Ah, social justice. The rallying cry of last summer’s protests (sparked by the cottage cheese boycott) is back again. But this time, the social justice crowd isn’t the only group taking to the barricades, and the “revolutionaries” have to scream and kick to make themselves heard.
Sometimes, they kick the wrong people. Just ask organizer Daphni Leef.
With the appearance and speaking style, as well as the critical thinking skills, of a 14-year-old, Leef is back in the spotlight. At a Saturday night protest two weeks ago, she resisted arrest, scuffling with police and suffering a fractured wrist and rib.
The media leapt on the footage. Every TV station and Internet website showed the young woman on the ground, surrounded by uniformed police who beat her. No one bothered to ask what led up to the final, violent confrontation (whoever filmed the dramatic shots of Leef on the ground either turned on the camera only after she was already down or chose to send out a truncated version of the incident.)
Based on the film, most viewers reasonably enough assumed that this was a case of police brutality. It certainly appeared to be a case of police stupidity – really, did it not occur to any of the commanders that someone in the vicinity might have an iPhone handy? But what if it the incident was actually far more insidious?
What if this summer’s social justice protests – essentially a middle-class hissy fit devoid of any meaningful proposals for policy change – are a blind? What if Leef’s lust for the limelight, and the willingness of the social activists to follow her lead, are playing directly into a government agenda by diverting the public’s attention from the baker’s dozen of simultaneous, complex crises that need to be addressed?
You’d think that the social justice movement would realize that acts like breaking bank windows not only serve no purpose, but also detract from any shred of credibility the “movement” might have had. Not to mention that the more protesters who get arrested, and the longer they are detained, the less effective they can be – except in grabbing headlines.
The knee-jerk reaction of the protest movement to being told that its members, like everyone else in the country, have to follow certain rules, seems to be to respond with more disorganized provocation. Last Friday, demonstrators (who did not have a permit) tussled with police on Rothschild Blvd in Tel Aviv. The event was broken up – only to be followed on Saturday evening with ANOTHER unauthorized protest, which ended in arrests. When asked why no one had applied for a permit, one of the organizers explained that they hadn’t “had time.”
Two nights ago in Jerusalem, the social justice crowd once again took to the streets – without a permit – calling Mayor Nir Barkat a “dictator.”
Are they really this childish, or could a small group of ringleaders (probably not Leef) be acting in complicity with the government to encourage the demonstrations to unravel, ensuring that they stay at the top of the news sites? Or is it the internal security forces who have been instructed to keep the pot boiling through the use of completely counterintuitive tactics, such as trotting out the “Raccoon” – an Advanced Observation Vehicle for Intelligence Gathering at the most recent Tel Aviv protest?
The Raccoon, unlike its quiet and furtive namesake, is the size of a fire truck, topped with equipment that looks like it was pilfered from an arch-villain in a James Bond film. In a country whose defense sector has developed a mind-boggling array of intel-gathering gadgets (including robot insects), if the police’s real goal was to discreetly gather information on protest participants, why would they go out of their way to make it so obvious? Was hauling out the Raccoon intended as deterrence, or as a distraction?
The Raccoon made headlines. Daphni Leef, unsurprisingly, took the bait, telling journalists that “It’s inconceivable that while citizens in the South don’t even have functioning shelters, Israel’s defense budget is used for trying to thwart and frighten a non-violent civilian protest.”
With the battle royal looming over the Tal Law, the evacuation of the Givat Ulpana neighborhood in Beit El, the gay and lesbian community’s justified outrage over homophobic comments by MKs, and the issue of Israel’s illegal migrants finally reaching boiling point – and, until the recent fragile truce, escalation with Hamas et al in Gaza – the government has its hands full.
Dirty deals have to be done, and ministers need the media off their backs so they can wheel and deal and keep themselves in power for another term. The media is loath to oblige, unless it gets hold of some breaking news, which is exactly what the social justice camp is supplying. Rather than running a well-thought out campaign designed to bring about real social change, the movement is holding a collective temper tantrum. What we all need to ask is – who benefits?