- Well, almost. Virtually nothing shows up on US television. Some gets print coverage, but not enough to explain a major story accurately and fully. More on that below.
For weeks, tens of thousands of Israelis have been protesting high prices, especially unaffordable housing, creating an intolerable burden for growing numbers being priced out of a place to live.
Interviewed on Democracy Now, Israeli journalist Dimi Reider called “(w)hat’s happening in Israel….nothing short of revolutionary….in terms of how people relate to each other, engage with politics,” and with a vital issue like affordable housing.
Today’s problems stem from 1990s policies favoring settlements, as well as subsidies to entice Israelis and other Jews to fill them. Moreover, doing so and controlling Occupied Palestine costs over $700 million annually, at the expense of neglecting construction and other needs in Israel.
The above linked article explained a groundswell demand for social justice, unprecedented in Israel, enough perhaps to topple Netanyahu’s government if he doesn’t adequately address it.
Daily on streets in 11 Israeli cities, nonviolent visceral anger echoes calls for social justice, as well as thousands holding signs saying, “Game over – Bibi go home.”
It’s not a left or right issue. Polls show 87% of Israeli support the protests. They cut across Israeli society, including secular and religious groups, Jews and Arabs, men and women, youths and elderly, newly marrieds, veterans, Bedouins, gays and straights, activists and couch potatoes, and Israel’s growing numbers of homeless.
At issue is hardline Israeli neoliberalism, a cancer affecting Arab Israelis and millions of Jews. In a rare display of unity, they’re together against Netanyahu’s hard-wired ideological extremism, believing (like most Israeli politicians) that free market fundamentalism works best.
When in doubt privatize because markets know best so let them. The fruits of that position erupted in Israel, Middle East Arab countries for political and social justice, European ones like Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Spain, and Italy, as well as occasionally in Britain, France and elsewhere on the continent.
Perhaps soon in America as well if a planned October 6 Washington tent city protest gains national traction. The web site October2011.org explains headlining, “Stop the Machine! Create a New World,” saying:
“Hundreds of thousands are expected to descend on DC this coming October….not just to march (and go) home, but to stay and occupy Freedom Plaza indefinitely, until their demands have been met.”
In 1968, before his assassination, Martin Luther King planned to be at a permanent Resurrection City protest as part of his “Poor Peoples” campaign. After his death, military forces removed demonstrators, united against imperial war, poverty, and social injustice, the same issues affecting millions more Americans today, who’ve been largely quiescent so far.
October2011 organizers say now’s the time that changed, urging people to show up in Washington, be heard, and remain until their demands are met.
October is the Afghan war’s 10th anniversary and beginning of greater fiscal austerity when new measures kick in. What better time to ignite a spark perhaps enough to resonate across America with impact, demanding long denied social justice, on the chopping block entirely after passage of the Budget Control Act of 2011, with follow-up legislation to come cutting more.
If Israelis can do it, why not Americans. In fact, some Israelis living in New York participated in a Washington tent city protest in solidarity with others at home. They walked with their tent around the White House, carrying a sign, saying:
“The people demand social justice” in Hebrew, wanting Americans to know what’s going on. They also displayed a sign, saying: “Stop the machine” in solidarity with the planned October protest.
Spreading Israeli Unrest
On August 4, Haaretz writers Ilan Lior and Gili Cohen headlined, “Taxi drivers join Israeli social protest wave, block main Tel Aviv road,” saying:
Hundreds parked their cabs at the Tel Aviv Kaplan/Menachem Begin intersection, initially blocking traffic before driving to a planned rally.
“Meanwhile, thousands of Israelis” continued protesting on Thursday on “wide array of issues,” including housing, food and energy prices, higher wages, lower taxes, free education, better medical care, and labor rights, as well as the “the high cost of raising children.”
In fact, social justice “stroller marches” are scheduled across Israel. Activists involved vow escalation if their demands are unmet. Some plan a hunger strike. Others intend to block roads and barricade themselves in government buildings and banks.
