Israel's Social Protest Movement Must Go On

The popular protest movement, which aspired to bring about a profound social revolution, is gradually becoming no more than a consumer revolt against dairy concern Tnuva.

Haaretz Editorial
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Haaretz Editorial

Dismantling the flagship encampment of the social protest movement on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv two days ago was inevitable. Even those who are concerned about the fate of the handful of remaining residents, most of them homeless, could not agree to the continued existence of the encampment in the heart of the city. The tent village had become emptied of most of its residents and content. But the act of evacuation was also a symbolic one: It symbolized the end of the summer protest in its most familiar format.

As things look now, the greatest popular protest movement in Israel's history, which aspired to bring about a profound social revolution, is gradually becoming no more than a consumer revolt against dairy concern Tnuva.

Although the resignation of chairwoman Zehavit Cohen and the reduction in the prices of its dairy products are worthy achievements, they are not enough to sate the protest, which was much broader.

The fact that with the exception of Stav Shafir - who deserves honorable mention - the others leaders of the summer protest, the figures who became its symbol, were absent from the occasion of the evacuation on Rothschild, proves that the movement is in danger of dying out.

The leaders of the protest should have demonstrated identification with the evacuees in the encampment where it all began.

The danger that the protest will melt away was also reflected in the fact that even the Trajtenberg report, which did not meet all the demands of the protest but which the prime minister promised to adopt, did not receive the majority required for approval in the cabinet meeting two days ago.

The evacuation of the Rothschild tents and the postponement of the vote in the cabinet are bad news. They are liable to put an end to the most encouraging movement that has emerged in Israel in recent years, one that for a moment aroused civic society from its prolonged coma.

If things continue this way, nothing will remain of the protest movement except for a few slashed prices.

The government must approve both the spirit and the language of the Trajtenberg report as soon as possible. The ministers who oppose it for various reasons, including narrow political considerations, should be aware that they are sabotaging the achievements of the protest that was praised by almost all of them.

On the other hand, the protest leaders must quickly return to vigorous activity, so that all their work won't have been in vain. At stake is not only the future of the protest but the future of Israeli society, and failure now will be irreversible for many years to come.