A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman
October 29, 2011- Rockets in the South, Demonstrations in Tel Aviv
It has been a rather strange evening in Israel. On one hand, the South has been repeatedly struck by missiles and rockets from Gaza. As a result of this recent volley of rocket fire one person was killed. On the other hand, tens of thousands of protesters amassed just two block from my apartment in Tel Aviv, renewing the social protests and confounding pundits, who did not believe these demonstrations would be so successful.
The attacks today began after Israel responded to Thursday's missile attack, by killing five members of the Islamic Jihad. Israel claimed that this group was responsible for firing the rockets on Israel. The Palestinians claim they were not firing rockets, they just produced the rockets. The Jihad responded with ongoing rocket attacks on Ashkeloon, Ashod and other targets in Israel. Meanwhile, Hamas is sitting on the sidelines making no effort to stop the fire. Tomorrow there will be no school in all the communities within range of the missiles. For whatever reason the Iron Dome system had not been deployed in these areas, and only now, at the time I am writing this (11:30 PM Israel time) is the Iron Dome being deployed to protect Ashdod.
While all this was happening a large protest was being held in Tel Aviv. The protest was the first in two months. Before the protest began this evening commentators believed it would be a success of 20-30,000 showed up. At the final count 70,000 participated. This number was achieved despite the rocket fire in the south, and a rainstorm earlier in the evening in Tel Aviv.
I must say I still do not have a better sense of the goals of the demonstrations today after living here then I had from teh US. This, after meeting some of the leaders in a small tent city last night on Nordau street, and tonight being part of the demonstration.
The demonstrators were overwhelmingly young, including a large number of youth movement members. The crowd was overwhelmingly secular with hardly a kippa to be seen. The official slogan was "The nation demands social justice." The speakers represented a cross section of different sectors, including, first, a single women from Jerusalem who was removed from the building she was squatting in; The second speakers was an Arab student from Nazareth, at Tel Aviv University who spoke about his trouble in finding housing in Tel Aviv, and went on to speak about how the protest movement served to unifty Arabs and Jews. Other speakers included a doctor who highlighted how his poor patients who were 55 years old looked like they were 70) and his 80 year old wealthy patients from Tel Aviv looked like they were 55.
When everything is said and done, it seems to me that the demonstrators and the organizers know what is wrong in this country, but neither has a real plan on how to change things. The government is making some small changes, including increasing taxes on the very wealthy and companies and increasing the help for the poor. However, to date, the changes are mostly on the margins. A side point I found interesting, one of Israel's richest men, Avram (not sure of the first name) Kirov was on one of Israel’s talk shows, and spoke out against any incease in taxes for the rich. Kirov claimed that he and his compatriots were the ones who created jobs, and every country would like them, implying that if taxes were raised they would leave. No difference from the attitude of some of the Israeli tycoons and American investment bankers.
Demonstrator in Kikar Rabin, October 29, 2011