Thousands Expected at First Social Protest Rally After Netanyahu Tax Hikes

Protest comes mere days after two prominent social protest movements declared that they would unify in order to aid the cause; activists: unification is a publicity stunt.

Thousands of Israelis are expected to participate in a series of social protests in Tel Aviv on Saturday, days after two streams within the larger social protest movement decided to join forces earlier in the week.

On Thursday, social protest leaders and those of the Israeli Forum for Equal Service announced that they would team up for the Tel Aviv rally, which will rally for universal military service and against the government's tough economic measures.

"This isn't only a young people's campaign," said students union chairman and social activist Itzik Shmuli at a news conference yesterday. "It's the campaign of everyone who bears the economic, social and defense burden - everyone who cares how this country will look in a few years."

According to Shmuli, "A series of decisions in recent weeks struck at the middle class and lower-income earners. The new economic decrees threaten to crush the middle class and grind down the weaker ones .... They're the outcome of a government policy that hits people who give and serve. This has to stop."

Social protest leader Stav Shaffir also took part in the conference.

"It's time to go to an all-out war," she said. "The games are over."

Boaz Nul, head of a movement fighting draft evasion, said the activists organized the rally because "things have come to a head. This week proved that the government is cut off. Two great historic opportunities to make a real change were squandered by a prime minister who gives free lunches to his allies - lunches that we pay for."

However, despite the bid for unification, many prominent social protest activists said that the move was a publicity stunt, that that there was in fact no real unity.

According to the activists, the joint rally does not represent their views, and serves mostly the personal political interests of several of its organizers. In addition, activists have added that they will organize a separate rally, due to begin in Tel Aviv's Habima Square, and to end near the government's office in the city's Kaplan St.

Some activists, additionally, said that they intended to spend the night at that location.

Social protest - Nir Keidar - 21.7.2012
Nir Keidar