Israel's Social Protesters Are Not Just Naive Sushi Eaters

The young people who composed the protesters' list of demands understand economic and social policy, and social action; they champion demand-side economics, the basis of the welfare state.

The size of the protest on Saturday night clearly made a mockery of the slanderous statements about "Ashkenazi leftists eating sushi and smoking nargilas." You know these statements are false if you heard Yuval Seri, a teacher of physics and philosophy from Jerusalem's Katamon neighborhood; an Orthodox man who will soon attend a course for company commanders in the IDF reserves; the Israeli Arab author Oudeh Basharat; Rabbi Rafi Feuerstein, a founder of the liberal Orthodox group Tzohar; and Rabbi Benny Lau, founder of the Beit Morasha social justice institute.

To head off concerns that some of these young people's demands might be accepted, the neoliberal economic experts have rushed to explain that these people don't know what they're demanding. For years, the neoliberals have said the public is pleased with the current order. Suddenly, in three steamy weeks, it turns out that 90 percent of the public, including of course many Likud voters, support the motto "the people demand social justice."

Tel Aviv protest August 6, 2011 (Daniel Bar-On)
Daniel Bar-On

While Social Affairs Minister Moshe Kahlon is being sent to "close matters quietly" with the Likudniks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's people are trying to discover who the economic brains are behind the list of demands drawn up by the Dror Israel movement for a change in socioeconomic policies.

Netanyahu's people will certainly be disappointed to discover that no top economist was called in to advise the writers of the documents. The Dror Israel document was composed about six months ago, about the same time they published an edition of the 1951 book "The Economics of Employment" by Abba Lerner, the most prominent disciple of John Maynard Keynes and the father of the Lerner Index to measure the concentration of economic power.

The young people who composed the demands have a broad education in economic and social policy, and extensive experience in social action. As the historian Daniel Gutwein said on Friday, they oppose supply-side economics and champion demand-side economics, the basis of the welfare state.

They're not the ones who put up the first tents and they didn't write the first articles on Facebook. But they're very conversant with the material. No one needs to explain anything to them. On the contrary, they can do quite a bit of explaining themselves.