#J14 Failing in The Palestinian Eyes

As a Palestinian I observed the Israeli protest in Tel Aviv. With more than 300,000 people marching last Saturday for social justice, decent living and cheaper housing, the protest grows faster than the Israeli government had ever expected. The movement got a huge support among the Israeli public;  the latest poll shows that  90% of the Israeli public stand by the protesters.  Yet I can’t help but seeing the whole #J14 (the name used to refer to the protest movement on twitter) fail from Palestinian perspective. 
I am going to keep my list short, find below my 3 major reasons why the movement is likely to fail in Palestinian eyes
Picture source Activestills flicker account.

1- Israel is a democracy that has an elected government; unlike the regimes in Syria and Egypt, the Israeli people chose their parliament, their prime minister, and their local representatives. In other words, the government represents the people,  and so whatever the government believes in or the ideologies it holds,  it reflects the people who elected it.(do I need to explain more!?) So, as long as those protesters will keep going to the street pointing their fingers to the government with no attempts to make ideological and social reforms among the people themselves, they will probably end up on the streets again in 5 years after a similar government has been elected.
      2- The Demands are very general, one of them being ‘social justice’. But social justice for whom? The protesters call for social justice for the people of Israel, better health care, free education starting from the age of 3…etc. Yet, the protesters tend to ignore the demands of the Arab population of Israel. I doubt anyone demanded a better democratic system, more services to the Arab towns and cities. So if you live in Jaffa, Led, Or Arakeeb, don’t even think about getting a building permit, you are not Israeli enough. Read more about the demands here.
      3- No Politics; not addressing the occupation nor the Settlements; This is the core issue that worries me as a Palestinian. The protest organizers decided to plot a “Revolution”, “to overthrow the Government” without talking “Politics”. And no this is not a joke. Because obviously to keep the movement popular among the Israelis, the occupation will not be addressed(so what does this tell you about the Israeli Jews?).  In other words, the Israeli government approves the building of 900 housing units in Jerusalem in the settlement of HarHoma, while I am writing this post.
Those are my main three reasons why I think The Israeli #J14 movement is going to fail. And maybe someone will comment on this post asking me ‘why does this #J14 concerns the Arab?”. Well, dear, they occupy me, so I have a right to be concerned about it.  
Finally, as long as this movement is not addressing the critical issues, they will end up as a major failure. And remember the Egyptian didn’t start in 2011, they started protesting in 2004 demanding Mubarak to step down, 7 years later he is in a cage. It’s no shame if you demanded 100% of your rights with 20% of the people supporting you, but it’s a great shame if you brought 90% of the people’s support, while demanding only 20% of the people’s rights.
I wish I am wrong, but I don’t think I am. But this could be the beginning for more social reforms in the Future, until then good luck. And see you at the checkpoints! .

3 thoughts on “#J14 Failing in The Palestinian Eyes

  1. Answers to your points, in Israeli eyes:1- What you describe is an ideal democracy. In Israel, the existing main political parties represent old debates that are not relevant any more. Also in order to be elected in a list you have to be either corrupt or radical. That`s why we demand to change the SYSTEM, so that we can have a better, true democracy, that will truly represent the people`s will.2- Social justice is a civil demand for EVERY civilian and not for any particular sector in Israel. That includes Arabs. The list of demands also includes recognition of some unrecognized Arab and Beduin towns.3- `No politics' has two meanings:First, that the protest does not identify with any existing political party in Israel. That's because we believe all of them have to change. That's why we don't seek just to change the government but the whole system.Second, that the protest is an internal issue in Israel. It has nothing to do with foreign affairs nor with the conflict with the Palestinians. You may be critical about that, but remember that also in Tahrir, when some Israelis were concerned about what will happen to the relations with Israel they got the response `It has nothing to do with you`. That's true also for this protest – It is really not about the Palestinian issue, no matter how important it may be.Due to these 3 points I believe J14 IS similar in many aspects to the revolution in Egypt.In the long run I believe that better representation of people`s will in the region, and the rise of civil agenda, will make things better to everyone who lives here, and improve understandings. I can only hope that J14 will be a success, and also that the Palestinians will be able to choose a wise and concerned leadership that will help making the region totally different from what it used to be, with Israel and Palestine living peacefully and concerned with their civilians.

