On Saturday night tens of thousands of young Israelis poured onto the
streets of Tel Aviv in one of the biggest demonstrations in recent years.
The protest was a culmination of dozens of actions against the rising
prices of commodities, rent, and stagnation in wages. Two weeks ago a
spontaneous tent city was erected in one of the richest neighborhoods of
Tel Aviv. In the days following, the number of tents multiplied and tent
cities sprung up throughout the country. Anonymous activists organized
direct actions in various cities against banks, municipal buildings, and
grocers. The Real News’ Lia Tarachansky spoke to demonstrators in Tel
LIA TARACHANSKY, TRNN (VOICEOVER): On Saturday night, tens of thousands of young Israelis poured onto the streets of Tel Aviv in one of the biggest demonstrations in recent years. The protest was a culmination of dozens of actions against the rising prices of commodities, rent, and the stagnation in wages.
CROWD (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Revolution! What’s the answer to privatization? Revolution!
SHLOMIT, DEMONSTRATOR (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): We work hard, our salaries are reasonable, and yet it’s not even on our horizon to buy an apartment in this country. It’s not logical.
TARACHANSKY: Two weeks ago, a spontaneous tent city was erected in one of the richest neighborhoods of Tel Aviv. In the days following, the numbers of tents multiplied, and tent cities sprung up throughout the country. Anonymous activists organized direct actions in various cities against banks, municipal buildings, and grocers.
ALONLEE GREEN (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): This is a week of protests that will continue until Saturday. While the government favors the wealthy and banks over housing for the young, it builds luxury housing and gives tax breaks to the rich.
DEMONSTRATORS (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Our answer to the government: Revolution.
CROWD (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): The masses want social justice.
SIGN (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): The gov’t against the people, the people against the gov’t.
DEMONSTRATOR (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Bibi, Bibi, wake up. The students are in the streets.
YUSSI GUROVITZ (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Netanyahu is the one who made it possible. He’s the one who forced–for example, he forced the institutions, the savings funds, the pension funds to invest in the market, to invest in the market and the funds of Yitzhak Tshuva, Ben Dov, and other oligarchs. Netanyahu is the one who systemically destroyed our social services, and he’s the one who’s now trying to destroy the electricity company. The price of electricity is expected to rise in coming weeks by 20 to 25 percent. The reason is that the Ministry of Finance taxes a ton of diesel $970 (USD), but only $4 (USD) for a ton of fuel oil, when it knows the electric company isn’t allowed to use fuel oil. The purpose is to break the electrical company that has a strong union and to privatize it.
TARACHANSKY: The demonstration received such wide coverage throughout Israel that the next day, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to respond.
PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): We will do two major things this week. We will pass reforms in the committees of construction and planning. And secondly, we will identify specific, targeted steps with the purpose of helping young couples and students and other communities in need.
YOAV GOLDRING, CHAIRMAN, MUNICIPAL OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE, TEL AVIV-JAFFA: In historical times there was public housing in Israel, and when the Likud came to power they stopped all these programs, including, after selling the public housing to the residents, they stopped all building of new public housing. The prime minister head-started this in his economic policy for years. When Member of Parliament Ran Cohen has made the law of public housing, it was the prime minister, Netanyahu, that stopped, through the [incompr.] law, going by this law. And ever since Netanyahu is in power, you can see the social policy going to capitalists most, without any stops.
GUROVITZ (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): What this and previous governments succeeded in doing is convince us that there’s only one kind of policy. Security, peace, and the so-called higher priorities, and the economy? It doesn’t matter. Leave it to professionals. It’s not up for debate.
INBAL, DEMONSTRATOR: Every government only chooses to ignore the social issues and look at the political situation, at the security. And now we’re saying, enough. There are other things that we have to consider and take care of.
TRNN: The vast majority of the people here are Ashkenazi (white), young. These are not the people in Israel who are actually suffering. The people in Israel who are actually suffering are not white; most of them are not citizens.
INBAL: I don’t think it’s correct. The people who suffer are the middle class, okay? The people who are white, that are working, that come from a–you know, they have education, they want to raise families, and everything. And it feels like they are–you know, they’re supporting all the weak people in Israel.
DEMONSTRATOR (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Our peaceful protest brought out more than 60,000 people.
DEMONSTRATOR (SUBTITLED TRANSL.): There were a couple of protesters who crossed the street from side to side. A policeman came and arrested them. And then about 1,000 protesters blockaded the road; they blocked the road with garbage cans. Cops on horseback showed up. And at some point, one officer, whose face I’ll remember forever, he simply ran with his horse on top of the protesters.
TARACHANSKY: The demonstration ended when police on horseback rode into a crowd of protesters, seriously injuring at least one woman. Nearly 40 demonstrators were then taken to jail and released throughout the day on Sunday.