer willing to shut up and be nice,’ says one of the thousands of demonstrators who turned up near the Prime Minister’s Residence angry and bold.
At around midnight on Tuesday, I went up to the roof of a commercial building overlooking Jerusalem’s Paris Square, near the residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. My cellphone had stopped working after it was sprayed by police water cannons, which meant that I was free to observe the protest instead of taking pictures or updating the Haaretz newsroom.
Paris Square is currently being refurbished, and two Palestinian laborers were still paving the sidewalk when the protest began. The demonstrators gave them protest stickers and tried to get them to participate in the protest, but they were busy removing their equipment.
By midnight, the square looked like a war zone. A recycling bin was on fire in the middle of the street. All the adjacent streets were blocked off by overturned trash cans. The demonstrators used the paving stones that had not yet been laid to block the road near Kings Hotel. The sand underneath the paving stones was exposed, and for a moment it recalled the slogan from the 1968 student rebellion in France – sous les pavés, la plage – Under paving stones, the beach.
The police water cannon was shifting back and forth, clearing the hundreds of demonstrators from the streets with its powerful spray. Most of them took shelter behind cars or in courtyards, while others stood defiantly to bear the brunt of the water. Several people were injured and some threw water bottles back at the cannons, but I did not see any stones thrown.
Three mounted policemen repeatedly charged at groups in the crowd and in the center of it all, members of the Yasam Special Patrol Unit began carrying out mass arrests. Ironically, the detainees were loaded onto a bus with signage showing that it belonged to a regional council of West Bank settlements.
On the roof, one demonstrator tried to set fire to an Israeli flag – the same person who two hours earlier had tried to grab a microphone from Channel 13 News reporter Avishay Ben Haim. The flag just wouldn’t ignite and the man left and then came back with two cigarette lighters, but was spotted by another protester. “You’re causing harm,” the other demonstrator yelled, “It’s your country too.”
“My country is finished, scorched,” he responded. Other protesters gathered around and tried to convince him to stop.
“I’m fighting over my country because I care about it. If it was finished, I wouldn’t be here,” one woman implored.
At one point, the situation nearly deteriorated into violence. “It will be the picture of the protest. That’s exactly what they want. You’re helping our enemies.” The man put out the small flame that had begun to burn on the flag and the woman took it away from the scene. The furious man was forced to relent and came down from the roof.
[T Note: numerous online commenters claim this guy was an ‘agent provocateur’, a Right-winger that came to cause provocation, some even mention his alleged name. I have no idea if it’s true or not]
Longtime reporters in Jerusalem don’t recall another demonstration likes this, at least not in West Jerusalem. In 2011, during the wave of social protests in Israel, there was a larger protest near the Prime Minister’s Residence, but it dispersed quietly. In 2015, there was a turbulent demonstration by young Ethiopians, but they were smaller in number and it was also less violent.
Tuesday’s demonstration was a turning point in the evolution of protests against Netanyahu. The protests had been sustained up until now by older demonstrators, most of whom are relatively well off – retirees from the center of the country who are furious over what they see as the prime minister’s betrayal of their values, and have a hard time reconciling with the fact that someone under indictment is prime minister.
On Tuesday, however, the protest baton was passed on to the younger generation, whose anger is of an entirely different kind. Jerusalem District police commander Doron Yedid called them “leftists” and “anarchists,” but it’s more complicated than that.
On the fringes of the protests there were in fact been a few young people who might barely be considered anarchists. But in the course of the entire evening on Tuesday, I saw just one individual who was masked (other than for pandemic reasons), and he appeared to be a friend of the man who tried to burn the flag.
Most of the protesters had other things on their minds. It wasn’t just rage over corruption and frustration over the political situation. It was also, and perhaps even mostly, economic frustration. The coronavirus pandemic has dealt a critical blow to the finances of university students and other young people. Many of them have been forced to return to live with their parents, to change their lifestyles and to forgo many of their dreams.
“There’s a feeling that redlines and the limits of shame have been crossed,” said Arnon of Gedera, “when everything is collapsing all around, and a man who is worth 50 million shekels, whose level of miserliness should be illegal, asked for a tax exemption and Miki Zohar says he can’t make it through the month.”
He was referring to coalition whip Zohar, who recently justified a one million shekels tax exemption for the prime minster by saying that he shouldn’t have to worry about making it through the month financially.
