by Stephen Lendman
Israeli Arabs always knew what increasingly affects Jews. Israel is unfit to live in. It's unfair, unjust and unsafe.
Rogue leaders control things. Wealth, power, privilege and dominance alone matter. Militarism and violence are prioritized over peace. Social justice rights go begging.
Dissent and resistance aren't tolerated. Last summer, Moshe Silman self-immolated. He died for justice. He left a note saying:
"The state of Israel stole from me and robbed me. It left me helpless."
"Two Housing and Construction Ministry committees rejected me, even though I had a stroke."
He was disabled and disheartened. He couldn't survive on his $582 monthly allowance.
"I can't even live month to month," he said. "I won't be homeless, and so I am protesting."
He blamed "the state of Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, for the humiliation that the weakened citizens go through every day, taking from the poor and giving to the rich."
In summer 2011, Israelis protested nationwide for social justice. Hundreds of thousands participated. People chanted "We want justice, not charity."
"Taking from the poor, giving to the rich, what a country of corruption."
Growing social and economic inequality affects most Israelis. Since the 1980s, policies disproportionately favored privileged elites.
Social benefits keep eroding. Wealth disparity gaps widen. Unemployment and poverty grow. Hunger and homelessness affect growing numbers.
Israelis face similar race to the bottom issues as Western societies. At issue is neoliberal harshness. Elitist interests alone matter. Popular needs go begging.
People finally react. No more they say. Grievances they want addressed include:
(1) Unaffordable housing. People are priced out of a place to live.
(2) High food and energy prices.
(3) Low wages and eroding social benefits.
(4) Onerous taxes on working households.
(5) Education and healthcare increasingly dependent on the ability to pay.
(6) Weak labor rights.
(7) Construction funding disproportionately allocated for settlement development. Affordable housing in Israel is disappearing.
(8) The high cost of raising children. Along with overpriced housing, it's the most common complaint raised.
Instead of addressing these issues responsibly, Israeli officials ignore them. Dominant party leaders speak with one voice. Only privilege matters. Most Israelis increasingly are on their own, sink or swim.
Social justice are four-letter words. Netanyahu, likeminded hardliners, and most other MKs spurn what matters most to most people.
Daphni Leef is an Israeli social justice activist. In 2002, she joined dozens of other pre-military-aged youths. They went public. They exercised their right to refuse. They wanted no part of Israel's "army of occupation."
In late spring 2011, Leef was ordered to vacate her Tel Aviv apartment. She'd lived there for three years. She spent fruitless weeks searching for affordable accommodations.
Rental prices are too high. In metropolitan Tel Aviv, they doubled in the past five years. Leef pitched a tent in Tel Aviv's Habima Square.
She went public on Facebook. She urged others to join her. Momentum built. Dozens became thousands. Israelis turned out nationwide en masse.
Social justice became a rallying cry. Leaf was a force to be reckoned with. It didn't go unnoticed.
On January 7, Haaretz headlined "Israeli social protest leader Leef charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest," saying:
On January 6, she was summoned to Tel Aviv's Magistrate Court. She learned about her indictment for the first time. On January 23, her initial hearing will be held. It's the day after general elections.
Summer 2011 and 2012 protests were peaceful. She's charged with participating in a riot, interfering with police, using force, and resisting arrest. Accusations are spurious.
Israeli authorities called social justice protests illegal. Police said demonstrators "disturbed the peace in a way that could intimidate the public."
Leef "led the angry demonstrators and encouraged their acts against inspectors and policemen," they claimed.
Accusations turned truth on its head. Leaf rejects them. "I've been fighting to make (Israel) a better place for a year and half now," she said.
"There's something crazy about receiving an indictment that has no basis in reality."
She and other organizers were targeted for doing the right thing. That's how police states operate. Leaf did nothing illegal. She's confident she'll prove it in court.
She didn't interfere with police, use force, or resist arrest. Police attacked, dragged and beat her. She was injured.
Gaby Lasky represents her. She called Leaf's arrest "a mistake. We'll prove that this indictment is an even greater mistake," she added.
Last June, Haaretz headlined "Police violence against Tel Aviv protesters should raise the alarm with Israel's authorities," saying:
On June 22, police brutalized protest leader Daphni Leef. They dragged her out of a group of peaceful demonstrators violently.
They threw her to the ground. To no avail, she tried to protect herself from repeated blows. She sustained injuries, including a broken arm.
"The horrific sight lasted for many minutes." Leef was then "forcefully taken to a nearby police vehicle. No one should ever ignore or repress" images of what happened.
"The brutality" against her and others "was not only direct, it was public and unabashed."
It signaled long, hot summer weeks ahead. Netanyahu ordered it.
On June 23, Haaretz headlined "Israeli Police deploy large forces in central Tel Aviv as protesters gather for mass rally," saying:
Large police contingents gathered in central Tel Aviv. Social justice activists protested the previous day's arrests. "(E)xcessive force" confronted Leef and others. A dozen or more arrests were made.
Democratic rights were spurned. Police called legitimate rights illegal. Haaretz said dozens of peaceful protesters were arrested. Police targeted them violently.
On June 24, Haaretz headlined "Violence sponsored by the state," saying:
"We can only hope that the attempt to forcibly silence the social protest won't succeed. But the police's illegitimate action reveals system-wide contempt for the foundations of Israeli democracy."
"The inability to come to terms with legitimate protest is another worrisome stage in the government's disparaging approach to protecting democratic society."
Over the weekend, police "acted violently." People demonstrated against excessive force, arrests and injuries.
They're entitled to confront them forthrightly. Free societies don't tolerate brute force. Democratic rights are inviolable.
Police "must immediately change (their) outlook and behavior toward legitimate acts of protest."
Haaretz contributor Gideon Levy said "Israelis must put a stop to the political police. Something very bad" is happening. Once loved police are now hated. Once temperate, they're now violent.
They've become political. They're bullies. They targeted peaceful protesters instead of recognizing the right of free expression and peaceful assembly.
They attacked people "full force."
"Legitimate, nonviolent political protest is being suppressed with illegitimate, political police violence. There is no other way to describe it: We have a political police force that is making political arrests."
Israelis are denied social justice. Conditions go from bad to worse.
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."
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. Candidates for Israel's 19th Knesset ignore it.
Israel no longer is fit to live in. Leef protested for what's right. She was brutalized for trying. She faces bogus charges. On January 23, proceedings against her will begin. What follows bears watching.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."
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.