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07/08/11

  19:10:40, by admin   . Categories: politics, globalisation, Middle East, cosmopolitanism

From Tahrir to Israel: "Protest movements inspire greater human understanding"

“Irhal” (=“Leave!”), says the banner in Arabic (a slogan from the Egyptian revolution), directed at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and below in Hebrew: “Egypt is here!”

One of the most interesting things about the Egyptian Revolution is its global impact. Is has inspired people and movements around the world, from Spain to Greece, the USA, and now even Israel.

Anthropologist Ted Swedenberg posted a picture of this banner on his blog (that he borrowed from the progressive Israeli blog +972).

Initially mostly ignored from mainstream media, hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the street and demanded social justice and “people before profits”. It is one of biggest waves of protests in decades in Israel.

Via an announcement by Jason Baird Jackson I learned about the blog by a PhD student who on her blog provides “an ethnographic glimpse of what is happening on the streets and in the parks there now”, both in texts, photos and videos. She has been in Israel for about a year to conduct research in a “multi-cultural” and “multi-ethnic neighborhood” in the Tel Aviv-area.

Her posts about the Israeli revolution are fascinating.

The last few days have been really moving, she writes in her most recent post One People, One Revolution - not because of the continually growing masses that are protesting, “but because of a few moments in which I saw how a movement like this can inspire greater human understanding and connection. I was humbled to watch as people on opposite sides of a fence broke it down, and saw each other for more than they knew the other to be until then.”

This uprising cuts across the population. “Lefties” joined Right-wingers and Zionists, single mothers protested together with students, African refugees and migrant workers, “Arabs and Jews”. As in Tahrir Square, tent cities have been established.

In Rothschild Boulevard, hundreds have been camping out in tents for two weeks now, the researcher writes:

The Rainbow Child-like scene is a growing communal living situation complete with a large shared kitchen (with fridge and composting/washing/recycling stations), first aid tent, salon-like “living rooms” set up every few hundred feet… people gather in circles and play music, smoke nargila/hooka, talk about the protest, read, and sleep there all night. They then wake in the morning, go to work, and return “home” to their tents in the evening when the weather has cooled only so immeasurably much.(…)

In the southern Park Levinsky, by the Central Bus Station — where most of the African and refugees and migrant workers live and congregate — the more radical “lefties” have set up camp, and hold nightly gatherings and dinners. On Friday night, hundreds of African men gathered around a group of drummers/dancers from Ghana who performed at the birthday celebration of one of the protesters, for example. It was an incredible scene that didn’t feel anything like the ’60s Woodstock scene on Rothschild, but which also brought people together in revolutionary spirit.

One of the protesters said:

(T)he government tries to make everyone feel as if they’re alone, as if they’re against each other, so that they can remain in control, in power. We must unite, and Tel Aviv with all its populations must be one.

Read her posts and watch her videos:

>> One People, One Revolution

>> A new generation is living in tents

>> The people demand social justice

While according to many headlines, people protested “against high cost of living”, the the frustration runs deeper, as the New York Times explains:

The shift from state-dominated quasi socialism to markets and privatization — a shift that arguably saved the country from economic collapse in the 1980s — has been accompanied by some sense of loss of community, spiking prices and the accumulation of great wealth in a few hands. (…) Israel’s majority Jewish citizens feel they have suppressed their individual needs for the perceived good of the community over the course of many wars.

Famous Israeli Writer Amos Oz is quoted who in an article in Haaretz states:

The heart of this protest is the affront and outrage over the government’s indifference to the people’s suffering, the double standard against the working population and the destruction of social solidarity.

The heart-warming sights of the tent cities spreading through Israel’s cities, of the doctors marching for their patients, of the demonstrations and rallies are in themselves a delightful revival of mutual fraternity and commitment. After all, the first thing these demonstrators are saying, even before “social justice” and “down with the government,” is: “We are brethren.”

A similar local cosmopolitanism was the fundament of the uprisings in Egypt. People unitied in order to fight inequalities and rebuilt the nation.

Sociologist Honaida Ghanim is one of many people who are certain that the recent events in Egypt and Tunisia had a large impact on the Israeli protest movement. In an interview with Amira Hass in the paper Haaretz, she says explains:

On the one hand, there is neo-liberalism and globalization that have resulted in an unacceptable gap between the wealth of the state and individuals and the harshness of life for the masses. On the other hand, these are similar tools – online social networks, with Facebook heading the list, which had a far-reaching effect on the media.

But she also points out that many Pakestinians feel rather indifferent towards the protests. No connections are made to the occupation.

But the current crisis is an opportunity for Israelis to understand that they too are victims of the occupation, two Palestinian activists, Nariman al-Tamimi and Afaf Ghatasha, stress:

All the tear gas grenades thrown at us in demonstrations cost money which cannot be spent on improving social conditions for Israelis.”

and the protests will in Sociologist Honaida Ghanim’s view allow the Palestinians to see that “Israeli society isn’t one-dimensional, that it is complex, that it shouldn’t be flattened, that it has struggles and oppressed classes of its own.”

Here a Al Jazeera feature:

SEE ALSO:

Saba Mahmood: Democracy is not enough - Anthropologists on the Arab revolution part II

Thesis: Neoliberal policies, urban segregation and the Egyptian revolution

Lila Abu Lughod: “In Israel and Palestine we have an amazing opportunity”

Ethnographic study of anti-corporate globalization movements

What anthropologists can do about the decline in world food supply

– Use Anthropology to Build A Human Economy

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