Marching towards Balfour street, Prime Minister’s Netanyahu official residence. October 24, 2020, Jerusalem. Credit: CW.
Waking up - Israel Rising
Israel is in a huge crisis. The coronavirus exposed the underlying political impasse and corruption, nepotism and favoritism. The weaknesses of the health, education and welfare systems, neglected for years, are now glaring for all to see. The prime, or crime minister if you will, has taken advantage of the health crisis to call a state of emergency and enable a mega abuse of our democracy and the checks and balances systems. His prime purpose behind these actions seems to avoid, delay and subvert his impending trial.
These manipulations did not escape the public’s attention. A massive, if decentralized, protest movement has risen and grown in the past months, massive enough to make Netanyahu shake in fear. Yet, instead of going the dignified way – quitting and letting the courts decide his case without interruption – he holds on to his chair and responds by using ever harsher tactics to quell the dissent.
Unfortunately, but not incidentally, the movement is largely ignored by the international media, and intentionally belittled by the national mainstream media. I am trying to close a possible gap for those who haven’t been following the course of events.
Talent at the service of the protest movement
The beautiful flag above was distributed anonymously over the Net. I discovered, incidentally, that it was a gift by a graphic designer, alias CW, to the protest movement. A lot of talent and creativity have been mobilized on behalf of the anti-Netanyahu uprising.
The flag illustrates faithfully how our country looks these days every Thursday and Saturday, and oftentimes on other days of the week. The author also filmed the video clip above showcasing the magnitude of the protest. In the upcoming posts I will show some innovative shapes the movement takes around the country.
Curses on the other side
The protest opponents, generally referred to as “Bibists”, on the other hand, excel mostly at curses and foul language, unfounded allegations against the protesters (“leftist traitors”) and name-calling. The path to violence seems to have also largely been cleared and approved by the authorities, if covertly. Police tend to ignore threats to the protesters, while inventing pretexts to detain the demonstrators and give them fines.
Israel is rising. And to all the cynics and skeptics – it will NOT revert to what it was. The movement will not die down until at least some of its goals are achieved and lasting change is set in motion. The primary goal, of course, is to unseat out so-called “Crime Minister”, Binyamin Netanyahu, also known as Bibi, after years in power. Beyond that immediate goal, there is talk about transforming the system in a more fundamental manner, but I will not get into that here.
Crime Minister, by the way, is also the name of one specific protest movement.
Fighting for Her Life - Crime Minister and Israel Rising
From democracy to “regime”
Since the coronavirus crisis erupted, our democracy has transformed in front of our eyes into a “regime”.
In the past, Israelis getting into trouble abroad could count on their country to have their back, make every effort to extradite them home. If they got lost in the Himalayas or the Andes, Israel would send a search team and turn every stone to find them! When Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier, was captured by the Hamas terrorist organization, Bibi exchanged a 1000 terrorists to bring him home…We felt that Israel was a homeland we could trust and count on.
The corona crisis helped to merge, almost seamlessly, with our crime minister’s schemes to avoid his trial and the demonstrations against him. The once generally-friendly police (at least to the bulk of the population) has turned into a brutal force. Policepeople indiscriminately push and arrest elderly protesters with glorious resumes in the military and academia. They shackle young girls caught momentarily without a mask on the beach, steal musical instrumetns from demonstrators, and do not even shy away from attacking women on wheelchairs. Undercover agents pull anti-government protesters into civil cars in dark alleys. Needless to say, none of them keep social distancing. Rules are made on the spot and enforced. The point is to intimidate the demonstrators and coerce the general public into compliance and cooperation.
Generally those things were not known to citizens of this country previously, with some exceptions.
Things like these happened in “dark regimes” around the globe, not here.
Chanting “Revolution” in front of Bibi’s Residence on Balfour st. , October 24th, 2020
Neither Right, Nor Left, We go Straight*
The Left has traditionally claimed that tactics used in the so-called territories were bound to spill over into Israel itself. I refrain from relating to that argument here due to its complexity, but will say that since 1967 (the so-called “occupation”) and until now, scenes like these were rare inside Israel itself.
