The Israel Tent Protests

Authored by: Alan Craig

Routledge Handbook of the Arab Spring

Print publication date:  December  2014
Online publication date:  December  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415523912
eBook ISBN: 9781315763026
Adobe ISBN: 9781317650041

10.4324/9781315763026.ch41

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Abstract

As Israel’s political analysts nervously peered into the fog of an Arab Spring, seeing troubling uncertainties undermining the stabilities of cold peace and stable enmities, the Israeli Facebook generation saw the possibility of changing Israeli society through social mobilization that bypassed the formal processes and structures of Israeli democracy. At its height in 2011, the Israeli Tent Protest mobilized over 400,000 people, which by any measure is a massive response from a population of 7.7 million. There was a confusing variety of protest groups from across all sectors of Israeli society unified by a sense of injustice. An emerging agenda coalesced around a narrative of an excessive economic liberalism that was abandoning large sections of Israeli society to an ever-increasing cost of living while channelling resources to an unproductive religious sector. With a proportionate representation voting system, the demands were less about political representation than they were about political policy. Banners expressed solidarity with Tahrir Square but the Israeli protest lacked both the rage and the violence of its regional neighbours. The authorities avoided confrontation, allowing the occupation of Tel Aviv’s prestigious Rothschild Boulevard, while channelling political demands through the conduit of a hastily convened Trajtenburg Committee. As the summer came to an end and the protesters melted away, it appeared that this apparently spontaneous youthful protest had failed to influence grown-up politics. With the leaders of the protest gravitated towards the Labor party ahead of the 2013 general election, it seemed that the left were going to be the chief beneficiaries. But appearances can be misleading and the burden-sharing agenda generated by the 2011 Tent Protest reached out beyond the protesters and Labor’s core voters to Israel’s squeezed middle class, challenging their right-wing allegiances and empowering the centre parties. The outcome is uniquely Israeli. Unlike so many protests across the region that have empowered the religious and ethnic constituencies, the Israeli variant looks set to achieve the exact opposite.

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