  2. Renatino, I really respect your well thought out response and although I'm critical of the J14 protests, its nice to hear your perspective.1. As someone else from an unideal democracy, I agree with your point about demanding to change the system. But, this is a point where I agree with both you and ANimer, because although I think it is justifiable to feel like your government doesn't represent the people, there is some responsibility that needs to be placed on the voting population of a so-called democracy, where the government shows marginal restraint in shutting people up who disagree with their policy. I think the point here is not so much that you don't have the right to demand changes to your government through protest, even though you have the right to vote (especially when a complete reform of the system is needed), but that disinterested voters allowed their democracy to be hijacked by extremists and corruption, until the interests of the privileged are affected. It wasn't until the relatively well-off Ashkenazi population was affected that they took to the streets. I stand with anyone demanding more than sham representative democracy from their government, but I have a hard time seeing this as more than, "be extreme as you want with the minorities in Israel and with the Palestinians, but DO NOT mess with us"Also, I think it's unfair to the Egyptian revolution to compare the J14 protests to theirs, because of the stark contrast in what is being sacrificed. I completely understand living in a country where voting is not enough to reform the entire political system to achieve something that actually looks like a real democracy, but you have to respect the differences between taking to the streets under a dictatorship and taking to the streets in a country where the government/policy/military at least have to pretend you have the right to speak your mind and criticize the government.2. GREAT! I hope that's emphasized.3. I do take some issue with the second point of your "no politics" explanation. I can understand that the protest can be seen as an internal issue in Israel, but there is something problematic about this. I was critical about a small part of this line of reasoning in Tahrir as well, but I spent some time in Tahrir after the revolution and although many people were standing strong on their "this is OUR revolution" position, many people I spoke with also saw that their revolution needed to consider the people that are affected by Egypt's policies (Israelis and Palestinians, especially), not in the sense that they wanted other people to direct where their revolution went, but that they needed to consider the best interests for themselves without oppressing other people in the process. This is where the J14 protests are failing in my eyes- your national interests are TIGHTLY connected to the future of the Palestinians and if you don't consider that, your national interests will continue to oppress an entire population that is very directly influenced by your government's policies.

  3. Daniela,Thanks for your response, I agree with much of what you wrote, here's my (long) response:1. I agree that we have responsibility for our government's acts. We also have the duty to protest if we think a change is needed, and that it will not come from the current parliamentary opposition (or coalition) – The issues J14 raised were almost non-existent in the political discourse in Israel before. I agree with your analyze about democracy being hijacked by extremists and corruption, but identifying the protest with well-off "Askenazi"s is not true and a bit anachronistic to my opinion. The protest began with comparatively well-off Tel-Avivians (with their parents coming from various countries), but from its very beginning people from other cities and towns joined. With over than 50 tent centers throughout the country (1200 tents only in Tel Aviv, in several parts of the city), it cannot be identified now with any social status, race, area, religiousness, or ancestors' country of origin. And it exists also in Jewish Religious and Palestinian towns inside Israel. One example: joint demonstration of low-class Jewish people from south Tel-Aviv (neighbourhood not considered usually as tolerant) and Arabs from Jaffa. I emphasize that to show that the message of the protest cannot be interpreted as "be extereme with minorities".I agree completely with you about the contrast between J14 and Tahrir. The courage of the Egyptian people in Tahrir is admirable and awe-inspiring to the whole world and cannot be compared to the J14 protest. I don't claim that J14 is Tahrir, there are obvious differences, I only claim that still there are many similarities. Indeed, the wind of change brought by the Egyptian revolution inspired Israelis who realized that many things in Israel can also be better and it's only upon us to bring it.2. The first of the six principles of the prtotesters: "minimizing social inequalities (economic, gender-based and national ) and creating social cohesion." two of the demands in the list given to PM: "state recognition of the unrecognized villages throughout the country, especially the Bedouin communities in the Negev, and the approval of master plans that would expand local authorities' jurisdiction, to enable construction." (Both came from Arab protesters)3. I agree that Israel's national interest is tightly connected with the future of Palestinians, but while there are various opinions in Israel as to how to bring the conflict to an end, there is almost a consensus now on some other (internal, domestic) issues. Without trying to neglect the importance of the Palestine issue to our future, there are other components to our complex lives here – we believe we have the right to say something about them as well without need to apologize. Many of the J14 activists protest for years to end the occupation, while many others have different views over this complicated matter, but on J14 issues we all agree (more or less), and therefore have enormous power.(One more remark: the future of the Palestinians depend also on the Palestinians' acts: In any reasonable solution they have to agree to two states – refugees going only to Palestine).Walking in the streets here one feels change in nuances; People talk about J14 all the time and think differently; cynicism left for hope and faith. It is a bit disappointing that the international media doesn't show much enthusiasm about J14 because for us last month feels like a miracle, which will surely have influence for years. (and yes – the impact can be only positive on the Palestinian issue!)

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