More on Israel. Get the sense perhaps that we’re involved in something big? No kidding, eh? Thanks to Shaunie and Jason.
Israel: Crisis escalates as unions weigh in
Stephen Morgan, Digital Journal, July 27, 2011
Described as the biggest crisis Netanyahu has faced, the Middle East protests have now spread to Israel. Today, the unions joined in what is being called the “Israeli revolution”
Today, Israel’s trade union lent their might to the youngsters leading the tent city protests over housing costs by threatening a general strike. Haaretz reported that Ofer Eini, leader of Histadrut, the national union federation, has given an ultimatum to Netanyahu that “all possible measures available to the Histradrut” will be mobilized unless Netanyahu agrees to talks before Saturday night.
The crisis has shaken the government and the seriousness of the situation was underlined yesterday, when Netanyahu canceled a visit to Poland, in order to deal with the crisis. Netanyahu’s ratings have plummeted with only 32% saying they were pleased with his handling of the crisis.
On the other hand, the same poll by Haaretz shows that 87% of Israelis now support the tent city protests, which grew from 6 tents to 400 last week and culminated last Saturday evening with with a 40,000 strong march through Tel Aviv.
The protests and their participants are similar to those in the Arab world, Spain and Greece. It began with a Facebook campaign on the issue of housing costs entitled “Democracy takes to the streets”, but this has now mushroomed into a movement involving discontent over all the social and economic problems faced by the majority of Israeli people.
At the same as the tent city, there are strikes of hospital workers, medical students and some doctors have even gone on hunger strike and the youngsters and strikers have joined each others protests. The housing movement has also been backed by Israel’s National Union of Students, who yesterday brought the Knesset (Parliament) to a halt by occupying and heckling ministers. The Union of Local Authorities is also expected to agree a general strike in support of the protests today.
Reminiscent of the solidarity on Cairo’s Tahrir Square, there are old and young, professionals, students and workers, LGBT and Zionists, the secular and religious, Holocaust survivors and even some ultra-orthodox have joined in. As the LA Times reported, “protest is everywhere. Students are camping out in the streets in tents. Dairy farmers are blocking roads with cows.” and there were reports that even Bedouin tribesmen had joined the marchers in outlying towns.
The Times goes on to illustrate the issues underpinning the unrest by quoting Sever Plocker, a financial journalist, who says: “Over the last five years, the average income in Israel has increased by 17% and food prices by 25%. Water rates have gone up 40% and gasoline by 23%. The average apartment price has gone up 55% and rent by 27%.”
Netanyahu has been forced to call the protests “justified” and has promised reforms and house building projects, but this has not been enough to satisfy the protesters, who say they have no faith in the political system and politicians. Popular chants are “The government against the people – the people against the government” and “We want social justice,” “Welfare state.”
The Jerusalem Post reports that hundreds of demonstrators marched to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s home in Jerusalem today and slapped a “for sale” sign on it.
As for the next steps, the activist Blog +972 reports that now “organizers aim to have 100,000 people out in the streets across the country, with the main economic protest in Tel Aviv joining forces with a preplanned mass protest against recent anti-democratc legislation, such as the boycott law.”