Israel: Land of Inequality and Injustice
by Stephen Lendman
Conditions go from bad to worse. Jews, Israeli Arabs, and Palestinians suffer.
Last summer, social justice protests erupted. Hoped for change never came. Promises made were broken. Betrayed Israelis demand rights they've been denied.
In May, they drafted a global manifesto. A social justice covenant followed. More on them below.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) explained the problem, saying:
"In the last two decades, the Israeli government has cut budgets and enacted a policy of extreme privatization. The State has dramatically withdrawn from its responsibility to provide housing, healthcare, education, employment and social welfare."
As a result, vital social services eroded. Others ended entirely. Equity and justice were spurned. Ordinary Israeli Jews are affected. Arabs are harmed most of all.
ACRI asked "What happened to us? How did Israel become a country impossible to live in with dignity?"
Over the last decade, housing assistance was more than halved. Help for renters was cut over two-thirds.
Healthcare spending is down over 40%. Education cuts are reflected in fewer classroom hours, lower teacher pay, downgrading their status, and markedly lower student achievement scores.
Unemployment is rising. Around two-thirds of Israelis earn subsistence wages. Women average a third less pay than men. Growing poverty affects employed and unemployed Israelis alike. Social safety net protections are vanishing. Israel no longer is fit to live in.
Social Justice Global Manifesto
Israel denies its people "freedom and dignity," it says. Earlier social justice victories were lost.
Success today "is defined in seeming opposition to the most fundamental values of humanity, such as solidarity and mutual support."
Anything not "promot(ing) competitiveness, selfishness and greed is seen as dysfunctional."
"This immoral ideology is reinforced by the monopoly of the mainstream media, the instrument that manufactures false consensus around this unfair and unsustainable system."
Israelis won't be silent, they say. They denounce the status quo. "Our effort states (it) clearly 'enough!' " Growing numbers are uniting for change.
They condemn the unequal distribution of state resources. "Here and now, we're back," they say.
"We have awakened, and not just to complain! Here and now, we aim at the true causes of the crisis: their policies and lies hidden in empty rhetoric."
They demand equity and justice alternatives. Public needs must be prioritized. They include:
(1) Free universal access to health, education through high levels, and housing.
(2) Free child care.
(3) Mandatory sick leave and holiday pay.
(4) Pensions for retirement in dignity.
(5) Minimum adequate income.
(6) Ending corporate welfare. Holding businesses accountable for their actions.
(7) The right to enough leisure time without sacrificing income.
(8) Food sovereignty to assure everyone has adequate amounts.
(9) Prosecuting perpetrators of environmental crimes.
(10) Substituting renewable energy for fossil fuels.
(11) Instituting universal environmental standards.
(12) Regulating financial speculation, abolishing tax havens, and establishing a financial transaction tax.
(13) Democratizing economic policies.
(14) Establishing direct democratic control of the global commons. Institutionalizing fundamental civil and human rights.
(15) Progressive taxation.
(16) Abolishing bank bailouts, too-big-to-fail ones, fiscal austerity, and corporate personhood.
(17) Democratizing the major media and business workplaces.
(18) Establishing a zero tolerance corruption policy.
(19) Minimizing military spending.
(20) Updating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to reflect new millennium realities.
Take to the streets for social justice, they say.
On July 1, Haaretz headlined, "Israel's protest movement drafts social justice covenant," saying:
Two basic principles are demanded:
(1) Eliminating inequality and poverty; and
(2) Prioritizing budgets "to get the wheels of development moving for all the country's citizens."
Covenant provisions call for establishing equitable living standards. Protesters want public services expanded and environmental sanity respected.
They call for greater "access to services (providing) health, education, housing, social welfare, personal safety and transportation."
They want the housing stock increased and socioeconomic gaps between central and outlying areas eliminated.
They demand raising taxes for Israeli corporations and rich elites. They call for halting the privatizations of public services, ending the practice of hiring low-wage contract workers in lieu of Israelis at fair pay, and lower prices for food and other essentials.
Forum for Social Justice leader Uri Matoki said:
Last "summer's protests put key problems on the agenda such as the distribution of capital, earning a livelihood and social justice."
"The protest included a lot of emotion and anger, but we thought we had to put something clear on the table - a document of demands that would include a proposal for fundamentally changing the system in Israel."
