More than 30,000 people staged a march in the northern city of Haifa on Saturday. Over 20,000 demonstrators also took to the streets in Be’er Sheva.
Similar demonstrations were held last week, with an estimated 300,000 people flooding the streets. Last Saturday’s rallies have been described as Israel’s largest socio-economic demonstration ever.
In an interview with Press TV, Ralph Schoenman, political analyst and author of the Hidden History of Zionism, commented on the Israeli protests and unfolding situation across the occupied Palestinian territories.
The following is a transcript of the interview:
Press TV: What do you think about these demonstrations?
Schoenman: You have to understand that the demonstrations reflect the fact that the average income of 80 percent of workers has fallen dramatically since 2009. In fact the income of the poorest 40 percent has declined the most. The middle-income group is shrunk from 33 percent to 27 percent. 52 percent of Israelis are poor or very poor. The annual income of Palestinians is one third of that of Jewish Israelis and half of all 850,000 poor children of course are Palestinian. So the magnitude of social discrimination, repression and class exploitation is increasing dramatically. It is far greater for example than it is in the United States, where it is dramatically high.
The national insurance institute in Israel reported 23 percent of Israel’s population lives officially below the poverty line. It is probably double that if you take into account those that are not included in the polls. 29 percent are in danger of falling below it. 52 percent are categorized as desperately poor. There is a tiny little oligarchy that is in control of the wealth; something like ten families in reality in the Zionist settler state.
So the magnitude of the uprising by the working settler population is very dramatic. It is important that they look to the Arab East; they look to the population in Egypt and Tunisia and the struggle of the Arab masses across the region. But until they see that the state itself is what links them to oppression and imperialism and guarantees their perpetual exploitation … that is a process that is unfolding as we speak. Until that direct struggle against the colonial state, they will not reach the magnitude required because it must be part of a revolutionary process to alleviate the conditions against which people are protesting in Israel today.
Press TV: Regarding the media coverage of Israel demonstrations in the United States, it seems that they have been keeping hush-hush about it. What is your opinion?
Schoenman: It is interesting that the New York Times ran a story on the recent uprising in Israel which was right next to a story about how the right-wing Zionists had fought the labor Zionists over the questions of the Holocaust. The Holocaust article was like five times the length of the story about the Israeli uprising. It is a measure of course of the Zionist and imperial character of the mainstream press in the United States; that is to be expected because that is the nature of mass communication in our society; the tone by massive corporations that are integrated with the military and the intelligence services in the US.
But I do want to make this particular point that the struggle of the Jewish settler masses in Israel is not a new phenomenon. The struggles occurred over many years … the Black Panthers in the 1960s and the dark struggles of 1969 were massive. But in order for the Jewish working class to raise the question of Zionism itself, which is critical because the Zionist settler state involves them in a repressive relationship to the Palestinian people and an aggressive relationship on behalf of imperialism toward the Arab masses, it requires that they begin to understand the state itself is part of their own insecurity…
I have to say that in Egypt we have to keep in mind that this revolution has only begun. Last week we saw demonstrators were cleared out of Tahrir square by thugs and the military. 80 percent of the people in Egypt still live on less than two dollars a day. The military apparatus that is linked to this oppression and exploitation is intact. The cosmetic removal of Mubarak is a tribute to the mass uprising, but this is a process which must address the revolutionary upsurge that will overthrow the Egyptian state itself; a state linked to an oligarchy that by the way is tied to the Mossad, tied to imperialism, tied to maintaining the Israeli state.
So these class forces that are emerging in Israel must and will link up with their brothers and sisters and the equivalent class forces in the Arab uprising against oppression because they are in Egypt and Tunisia and Yemen and Bahrain and across the region. They are rebelling against country-selling regimes that oppress and exploit on behalf of imperialism and are linked to Israel itself. So the struggle in Israel that is emerging amongst Jewish masses will not move forward beyond this unless it finds its way to link up with the Palestinian struggle and with the Arab masses and, by the same token, the struggle in the Arab East must take on a revolutionary character, because the nature of the regimes has not altered. The cosmetic change of figure heads is only the little beginning of what is required and what is unfolding before our eyes.
Press TV: Do you think the Israeli regime is more concerned with stopping the growth of these demonstrations rather than listening to the actual demands of the protesters?
Schoenman: They are not capable of listening to the demands. They are the perpetrators of the subjugation and exploitation of the population at large, but we have to be clear that the fundamental purpose of the Zionist state is to suppress the Palestinian population. The United States gives something like four to six billion dollars of nominal aid and loans to Israel that are never repaid, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. This is for the repressive apparatus.
We have to keep in mind that the racist Histadrut trade union was founded with the purpose of sabotaging any link between the Jewish working class and the Palestinian oppressed. The Histadrut secretary general stated that if the aim of the strikes is to remove Netanyahu or challenge the government, he opposes them. You see the bankruptcy of the Histadrut and of course the labor party itself by the same token. The Palestinian Authority, administered by the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States, receives funds from the Israeli state. A fragment of the taxes that are collected are given by the Israeli state to the Palestinian Authority.
So it is the class question for the Palestinian people that their leadership is linked to the oppressor; is incapable of leading the struggle … The Jewish masses and Palestinian masses have a common interest to liberate themselves from deep exploitation from the special oppression that is upon the indigenous population whose country it is. It is like in South Africa or in Algeria at the time of French colonialism. There were struggles of populations against conditions at the time, but until they link up with the struggle against colonial occupation and the nature of the Zionist state itself in the case of Israel, this struggle can never move forward.
Press TV: What do these protesters think about the Palestinian cause and the constant aggression on the Gaza Strip?
Schoenman: There were joint demonstrations of Palestinian and Israeli-Jewish protesters in Nazareth and in Haifa. The protesters are very well aware that all the funds go to the military into the occupation. The state funds are focused upon that and the profits that are made are based upon that exploitation and the deep subjugation of the Palestinian people.
So there is a consciousness that arises … This is part of a global capitalist crisis. What is unfolding in Israel and other parts of the region reflects a crisis of capitalism as a global system. It is a terminal decay, incapable of meeting the elementary needs of people, and based upon increasing exploitation, austerity and enrichment of a handful of oligarchy with no respite in sight.
The Israeli state is a concentrated expression of this. I would emphasize that the road toward revolutionary transformation does require and must entail the dismantling of a Zionist colonial settler state and the creation of a society in which rights are not defined by ethnicity or religious affiliation, let alone based upon colonial conquest.