“As you can see, we are young and no longer willing to shut up and be nice,” said Sahar Vardi of Jerusalem, who was arrested during the course of the protest. The police violence, she claimed, is making protesters understand “the extent to which the current regime is doing whatever it wants.”
At around 1:30 A.M., the police finally managed to clear the square. The young people broke up into smaller groups. Several of them tried to get around the barricades at the Prime Minister’s Residence but it seemed that they weren’t from Jerusalem and didn’t know the neighborhood. A few others got into shouting matches with Rehavia residents who had poked out of their windows to complain about the noise.
The last group of protesters gathered opposite the Great Synagogue on King George Street. Mounted police stormed into the group and dispersed them as well. One of the demonstrators shouted before leaving: “We’re meeting again in front of the Prime Minister’s Residence on Thursday. Come.”
From the pay-walled Haaretz.com website.
Arieh King, a right-wing activist who works to help Jews settle in East Jerusalem and evict its Palestinian residents, hails ‘law and order’ after assisting police in detaining protester.
Jerusalem Depuy Mayor Arieh King helped police officers on Tuesday arrest one of the protesters at a thousands-strong rally in the city demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
King, a well-known right-wing activist who works to help Jews settle in East Jerusalem and evict its Palestinian residents, was elected to the city council on the United Jerusalem party slate, and was recently appointed a deputy mayor. In the past few weeks, he has criticized the city and its inaction against the protesters outside the Prime Minister’s Residence.
At the beginning of the week, King praised the removal of tents and equipment of the protest camp by the Prime Minister‘s Residence. “Congratulations on the sidewalk returning to pedestrians and law and order being enforced,” tweeted King after the removal of the protester’s equipment. The evacuation and its reverberations drew much greater numbers of protesters in advance of Tuesday’s demonstration.
King was present during the entire demonstration, where some 50 people were arrested, and condemned the protesters’ actions. During the night, when the arrests were being made, King noticed an attempt to arrest one of the protesters, Gili Levy, and decided to aid the police officers by holding Levy by the leg and dragging him along the street for about two meters.
In response, Levy shoved King and a short time later was arrested.
King said he acted according to the law, which allows a citizen to aid a police officer.
Levi wrote on Facebook that at a certain point during the protest at Paris Square in Jerusalem, when “policemen decided it was great to beat some random young man, I laid down to protect him and began to be hit myself. Inside the mess of kicks and punches, I suddenly felt that someone was dragging me. I raised my head from my curled up state and saw there among the jumble of policemen and horses a person wearing civilian clothes dragging me along the street.”
King said he helped out the police officer who was attacked by the protesters, but in a video of the incident the protesters cannot be seen attacking an officer. Instead, the officer and another policeman were seen seemingly trying to separate a cluster of protestors, possibly in order to arrest one of them.
King said in response that “a police officer arrested a masked protester at a distance of just a few meters from me. Within seconds, three other anarchist protesters joined the detainee and tried, with the use of force and physical violence against the officer, to prevent the arrest. When I saw that the officer was in distress and that they were acting violently against him, I helped him by removing one of the protesters who lay on him. I moved the protestor 1.5 meters from the scene and in doing so I ended up helping the police officer in distress.”
More about various protests in Israel over the last few days:
The ultra-Orthodox demonstrators are protesting at the same point for the third night, where two nights ago a cop punched an ultra-Orthodox man in the face after the man asked him why he was not wearing a mask.
Still almost exclusively pacifist, civil and patriotic in the non-orthodox protests (except for road blocking), but some small positive aspects:
“Hours before the protest, organizers announced that various politicians had asked to join and give speeches at the event but were asked not to attend as they had “Had enough time to work for us.” Organizers said they wished for the protest to not be affiliated with any political factions. … Meanwhile, demonstrators called on others online not to bring cellphones to the demonstration so that they could not be later tracked and required to quarantine if they happened to be in the vicinity of a confirmed coronavirus patient.”
Full text of the Haaretz report (it’s blocked behind a paywall):
Police Arrest 20 After Thousands Protest Poor Government Aid Amid Coronavirus Economic Crisis
Self-employed from hospitality, tourism and arts industries stage protest in Tel Aviv ■ Three officers lightly injured.
Over 10 thousand Israelis protested in Tel Aviv on Saturday against the government’s handling of the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
After hundreds left the square after the event, they marched through the city’s main streets, blocking roads and junctions and chanting “Bibi go home!” Police arrested 20 after clashes erupted between law enforcement and protesters. Of those, 16 have been questioned and two will have court hearings regarding extending their detention.