"So we drafted an appropriate agenda. Basically, we're proposing an Israeli New Deal based on clear principles."
"We're demanding a different policy that takes into account the people, not just profits. We figured we'd enlist as many groups in the economy as possible, such as protesters, members of the political system, and first and foremost players in civil society."
Protest leaders hope to enlist support from prominent Israelis. Former Sephardi Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's daughter, Rivka Chakutai, backs them. So does Hebrew University student union chair Itai Gutler.
Conditions for most Israeli Jews are appalling. Arab citizens have no rights. They face much harder times.
Palestinians suffer most of all. Institutionalized repression affects all facets of their daily life. Gazans are suffocating in the world's largest open-air prison. West Bank and East Jerusalem Palestinians live under brutal occupation conditions.
Previous articles explained how Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces and police enforce militarized Israeli authority.
On July 1 and 2, they attacked peaceful protesters. Arrests, injuries and hospitalizations resulted. Stop the Wall.org reported them.
On July 5, it headlined "Palestinian youths assert right to protest over repression," saying:
On July 3, demonstrators again came out for the third straight day. Crowds assembled in Ramallah. Day one participants protested against Abbas inviting Kadima head Shaul Mofaz for talks.
He and Netanyahu partnered in unity governance. He's Israel's vice prime minister. Previously he served as IDF Chief of General Staff. He also held various ministerial posts. He's responsible crimes of war and against humanity.
Palestinians denounced Abbas' invitation. Doing so resulted in heads bashed, bones broken and other injuries.
Palestinians for Dignity organized July 3 protests. They won't submit to PA complicity with occupation harshness.
Over 1,000 assembled. Rumors spread about PA forces repeating days one and two violence. They didn't materialize. They were spread to minimize turnout.
Marchers were "noisy and energetic." Journalists and others wore protective flack jackets. Some had helmets attached to their belts.
Police, security forces, and presidential guards blocked their approach to PA headquarters. Marchers didn't challenge them.
However, they expressed vocal discontent against arrogant PA leaders allied with Israeli authorities against their fundamental rights. They also denounced the illusion of achieving them "through US-backed negotiations."
Palestinian preventive security forces (mukhabarat) photographed and videotaped crowds as they passed along Al-Irsal Street. Perhaps participants will be singled out for retribution. Some may be imprisoned.
Nonetheless, demonstrators asserted their "ownership of the street." They denounced spurious PA/Israeli negotiations. They were spared violence days one and two featured.
For now, what follows remains uncertain. More than Palestinian shock troop violence is needed for another Intifada.
Demonstrators know they're vulnerable once images of those present are "catalogued and processed." If arrests result and/or issues raised aren't addressed, larger protests may follow.
Growing numbers of Palestinians know PA leaders betrayed them. Eventually they'll marshal efforts to remove them.
A Final Comment
In late June, Israeli police confronted peaceful social justice protesters. Excessive force was used. Numerous injuries and arrests resulted.
Israeli streets resembled Cairo's Tahrir Square and areas near the now destroyed Bahrain Pearl Roundabout when security forces targeted peaceful protesters in both countries.
They also replicated harsh crackdowns against US Occupy Wall Street protesters and similar demonstrators across Europe.
Confronting peaceful assemblies violently reflects police state harshness. Be'er Sheva protesters face restrictions way beyond permissible bounds.
Haaretz called them "unacceptable conditions," saying:
Free expression rights are challenged. Demonstrators "may not hold up signs that harm the State of Israel's reputation."
Leaders will be held responsible if participants do so. Suppressing free expression "empt(ies) virtually any protest of all content."
"But no less troubling is the implied identity between the state's image and government policy. We must not acquiesce in attempts at censorship of this kind, which are more suitable to regimes that Israel boasts of not resembling."
Holding leaders responsible reflects efforts to suppress the right to demonstrate. Moreover, restrictive conditions ordered by a high-level police commander is especially troubling.
ACRI expressed outrage saying:
What happened isn't an example of "a junior policeman who exercised faulty judgment in a pressured situation, but a station commander acting after calm reflection in a way that completely violates his function and exceeds his authority."
Moreover, it suggests continued crackdowns ahead. Like in America and increasingly across Europe, Israeli freedom is becoming an endangered species.
Rights Jews once had are fast disappearing. How long they'll put up with what no one should tolerate remains to be seen.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book is titled "How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War"
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.