'March of the Million' Is Litmus Test for a New Israel

Mass rally planned for September 3 is the test of this country and Israeli society. It has been a long time since these two have faced such a test of maturity and civic behavior.

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

In two days we'll be able to see whether the town square turns into revolution square. These lofty and somewhat flowery words reflect a reality that is no less lofty and flowery: Anyone who does not show up on Saturday night does not exist. In other words, what happens in two days in Kikar Hamedina is the test of this country and Israeli society. It has been a long time since these two have faced such a test of maturity and civic behavior.

The people who don't show up on Saturday night will continue with their routines. They will continue to stare at the pointless chatter on Channel 2 and Channel 10, designed to make them lose their common sense. They will continue, without reason, to pay for most of their consumer goods more than almost everywhere in the world. They will continue to worship the rich who celebrate at their expense and act so ostentatiously. They will continue to make do with their insulting salaries. They will continue to abandon everything to the hands of a small group of cynical politicians who never really change and among whom there is little difference. And they will continue to keep their mouths shut in the face of our defense budgets and the scandalous settlements.

They will keep mum about all this, accept everything with irritating submissiveness and stay at home. Those who do not come out to Kikar Hamedina will tell the country that what was will be. What was was good and just. "Nothing can be done." The people who do not come to the square are not merely mute and blind citizens, they are apathetic citizens who are not doing their civic duty in an honest way.

Those who do show up on Saturday night will say they have had enough, that they are fed up. They will say they don't want to pay for a car double what is paid anywhere else in the world, or for a cellphone, a television, an apartment or cottage cheese. They will say they want a different kind of division of the resources, a different society, a different state. One event won't change all that, but after a month and a half of protests unprecedented in size, after a demonstration that must also be unprecedented in size, no politician will be able to arrogantly ignore this, cut off from the chanting on the square.

The achievements so far are unparalleled and impressive. Don't allow a group of conservative and skeptical analysts - a haughty and arrogant group that is lying in wait for the protesters to fail - to lead you astray. Just look at what seven weeks of protest, without getting dizzy, can do. Suddenly the ministers and tycoons are competing with one another over who can make what cheaper. Suddenly they're ashamed to raise prices. Suddenly they have discovered that the gasoline companies earn too much, as do the supermarket chains, banks, cellphone companies, food makers and whoever else.

Suddenly the salaried workers have found out that they earn too little, the parents that they are paying too much. And most importantly, suddenly they are all no longer prepared to make concessions. Not one day went by in the past seven weeks without a protest, without a march, without at least one demonstration. Doctors and homeless people, psychologists and taxi drivers, dairy farmers and Pri Hagalil workers, all of them together.

Suddenly a demonstration of 20,000 about a social issue becomes a "failure" here. Suddenly a news article about banks' profits in the past quarter - NIS 712 million for Leumi and NIS 563 million for Hapoalim - raises difficult questions that were never asked enough before. Until seven weeks ago, the banks were still priding themselves on their achievements, and their managers were boasting about their scandalous salaries. Now perhaps the rich will begin to be ashamed of their swinish wealth.

All of a sudden, a new political language has become acceptable here, a new political agenda, and politicians of a new species. The language is the language of popular protest, which was never the language of Israelis. The agenda is social; it too was never a typical Israeli agenda like the security and military agenda. And the new politicians are youngsters in their 20s, a generation that had never entered Israeli politics, the people who understand nothing about politics. Since they understand so little, they have achieved an amazing success: What was will never be again. Now the struggle is merely over the success rate.

The success rate will be determined on Saturday night in Kikar Hamedina. The question is, where were you until now, and where will you be on the evening of September 3? Because those who don't come out don't exist as citizens of this country.



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