Police said that three officers were lightly injured as protesters attacked police, threw tear gas and bottles at them and vandalized public property on Rothschild Boulevard. “Police are constantly avoiding the use of force and are working to clear traffic jams to allow traffic flow,” a police statement said.
On Sunday morning, Finance Minister Yisrael Katz said in an interview on Kan television network that “Demonstrations are part of democracy, I understand the allegations and the pain of the demonstrators. Our plan is to provide an economic safety net for employees and the self-employed for the coming year. We will leave no one on on the streets.”
On Friday, leaders from hospitality, tourism, transportation, arts and culture industries declined an invitation by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss the situation.
Tel Aviv, July 11, 2020:
“The Israeli government and its leader are responsible for the failure in implementing aid programs,” said the organizers, who called on the government to amend its financial aid packages.
On Thursday, Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yisrael Katz announced that self-employed individuals will receive an immediate 7,500 shekels ($2,150) stipend. They promised that money would be transferred to accounts by next week, following criticism that the two previous rounds of coronavirus aid were delayed and insufficient.
Iliya Zsibulsky, a 32-year-old actor, said he’s been unemployed since theatres were shut in March. Holding a mask of a pig’s face, he explained that it represents the government “of pigs and too many ministers who don’t see us. They’re detached from reality.”
“I received a meager and ridiculous sum from the government and I also have to pay taxes for it,” said Zsibulsky, who went back to living with his parents and is working in deliveries after years of living alone and earning a decent income as an actor.
Boaz Meirchik, owner of the Duplex nightclub in Tel Aviv, told Haaretz that implementing health regulations made his business no longer profitable and that he is uncertain about its future. “The whole economy is going to collapse if the government doesn’t act. There will be a period of austerity after the coronavirus. Netanyahu’s plan is not enough,” he said.
“I’m retired and unemployed but the state doesn’t recognize or compensate me,” said Ruti Sofer, 74, from Jaffa, who had been working as a caretaker before the pandemic. “I received 4,000 shekels ($1150) in two payments and that’s it, they told me I’m not illegible for more. This is the first time in my life that I have to ask for money from my six children in order to pay for food and bills,” said Sofer, adding that Netanyahu should “Climb down and remember that whoever put him there can also take him down.”
Hours before the protest, organizers announced that various politicians had asked to join and give speeches at the event but were asked not to attend as they had “Had enough time to work for us.” Organizers said they wished for the protest to not be affiliated with any political factions.
Organizers agreed to a number of conditions for the police to allow the protest to go ahead, some related to the coronavirus, in anticipation of a large number of attendees. Groups of 20 people are required to stand two meters apart from one another, while each group is required to maintain a distance of ten meters from other groups.
In a statement distributed among protest groups, organizers asked that those attending the protest not give the police a reason to stop the event, urging them to comply with Health Ministry guidelines.
Meanwhile, demonstrators called on others online not to bring cellphones to the demonstration so that they could not be later tracked and required to quarantine if they happened to be in the vicinity of a confirmed coronavirus patient.
Other report on Tel Aviv [not paywalled]:
“several hundred people blocked traffic and clashed with police at several locations…”
Israel: clashes in protests in Jerusalem & Jaffa 10 days after cops murder unarmed autistic Palestinian going for a stroll
Israel: “I am a Corona prisoner” – patients in hotels describe a rigid attitude, sudden orders from above and growing distress
Moving us, transferring us, tossing us around without logic and without explanation. “
“I asked to move to Nahariya [a coastal city in the north of Israel, about 11 km from the Lebanease border – T], this is the hotel closest to our home in Haifa,” says N. “The proximity to home is important because my children do not eat the food we receive and it is forbidden to order food from outside. We rely on hot dishes and snacks that family members deliver.
“But we were still surrounded by fences and armed security guards in every direction. I’m trying to figure out why, what is the logic. That behavior brings me back to my military days.”
