|Southwest Asia News Digest
Israeli Mass Strike Protest Draws Over 300,000
Aug. 7 (EIRNS)In the third consecutive week of protests over galloping inflation, over 300,000 people marched together in the mass protests across Israel on Saturday, Aug. 6, according to Israeli police estimates. Approximately 300,000 people gathered in Tel Aviv, 20,000 in Jerusalem, 3,000 in Kiryat Shmona, 5,000 in Modi'in, 1,000 in Hod Hasharon, and 1,000 in Eilat. Protesters chanted "The people demand social justice," and "An entire generation demands a future." And on Kaplan Street, one of the centers of the protest signs demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, "Resign. Egypt is here."
What began three weeks ago as a tent city protest against the high cost of housing is now a coordinated nationwide movement against the breakdown of Israel's economy and society. Reportedly the largest social protest demonstration in Israeli history (other than peace demonstrations), nearly 5% of Israel's 7.4 million population was marching in the streets, with much broader support. Israel's economic breakdown is an outgrowth of the global breakdown, intensified by Israel's massive funding of settlements and garrison-state costs. The mass strike has found its way into Israel.
At least 28,000 peoplenearly double last week's turnoutgathered in Jerusalem's Paris Square near the Prime Minister's residence after marching from the center of town. People from the tent encampment in Independence Park joined in as the protesters passed by.
Nahum Barnea, a writer for the Yedioth Aharonoth daily, wrote Aug. 7 that the protest in Tel Aviv, is "the biggest display of dissatisfaction in Israeli history. They were not anarchist, not leftist, but the people of Israel. You would have seen an entire apathetic nation, switched off, hopelessthat has come alive."
Fearful of the spreading protests, Netanyahu made an emergency announcement that a special commission to address the "soaring" cost of livingbut it will be headed by none other than the former economic advisor who devised the current austerity program for Netanyahu, Manuel Trajtenberg.
The youth leaders of the mass movement have called for a million-person march on Sept. 3, although that goal may be reached sooner.
Arab and Jewish Israelis Join in Mass Protests
August 8 (EIRNS)Israeli and American Jews in the media are asking "why is the America ignoring and blacking out the mass protests in Israel." In the United States, where "everything" Israel demands becomes immediate news, and often the subject of Congressional hearings and resolutions, why are demonstrations that represent 5% of the entire population being covered up? These questions have been raised in publications such as Salon, the Forward, various blogs, and English-language websites in Israel such as the alternative media, +972 magazine. On Aug. 7, +972 published a report according to which the vast majority of the Israeli population is backing the protests: "The support for the protest crosses sectors and party lines. According to an Aug. 3 Channel 10 poll, 88% of Israelis support the protest. The middle class parties lead the way: 98% of opposition Kadima voters, 95% of Labor voters, and even 85% of Netanyahu's Likud voters find the protest just," the website reported.
Spectacular photos of the Tel Aviv and other protests are available on +972's website,
One important aspect of the demonstrations is that the forces include Israeli Palestinians as well as Israeli Jews, and participants in the protests note that slogans and chants alternate between Hebrew and Arabic.
The continuing protests have become so vibrant that leaders in the Knesset are talking about early elections. Reuven Rivlin, the Knesset Speaker from Likud, says he believes elections will be moved ahead of the November 2013 date, reported Ha'aretz on Aug. 7. At the same time, Labor Party leader Amir Peretz announced that he will approach small parties, including the religious party Shas, to call for early elections based on the collapse of income and living standard for Israelis. Peretz, the former head of the Histadrut labor federation, which has allied with the youth leaders of the J14 movement that started the protests, also says that he will run again for leader of the Histadrut which he formerly headed.
Is Netanyahu Planning New Wars To Undermine the Mass Strike?
Aug. 2 (EIRNS)In the midst of the expanding mass strike, there is a danger that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu will launch a new war, either against Iran or closer to home. After many months of not carrying out security operations in the West Bank, the Israeli military conducted a "routine operation to arrest Palestinian suspects," killing the suspects and igniting riots in the Qalandiyah refugee camp; five soldiers were wounded.
An exchange of fire on the Lebanese border also took place, with Israelis claiming they were fired upon by Lebanese soldiers. The last time this happened was two years ago, when Israel in effect provoked an attack because it conducted "maintenance operations" on the Lebanese side of the border fence.
On Aug. 8, +972 journalist Rechavia (Rick) Berman published an article called "Netanyahu Must Go," saying that Bibi "spat in the eye" of the social protesters, ignoring their demands and imposing even more austerity. He also warns that to stop the protests, "Netanyahu is quietly trying to bring about a security crisis. The Israeli Air Force bombed Gaza a couple of times until the desired couple of flying pipe bombs flew out, but Hamas itself cracked down on the launchers. In the West Bank, the IDF is arresting people and carrying out raids deep in Area A. This weekend, an actor from the Freedom Theater in Jenin was arrested, and several hours later the theater itself was raided, as were villages in the Hebron area."