For more than three weeks Israeli society and polity have been shaken by waves of social protest of the sort that has never been seen here before. This protest reached a new peak on Saturday night with demonstrations that saw hundreds of thousands of Israelis take to the streets. Such a display of power is apparently far from being over.
The protest has already achieved much. It has stirred civil society to become involved, and to show solidarity following many years of complacency. It has also altered the social agenda in Israel, and political-security discourse has given way to a socioeconomic one, which has taken center stage in an unprecedented way.
The group of young protesters has also managed to instill an element of popular democracy, managing its affairs far away from politicians and political parties. The demonstrators have shown exemplary organizational abilities, which also peaked during the latest, incredibly orderly demonstration in Tel Aviv. The group of speakers during the demonstration was impressive for its diversity.
The themes of the protest have, to a certain extent, also managed to hit home. When the masses cry out throughout the country “the people demand social justice,” it does not yet suggest an orderly and detailed socioeconomic theory or defined set of demands, but it is doubtful whether these are necessary at this stage, in the forging of a new movement.
We are in the midst of what is increasingly shaping up to be an Israeli revolution. Following decades in which the public has curled up in its indifference and allowed a handful of politicians to run the country as they wished, with no significant involvement from civil society, the rules of the political game have changed.
The public has realized that it has much more power and influence than it imagined. Henceforth, every prime minister in Israel will have to take into consideration this emerging force.
It is still hard to know where this protest will lead, and how it will end. For the time being, we can be impressed by its power and the direction in which it seeks to move. We must therefore praise the protesters for the changes in perception they have already instigated and hope that they will be able to continue their efforts in the future, in the same impressive way that has characterized them to date – and bring about genuine change.
Hmm. I wonder if they got any ideas from watching what’s been happening in Egypt, Tunisia, and other Arab countries? Of course, that could undermine the whole Israel-is-the-only-democracy-in-the-Middle-East narrative. Which may be why we’re not hearing more about it. That and the possibility that people in North America may get ideas …