Israel: an aesthetic anaesthetic – or “…as long as this world is fundamentally ugly and work-oriented, aesthetics as a specialised activity will try to make it look nice and playful…”
It’s all bright for some
From Our Diplomatic Correspondant on Radio Tel Aviv (87.9 Medium Wave – but to you 86.5)
Coronavirus Chic: Young Israeli Designers Face a Brighter Future Thanks to These Cool Masks (Haaretz article, in fact)
With their core activities curtailed by the pandemic, four quick-thinking Israeli designers saw no option but to handle the crisis in style. They’ve become unexpectedly must-have accessories whether we like it or not: Face masks are now mandatory in Israel, punishable with a 200 shekel ($55) fine if they aren’t worn in public during the coronavirus pandemic. The country’s offices, stores and streets have suddenly begun to resemble hospital operating rooms, with most people wearing standard surgical masks, interspersed with the occasional homemade cloth mask, mass-produced Lycra mask or improvised bandana. Among the fashion conscious, though, demand for more stylish and cheerful forms of face protection has exploded – and several quick-thinking Israeli designers have filled that niche, offering masks that, on average, sell for between 69 to 199 shekels. In her Jaffa studio, Swedish-born designer Kiki Almqvist has been busy producing her one-of-a-kind creations. …. For her, the paper masks she bought at the pharmacy at the outset of the outbreak immediately rubbed her the wrong way. “It gave me an allergic rash,” she relays. “A lot of people with sensitive skin aren’t able to wear them comfortably.” So Almqvist took some of the elegant material from her designs and made silk-lined masks for herself. Her friends and customers wanted them as soon as they saw them. “It’s so much nicer to have a piece of good fabric on your face than paper,” she explains. Initially, she says, she was inspired to create masks that match her best-selling item at the moment – silk kimonos, which she calls “the ultimate clothing for the coronavirus: They are comfortable to wear around the house, but you can throw on heels and go outside and still look elegant.” The silky and sequined masks “are an extension of my collection,” she says. “Masks are going to be with us for a long time, and I think it will be great to have an elegant-looking mask to wear to an important meeting or a special event that feels ‘dressed up.’”…Wedding gown designer Yarden Oz characterizes her new mask-making venture, Happy People, as a way of “making lemonade out of some very bitter lemons.” She and her husband Shachaf work in some of the hardest-hit professions: He owns and operates a venue that specializes in bar- and bat-mitzvah parties – the Coliseum, in the Tel Aviv suburb of Rishon Letzion, where the couple lives. The special events industry was one of the first to fall victim to the coronavirus, with large gatherings banned; it is also expected to be one of the last to return to full operation. “I love my work because I get to dress women on the happiest day of their lives,” says Oz, 28, explaining the name of her new venture. But when the coronavirus struck, nothing seemed happy anymore. “Suddenly, my days were all about cancellations, fears and pain,” she recounts. “Some of my brides postponed their events, others downsized to small ceremonies and I had to replace their dress with something more modest that suited the occasion better.” Oz made her first mask for her husband, after he was ordered into quarantine for two weeks. With no weddings to make dresses for, she invested the time to make a “stylish and fun” mask for him – because “let’s face it, hospital masks have a depressing connotation.”While she was at it, she decided to make a matching mask for herself, and the couple posted photos on social media of themselves wearing the masks. Soon, people were contacting her, asking for masks as well – and the new venture was born.She has transformed the empty Coliseum into an impromptu mask factory, and demand is such that she is working with 10 seamstresses outside the facility. Her most in-demand masks? Animal prints – leopard and zebra – and sequins. Now, she says, “some of my brides and grooms are sending out announcements of their rescheduled weddings – ‘update the date’ notices – with a photo of them wearing my masks.” Another newly branded mask vendor is Stav Ofman, a 2018 graduate of Shenkar College (one of Israel’s most prestigious design schools). … “I created some crazy ones, which were one of a kind because I was using the scraps of leftover fabric. It started spreading by word of mouth among my friends here that I was making them – and I began getting requests.”The website for Ofman’s Savvy Masks – which come in three sizes, is slick and high concept. Each mask model has a name – “The Elle,” “The Cheetah Girl,” “The Black Panther” – with some featuring camouflage, stars and high-end embroidered designs. Now she is considering working on outfits to match the masks, or perhaps bathing suits. “A lot will depend on what the restrictions will be this summer,” she explains. “Where are people going to be allowed to go, and where will they be required to wear the masks?” Like Oz and Almqvist, Ofman is selling her masks in central Israel or letting her customers pick them up from her. However, she soon hopes to be able to begin selling more widely – in London and other locations. Almqvist, who has established clientele in Sweden and the United States – she has been doing sales events via Zoom – has already sold masks overseas. Another designer, Rachel Aharami, has created a niche within a niche: specialty cloth masks for children. … “I love working with kids,” she says. “I like to see their smiles, and they really appreciate things that are special – it’s really rewarding. … I’m making between 60 and 90 each week, and I expect to make more.” Aharami’s masks feature angels, rainbows, unicorns and hearts – and a line of bolder masks with comic prints…”Now I have teachers getting ready to go back and they are coming to me for adult-sized masks in kid-friendly material that are pretty and fun, so the kids won’t feel scared or sad,” Aharami reports. “If you’re going to have to wear a mask – it might as well be cheerful.”