At the same time, Israeli social workers struck for higher wages. So did Israeli doctors, also wanting better working conditions, some on hunger strike to press their demands and because the Israel Medical Association (IMA) isn’t adequately representing them.
Moreover, over 1,000 medical residents submitted resignation letters, protesting an IMA/Finance Ministry agreement, contesting their better pay demands.
On August 3, a tentative settlement was reached, based on adding 1,000 new staff positions. In addition, doctors will be encouraged to work in periphery areas for higher wages. Negotiations continue on their other demands.
Also on August 3, Israel’s Nurses Union joined doctors in sympathy, walking out of four Sheba Medical Center wards, Israel’s largest hospital, for two hours for lack of enough staff to treat patients. Ilana Cohen, its head, said:
“Why should tourists who come for medical treatment receive better (care) than elderly Israeli patients on respirators?” Moreover, “(n)ot hiring sufficient nurses is criminal negligence.”
Knesset Legislative Extremism
Meanwhile, Israel’s Knesset passed a controversial housing bill despite popular protests against it, including activists blocking the chamber’s entrance as MKs debated the National Housing Committees Law.
It calls for solving Israel’s housing crisis by expanding West Bank settlements. On August 2, Haaretz writer Jonathan Lis said:
“Forty-two cabinet ministers and MKs, (belonging to the right-wing pro-settlement Eretz Yisrael Lobby), signed a petition,” calling on Netanyahu to solve the problem by by “the immediate housing of tens of thousands of (Jews) in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), as well as Jerusalem.”
Haaretz’s Zafrir Rinat described the law “as temporary legislation for a period of 18 months,” under which “every district will have a special committee authorized to discuss residential construction plans involving at least 200 units. A similar committee will operate at the national level.”
Only government ministries or other bodies may submit plans for committee approval in areas with at least 80% state owned land. Moreover, quick action is called for to expedite construction of 50,000 apartments, circumventing planning commissions that take time to decide.
Opposing the measure, tent protesters plan a large August 6 Tel Aviv demonstration. One of its leaders, Yonatan Levy, said:
“Instead of increasing the state’s involvement in housing and strengthening public oversight and planning, this law basically makes the planning mechanisms superfluous and weakens the ability of the public to have any influence on what’s built,” where, and at what cost to buyers and renters.
In fact, “(t)here’s nothing in the law relating to affordable housing, to the type of apartments that will be built or to the population meant to be housed in these apartments. This law just removes another restraint from the unruly market.”
Regardless of enacted provisions, it also means more Palestinian land theft and displacements to expedite settlement construction exclusively for Jews, an issue most Israelis aren’t addressing.
America’s Media: Ignoring Israeli Street Protests
Despite weeks of unprecedented social justice protests, America’s media hardly noticed. Russia Today (RT.com), however, did in several reports, including on August 2 saying:
“Tens of thousands of people, fed up with deteriorating living standards, are staging demonstrations calling for (Netanyahu) to stand down.”
Western “mainstream media are being accused of burying their heads in the sand over coverage of the biggest anti-government protests the country has seen in decades….And how did ABC, NBC and CBS cover it? They didn’t….while the editors of France 24, BBC, and Sky coughed up just a few meager seconds.”
According to Israeli journalist Amir Mizroch:
“There is a box that the international media has put Israel in and that is the Israel/Palestinian conflict. Also the Israeli/Lebanese and Syrian conflicts, and anything” outside these get scant or no coverage, especially if critical of Israel. In the West, especially America, doing so is verboten.
Tent protester Hanna Rais said:
“It makes no sense that when” Egyptians protested, “the media (were) all over there. I haven’t seen anyone from CNN or from Fox News or from” other Western channels showing up. “We also deserve a chance to be heard out.”
A separate RT report said:
“Israel has become the latest Middle East country to see nationwide protests with tens of thousands of protesters taking to the streets….Police have arrested protesters calling for (Netanyahu) to quit….At least 150,000 people (protested) in Tel Aviv, chanting “we demand social justice.”
“A lot of criticism is being leveled at (Netanyahu). In fact, every time his name is mentioned, he’s being booed.”
