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In order to truly bring about a change in Israel, the leaders of the protests should abandon the course of violence and focus on clearly stating what it is they wish to achieve and how they plan to achieve it

I should start this post by stating that Milo, my nine-month-old puppy, is alive and well and sitting beside me as I write these words. However, the past 48 hours have been the most tumultuous since I adopted him some two months ago.

This past Saturday, Milo jumped off the rooftop of a five-story building in the center of Tel Aviv. And as I run frantically down the stairs of the building, I couldn’t help but wonder what had brought about such strange behavior in such a gentle and loving animal. Could it be that dogs are really that similar to their owners? That Milo also suffers from depressive tendencies? Was it a cry for help? Or perhaps he had jumped since he could no longer bear Tel Aviv’s indian summer. As Jack Nicholson says in A Few Good Men, “I’m a fair guy, but this fucking heat is making me absolutely crazy.”

When I arrived at the scene on the ground floor, I saw Milo sitting in the shade, breathing heavily, and apparently shell-shocked from the five-story free fall. Miraculously he was unharmed and did not seem to be in any sort of pain. But just to be on the safe side, I decided to have him checked out. During the car ride to the veterinary hospital in Beit Dagan, I repeatedly drilled him for an explanation, but he simply stared silently back at me with his puppy eyes.

Early this morning Milo was discharged from the hospital with a clean bill of health. It turns out that since he had fallen on a large patch of bushes he did not sustain any injuries. It was only while I was signing the discharge papers that I finally realized why he had taken such an unimaginable leap of faith — it was his own way of protesting against the police brutality that was unleashed two weeks ago on protestors in Tel Aviv.

Milo occupies a bench on Rothschild Boulevard.
Milo occupies a bench on Rothschild Boulevard.

In the past month there have been several signs that last year’s social justice protests were about to stage a comeback. The question on everyone’s mind is, what shape will the protest take this time around? Are we in for another “Occupy Rothschild Boulevard?” Or, given the sense of disappointment from last year’s achievements, will the summer of 2012 mark the beginning of a more militant protest? This question may have been answered with the arrest of Daphni Leef and, two days later, more than 50 protesters, following a violent attack on three banks.

Unlike many others, I had come to believe that the 2011 protests had led to two significant changes in Israeli society. The first was a shift in the perception of the local tycoons, Israel’s version of the rich and famous. Prior to Occupy Rothschild, the tycoons were local celebrities and prominent members of the glitterati. Men wanted to be them, women wanted to date them, and kids wanted to dress like them on Purim. The Nochi Dankner mask was out of stock throughout the nation.

But then something happened. As the protests grew, the tycoons transformed in the public’s eye into evil masterminds who had seized the country’s wealth and robbed its population. Pictures of them smoking cigars and counting money appeared on signs in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Beersheba. They were now the enemy of the average Joe trying to make ends meet.

No more Ms. Nice Guy (photo credit: Roni Schutzer/Flash90)
No more Ms. Nice Guy (photo credit: Roni Schutzer/Flash90)

The second change was the involvement of the younger generation in the protest; my generation, often criticized for being self-absorbed and out of touch with reality, was nicknamed the “I” generation — iPod, iPhone, I want, I deserve. Yet it was youngsters in their mid-twenties who ultimately led the largest social protest in Israel’s history.

And it is these youngsters who have been sitting around all summer, just waiting for the signal to storm the Bastille once again.

Some felt that the violent outburst two weeks ago was the spark needed in order to reignite the social protests. They claimed that only a violent confrontation could lead to real change in the social and economic reality. The sentiment could be the result of growing up in a nation that reveres the use of force above all other things. It could also be the result of a romantic sentiment toward other protests such as the Vietnam War counterculture or the 1968 protests in France. But much to these people’s disappointment, the images of Daphni Leef’s arrest, and of the attacks on three different banks, did not serve as a “shot heard ’round the world.”

In fact they may have done the exact opposite.

Immediately following the arrests, several politicians began making the case that the true nature of the social justice protests had been revealed. That it was never more than a left-wing conspiracy orchestrated by delusional anarchists whose sole goal was to overthrow the Netanyahu-led government.

MK Miri Regev, who seems to be gunning for an appointment as a commentator on Fox News, was quoted as saying:

Who are these so-called “activists?” Aren’t they ultra-left wing activists who’ve been arrested in protests in the past? They are leftist anarchists operating against the nation.

'They doth protest too much!' (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
‘They doth protest too much!’ (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

One spin later, Leef’s images were being used to undermine the legitimacy of the protests rather than to serve as a testament to the brutality of the police in Tel Aviv.

In order to truly bring about a change in Israel, the leaders of the protests should abandon the course of violence and focus on clearly stating what it is they wish to achieve and how they plan to achieve it. The reason for the failure of the 2011 protest was its leaders’ insistence on hiding behind shallow slogans such as “here comes the welfare state” or “the people demand social justice” or “this is not a political protests but a social one.” They called for a redistribution of national resources without explaining where the money would come from. They called for a more just society without specifying what justice is. Ms. Leef and her peers have brought us all to the town square. Now the time has come for them to tell us where they plan on leading us.

About the Author
Ilan Manor is finishing his mass media studies at Tel Aviv University. He has previously contributed to the Jerusalem Post, +972 Magazine, the Jewish Daily Forward and On Second Thought magazine. His Hebrew-language blog has been featured several times in the Israeli press.