Moreover, the current protest movement spans the political gamut from left to right with every shade in the middle. That is true despite governmental efforts to cast us all as “leftists” and “anarchists”. Under our Crime Minister’s persistent policy to wipe out and demonize the opposition, the word “leftist” has turned into a curse word in many circles, the same way Trump uses “socialist”. But many former Bibi voters are joining the movement. The consensus is that we have a corrupt crime minister, and he must go. There is a democracy in our country and our job is to protect it. Hard-core “Bibists” hail the crime minister as “king”. This is a lamentable legacy from the countries their families originally came from, and reflects a lack of success in integration into a modern, open society.[*”Yashar” means both “honest” and “straight” in Hebrew]
And what if the policeman is my former student?
Lately, thoughts I never imagined I’d have, keep creeping into my mind: Could the policeman facing me be a former F-student of mine, now seeking an opportunity for “revenge”? Will a nasty neighbor tell on me that I did not wear a mask when I went out to throw the garbage?
This is Israel, I remind myself – Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East – yet these thoughts keep coming, and that’s why I am fighting, that’s why we must fight, and that is why I am writing about Israel Rising.
Submarines and media coverage
The mainstream media in Israel appears more and more to report what the ruling family (yes, this is what it is) and their sycophants want to hear. They do not report what the incipient dictator wishes to hide or cover up, like the demonstrations.
Especially infuriating was the coverage of the country-wide submarine convoy, protesting Bibi’s most serious scandal. The well-coordinated operation invovled thousands of participants, dozens of “submarines” and tens of thousands of supporters along the road from the very north of the country to Jerusalem. This awesome display, which entailed a major effort – organizational as well as technical – had barely received a half minute’s mention at the end of the news on one of the mainstream channels…
Turning on the TV the night after this event was the moment it hit me that we can no longer call ourselves a proper democracy.
Marching through Jerusalem’s governmental district to protest Bibi’s corruption and demand Investigation into the Submarine Affair
For more information about the submarine scandal read here . The Movement for Quality Government in Israel is now publishing a series of video clips (in Hebrew), based on rigorous research and study of the evidence and materials.
Protesters demand that the so-called case 3000 (The Submarine and Naval Vessels Affair) not be shoved into a dusty drawer and be subject to the law of limitations. We demand a thorough investigation by an independent committee to delve in-depth into Bibi’s alleged personal involvement. This is even more pertinent and crucial than his other three indictments (cases 1000, 2000 and 4000) for which he is going on trial in January, since on this sensitive topic, our prime minister has allegedly compromised Israel’s very security, the holy of holies, in exchange for monetary favors. Moreover, he had so far succeeded to push it out of public view.
You can read about the awesome cross-country submarine flotilla protest in my next post in this series.
Demonstrating in front of 12TV headquarters in Neve Ilan. October 27th, 2020
Confronting the media and the Knesset
In the wake of this media transgression, a demonstration was called in front of 12TV headquarters in Neve Ilan near Jerusalem, and another one in front of the 13TV center in Tel Aviv.
I heeded the call, which unfortunately, did not draw sufficient media attention, even on the social networks. I felt it was of prime importance. You can have the best product, or be totally just and beautiful, but if you can’t market it, you are bound to fail.
We stood behind the police rails, saw the employees leave the station at the end of the day shift. At best, they stared at us through their car windows, as we waved our flags and chanted slogans. At worst, they ignored us altogether. None thought to stop, talk to us, film the event. One or two beeped in support, but we were told there were other companies located on the compound…
However, due to unfortunate developments, many of us, demonstrators, left mid-protest on an urgent call to the Knesset. We received an alert that chairman Yariv Levin, Bibi’s sycophant, has just violated the Knesset’s authority, and overturned a majority decision to form an independent investigation committee into the submarine affair…
Many say this was the moment when Israeli democracy expired its last free breath…
BUT THAT IS ALSO WHY ISRAEL IS NOW RISING!
