Sunday 30 October 2011

Massive rally swamps Tel Aviv

29 October, 2011

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Tel-Aviv and across Israel to protest against economic injustice. The protest’s organizers are demanding that the Knesset rewrite the 2012 budget "taking into account the demands of the people."

The latest rally comes after a wave of social protests swept Israel over the summer and culminated in September, when half a million Israelis came out onto the streets. But since then, the movement has slowly died out as protesters returned to their daily lives.

Israeli police say more than 30,000 people marched in Tel Aviv on Saturday night, and thousands more protested in Jerusalem.

As RT’s Paula Slier reports, many protesters are concerned that their story of social protest will be missed by the international community and media, which is now focused on unfolding events in Gaza.

In the past few hours, multiple rockets have been fired from Gaza into southern Israel. Several people have been injured. It came as retaliation after Israeli aircraft struck Palestinian militants in southern Gaza on Saturday, killing five.

Due to the latest exchange of fire, a planned protest in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba was canceled.

Paula Slier reports that people on the street say the timing of the Israeli airstrikes against Gaza is very convenient for the government, as it helps distract attention from Israel’s own domestic problems.

Demonstrators in Israel are demanding that the Knesset reconsider its 2012 budget, stated social activist Nicola Simmonds.

“We want the budget [debate] to consider the general good of the country,” she declared.

But the nature of this protest in Israel is different than those taking place in Europe and the United States, Simmonds remarked.

“Here in Israel we are not in an economic recession,” she noted. “Our problem isn’t that we don’t have enough money. Our problem is that it’s being mismanaged.”

Israeli journalist Bradley Burston says that the protesters are questioning resource allocation and sacred cows like the defense budget and settlements.

Even though the Israeli parliament recently outlined a number of economic reforms, the protesters are not satisfied because the proposals may – or may not – lead to change.

“It requires legislation which will come up in the next parliamentary session,” he said.  “More than that, there is a sense that some of the immediate response to the social protests, [like] the widespread lowering of prices by the major-marketing chains, for example, are being lost in a retrenchment: a policy of raising prices quietly back.”

The Israeli government, meanwhile, is pushing ahead with building new settlements on occupied Palestinian territory, and Burston believes that without proper scrutiny it will be much more difficult to stop the behind-the-scenes allocation of resources to new housing developments in the occupied territories.

“The questioning has a lot to do with transparency, with what actually is happening with the resources that are going to defense and are going to the settlements,” he said. “Even if the settlement activity is not blocked, the fact of the widespread nature of allocations and subsidies that go out to the settlements may change people’s minds eventually about the wisdom of continuing to build there.”

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