The Protest Wave Has Changed the Face of Israel's Political Map

The protesters don't speak in political terms, but they are highly political and they know what they're doing.

The detractors and supporters of the protest wave at least agree on one thing. The demonstrations are unfocused. What in the world do the protesters want other than a better life, what's the common denominator other than general dissatisfaction?

Leaving the prime minister's associates aside, most of the critics come from the pro-settlement right wing, and that's no coincidence.

Israel housing protest - Tali Mayer - July 26 2011.
Tali Mayer

These people portray the protests as coming from the very place the right loves to disparage as a threat: the heart of Tel Aviv with its secular residents who lack values.

The protests break all the rules dictated for so long by the settlers. They don't involve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the occupation, and they're open to like-minded individuals, so the demonstrations have seen voters from Likud, Meretz and Hadash standing shoulder to shoulder; protesters with skullcaps and secular people, Jews and Arabs.

This poses a threat because just when the pro-settlement right thought its delegitimization campaign against the left's remnants had been totally successful, a new political movement has sprung up that is refusing to cooperate with this old dichotomy and is calling for unconventional alliances.

This change is also the proper response to anyone concerned about blurred messages. One might suggest that these concerned people listen to the insults from the right to understand how political the protests are. The major threat, which those same settlers and their associates understood from the beginning, is not necessarily that the rules have been broken, but rather what is hiding under the surface that is just beginning to resonate.

Seemingly faceless activists, graduates of youth movements such as Hamahanot Ha'olim and Hashomer Hatzair, veterans of urban kibbutzim, Koach Laovdim - The Democratic Workers' Organization, and a host of other social activist organizations are beginning to see the fruits of the seeds they sowed over the past 10 years, based on a focused worldview. In addition to work and study, these young people have made supreme efforts for a range of social issues including housing, labor rights and health issues.

Now they are at the heart of the protests, leading and making their influence felt. Their opponents understand who they are very well, so these opponents are scared, because the protesters' worldview sees the settlements and the occupation as a hindrance to democracy and the welfare state. The protesters don't speak in political terms, but they are highly political and they know what they're doing.