Shoestore owner burning his wares in protest for government lockdown
The economic disaster and government hypocricy
The pandemic hit Israel hard economically. Small businesses received close to zero support from the government in return for their sacrifice, much less than in other western countries. Unemployement is at an all times high. The government says there is no money to enable schools to teach in so-called capsules, yet Bibi and Knesset members seem to have time on their hands to grant themselves perks out of the dwindling public funds.
The economic disaster now confronting Israel is unprecedentent this century, and having the “public representatives” behave as if the treasurey was their personal pocket (Bibi and family are famous for not carrying wallets or credit cards…) just serves to inflame the revolutionary anger.
Two photos from my neighborhoods shopping center during the second lockdown. The religious outlet is open, but the small woman-run clothing boutique is closed; the alcohol shop is open, but the small haberdashery, also female-run, is shuttered. Fines have just been raised from NIS5000 to NIS10,000
Coronavirus, Crime Minister and Sand in Our Eyes
Balfour demonstration at newly named “Democracy Square” in Jerusalem, viewed from above. November 2020. Source: MYnet.
The Coronavirus crisis cast a sharp light on the shortcomings and mismanagement of our government, as well as on the corruption, governmental overreach and the rule through hate-mongering, incitement, divisiveness and nepotism. Our beautiful democracy is in grave danger.
Seeds for this sorrowful state of affairs, though, have been sown way back in the past. Some say the watershed was Rabin’s murder 25 years ago today. Nonetheless, as long as the economic and security state of the country was, by and large, reasonable, we the people, ignored the portents.
Theocracy? Oligarchy? Here? No way!
The sand thrown over our eyes since the horrors Israelis suffered during the Second Intifada has now started to disperse. Fear of an external enemy does not justify the creeping crawl of theocracy, oligarchy and corruption into the public sphere. With all due respect, the Defense budget doest not justify the gutting of Education, Health and Welfare, especially when those in power don’t shy from delving into the public pocket to finance their personal extravagances.
And the “special case” of the ultra-orthodox
Uniquely to our political system, Bibi is granting the ultra-orthodox, a sub-population which does not serve in the army or work, endless concessions and perks for their votes and loyalty. And now, when his coalition is shaky, crime minister further exceeds their previous privileges. During the pandemic, public monies kept flowing to yeshivas and religious establishments, while only a trickle reached the unemployed and furloughed. Synagogues held crowds before the devastated small businesses got permissions to open their doors (see pic above). Religious schools opened their gates in September while secular kids were asked to stay home and study on Zoom.
We, the productive sector, are fined heavily for every tiny transgression, while this sub-population is largely allowed to ignore the rules. Outrageously, this is the de-facto policy, even as the rates of infection in ultra-orthodox neighborhoods are the highest in the land. Suggestions by medical experts to close certain “red” neighborhoods and let the rest of us live our lives, were overruled by Bibi’s political considerations and screams of “discrimination”, so all of us had to close. To top this list, the salaries of thousands Kashrut suprvisors keep streaming into their bank accounts while the restaurants they are supposed to oversee go bankrupt.
The limits of compliance
Israelis have proven over and over again our willingess to mobilize and sacrifice when our country is in real, actual danger. Reservists show up in minutes if called. Citizens were even cajoled into lending money to the government under certain circumstances…
However, the coronavirus crisis, as severe as it is, does not qualifly as such an emergency. The limited loss of life, mostly among elderly with serious pre-conditions, does not justify the loss of our democracy and the extreme measures taken at the larger public’s expense, liberties and decency. Many people are not willing to comply with the senseless, inconsistent restrictions and regulations. The state responds by increasing the fines and encouraging police brutality.
But while the government is used to count on our compliance, this has now come to the breaking point. Israel is rising.
In the following posts in this series I will describe briefly some of the demonstrations now taking place all around the country and the issues raised.
You can also take a look at my Flickr account, where I save all my protest photos and videos to date.
"Israel's Best" is on the Streets
My original intention in writing “Israel’s Best”
Generally, people who do not follow the news on social media are largely ignorant of what is happening inside Israel. Over the years, world news was interested in our country almost exclusively in a way that would put us in a bad light with regard to the Palestinian situation. Otherwise, the country, per se, simply did not interest “the world”.