One protester asked why he was there said:
“I’m here because it’s becoming impossible to live in this country…..We have to change this. It’s our only hope.”
Arab protesters inspired Israelis, another demonstrator saying:
“People understand they have the power, that they can organize by themselves. They don’t need anymore of the government telling them what to do. They can start telling the government what they want. They can start deciding for themselves and take the power back to their hands.”
Revolutionary spirit fills Israeli streets. One song heard says, “This is the new Middle East. We created the storm. The future is up to us.”
A third RT report explained Israel’s Tahrir. “The protest is mobilizing all Israeli society” against intolerable social conditions. “People are chanting “revolution. (They) demand social justice….Protests are also mobilized online” through social networking sites like Facebook, much like in Egypt.
As a result, Netanyahu’s popularity “plummeted 19 points in two weeks.” Activist/lawyer Yaniv Moyal worried that:
“The government (may send) people here to make provocations in order to find a reason to take these demonstrations to a violent situation….We’re not going to let them do that. The protests will continue. That’s for sure.”
“It took 60 years for people to get out of the couch and demonstrate for social issues. They haven’t done it before. Now what we have here is historic. This (time) will be remembered because Israelis used to be apathetic.” That’s changed. “If the government won’t listen to the people, (it) will fall. That’s basically it. We can take the government and send them home.”
Once ignited, mass public anger can assume a life of its own. Collectively, people know they’re united against intolerable social injustice. Israeli society demands change, yet Western media hardly notice.
As protester Hanna Rais said, CNN and Fox weren’t there. Nor other major US media. No CBS, NBC, ABC, or others. The New York Times ran a couple of stories way short of explaining what’s too hot button to discuss:
— touching the political third rail.
— daring to criticize Israel, or
— explaining that Israeli Jews endure serious social injustice, let alone how Israeli Arabs and Occupied Palestinians are mistreated.
On July 31, New York Times writer Ethan Bonner headlined, “Israelis Feel Tug of Protests, Reviving the Left’s Spirits,” saying:
“For years Israelis….suppress(ed) major domestic difficulties to deal first with their existential challenge. Security needs required collective sacrifice.”
In fact, since 1973, Israel faced no security threat, what no US media sources explain. Instead, they distort, mischaracterize and lie, covering for Israel by vilifying oppressed Palestinians, especially when they dare react defensively against regular Israeli terror attacks and other forms of abuse.
According to Bonner, however:
“The real threats (Israelis face come from) Iran, radical Islam and Palestinian violence.”
This represents mainstream US journalism, including from New York Times writers, distorting reality, twisting the truth, lying overtly and through silence.
Bonner’s article also said many thousands of Israelis “took to the streets across the country demanding ‘social justice’….reminiscent of recent protests not only in Egypt but also in Spain.”
However, he didn’t mention similar uprisings across Europe, others in a dozen or more Arab countries, some in central Asia, and brutal crackdowns by US client regimes, as well as Washington’s imperial wars.
Its latest, of course, terrorizes Libya, massacring civilians and destroying essential infrastructure to colonize another country and plunder it. The campaign so far is failing, but don’t expect Times writers to explain, or possible activist stirrings in America.
In addition, Bonner barely touched on why visceral anger grips Israel. In other words, he, other Times writers, and all US major media journalists don’t do their job. At best, they go so far but no further, not wanting to offend Washington’s main regional ally or the powerful Israeli Lobby, besides misreporting on all other vital issues as well as ignoring some altogether.
A Final Comment
What’s been paralyzing Israel since mid-July is major breaking news, but you’d never know it from US major media sources, turning a blind eye for the most part.
They also ignore extreme social injustice in America, about to worsen from greater forced austerity. It’s another story begging to be told, but won’t be by major media scoundrels, prostituting themselves for America’s aristocracy wanting things their way.
As a result, print and broadcast journalists salute and go along, despite enormous harm to millions. It’s why “America the beautiful” exists only for the privileged few, no one else, and the worst is yet to come.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen [at] sbcglobal.net.
Also 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.