i In Israeli society they are simply referred to, erroneously and with a hint of racism (also by me due to the comfort of this usage) as “Russians” – despite the fact that many of them are not from Russia but from the other surrounding countries that used to belong to the USSR: Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, etc.
ii Their actions were against the labor federation/union that owned the shipping company (the Histadrut). Short news bulletins, from the time, in English :
Striking Seamen Storm Haifa Jail; Seek to Release Sailors
Israel Seamen’s Strike Enters Fourth Week; Settlement Sought
This is from an obituary to one of the strike leaders, Nimrod Eshel :
“The government saw the strike as a challenge to the ruling Mapai party and accused the strikers of political motives. In an effort to break it, the government not only employed violence, but sent draft notices to Eshel and his comrades. Eshel told Toldot Yisrael that he was slandered as “a thief, a spy and a communist.”
Wikipedia entry on the strike (only available in Hebrew):
Seamen Strike, 1951 (Hebrew)
Quotes from the above:
“Class struggle was always anathema to Histadrut, before and after Israel was formed. In the seamen’s strike of 1951, strikers were drafted into the army with Histadrut support. Like their predecessors in the Gdud Avodah workers brigades in the 1920s, some of the most militant workers did break from Zionism. Gdud Avodah were starved into submission by Ben-Gurion in the 1920s…But this was the exception, not the rule. The seamens’ strike was the most violent strike of its kind in Israel, with ships being commandeered and used against the forces of the state.”
“In February 1976, thousands of Arab citizens of the Galilee demonstrated for their rights to the land and against confiscations. In March 1976, the Arab leadership called for a general strike. In response, Histadrut’s Labor Council in Haifa actively opposed the strike. Six Palestinians were shot and killed by the police and army, an event marked each 30 March by Palestinians as Land Day.”
Note that the article – though a very good introduction to the topic of labor unions in Israel/Palestine – was written by a British trade-union activist, hence his final conclusion implying that the only answer to Zionist-racist unions is the creation of non-Zionist unions.
Officially the Histradut militias were formed against the threat of right-wingers, but they took active part not only in repressing the Seamen Strike (1951) but also the Wadi Salib riots (Haifa, 1959). There’s another Wikipedia entry only in Hebrew, but I think one can get the gist with Google Translate or some other machine translation: Plugot HaPo’el.
iii Formed in 1962 as The Socialist Organisation in Israel, it became better known as Matzpen after its monthly publication. It was a small ensemble of self-described ‘revolutionaries’, with members who were Trotskyist as well as Maoists and other types, united around the two basic principles of anti-Zionism and socialism. It later split into several smaller groups/sects until their demise. Orr had been a member of Solidarity UK, an explicitly anti-Leninist organisation, back in the late 1960s/early 70s ( there’s an Interview from 2012 with him before he died in February 2013, where he tells some anecdotes that explain the contradictory nature of the ‘Judaism’ of the state of Israel). But Matzpen itself was pretty much of the doctrinaire type. However, just a couple of days ago they published on their Facebook page – where they post updates of old Matzpen articles etc. relating to current events as well as updates on new uploads of archive material to their site – a post about the book “Blacks Flags in Ukraine” – about the Makhnovchina, written at the time by a Matzpen member, with a link to the entire book on their site (in Hebrew naturally). I remember Ilan Shalif, an ex-member who went from Maoist to pro-Palestine Anarchist, used to hand-out copies of this small book for free.
v One interesting aspect of the Israeli Black Panthers and later also of some post-panthers Mizrachis, mostly intellectuals and activists but also among “regular people” (ha ha) is that they self-described themselves as Arabs, or Arabic Jews, which, at least at the beginning of the 1970’s was something unheard of and a treacherous thing to say in Israeli society, challenging the Zionist mythology and the specific uses it makes of the concept of Judaism or Jews.