I thought this needed to be rectified, which is why I embarked on my project – “Israel’s Best” – within the context of my Planetsdaughter blog. The idea was to help correct the image and cast light on new, different angles than those “the world” is commonly used to seeing.
Then came the Coronavirus…
…and all my plans for “Israel’s Best” evaporated into thin air.
How can I write about our wonderful festivals, when “gatherings” are no longer permitted, no end in sight?
How can I write about our superb food now that all restaurants and colorful markets are closed and many are going bankrupt?
I did not make it to write about our rich and varied leisure culture, as by the time I got to write about it, the government shut it all down. Now whatever is done takes place clandestinely in forests and private apartments, like Falun Dafa in China or Jewish life in the Soviet Union…
Another plan was to give tribute to the marvellous endurance of small business and street stores in the country, and how they keep surviving the chains and the malls. Yet, now it seems somebody is seizing an opportunity to destroy small business, physically and spiritually.
The Music Project is also in waiting. It is hard to engage my mind with the soulful, subtle and spirited music created and produced here, when I spend my time chanting protest songs and slogans down the streets…
The shaking foundations…
I named one of the sections of Israel’s Best “Israel’s healthy foundations”. So far just one post has been completed and published, while others are still in preparation. This is a pet project I particularly cherish and love, but now I feel that the foundations are actually shaking under our feet. I was so proud, for example, that despite our ongoing security situation, we were not like the United States with all the gun craze and the militias. Yet today it appears that Bibi is turning the Israeli police itself into his personal militia…
The Parks Project and the Blue and Green – Back to the Land sections seem to have survived the crisis better. The Parks Project was actually an offspring of coronavirus lockdown #1, since once it was lifted and we could go back to the parks (but not abroad), I decided to take on the beauty of this land and write about it. Then came lockdown #2 and the parks closed once again…
A personal confession
Since the coronavirus crisis broke upon us, I had a hard time concentrating on my writing. My peace of mind has blown out the window, as I struggled with what was happening to my country. I became too angry, upset, confused and befaddled to be able to focus on “Israel’s Best”…
This week, though, I decided to try and make lemonade out of the lemons of my anger, frustration and sense of helplessness, and harness all those to write about the protest movement. The movement now commands so much of my time and attention anyway, I might as well write about it, inform the largely uninformed and misinformed world about what is happening here.
To clarify things without getting into the details of the argument, the second lockdown elucidated the conflict of interests of the government with the population, the corruption and the coverup. It gradually became apparent that Bibi was willing to put nine million people under home arrest and destroy the economy, only to stop the demonstrations in front of his house. We witnessed how no step was beyond him in trying to delay and undermine his trial for bribery, fraud and breach of trust. He is the only Israeli prime minister brazen enough to have not quit his post once he was suspected of maldoing. For him, the country’s welfare and its democratic institutions be damned. Heartlessly, he is willing to put millions at grave economic risk with dim prospects for their future, while he keeps pumping funds to his coalition partners, political cronies and the billionaire class.
By so doing, though, he has just aggravated the weight of all three of his indictments, plus some. And it seems he has forgotten that we were watching and registering his every move. Nostra culpa – some of us, myself included, were not vigilant enough before…
“Israel’s Best” is now on the streets
I hope the day I can write about our wonderful foods and festivals will not be long in coming, as well as the necessary serenity to write about them.
In the meantime I will elaborate more about Crime Minister and Israel Rising.
And let’s hope against hope, that when we win and Bibi finally leaves, that the convoluted Israeli political system will not spawn for us an even worse scenario.
Either way, we must try, and if we persist and work towards deeper structural changes, then maybe the lemonade will eventually get sweetened too.
Here I am at my funky best, drumming with the crowd that marched 8 days to reach our capaital from the north to demonstrate in front of the crime minister’s house. The pink Israeli flag has become one of the protest’s symbols, and one of my favorites, due to the combination of hope and femininity.