Protesters’ demands too serious to ignore – Israeli activist

Protesters’ demands are too serious to ignore – Israeli activist
Thousands of young protesters pitched tent-camps across Israel calling for social justice and voicing discontent at government policies. Students and professionals are expected at a mass rally on Saturday.

­Stav Shaffir, an Israeli activist and one of the main protest organizers, explains that the uniqueness of the ongoing protests is in the way they were arranged. The mass rallies the country is witnessing today are totally people-driven.

“[The protest] is not organized by any organization or by any political party. It’s the protest that was organized by the people,” she told RT. “When we started it we had no idea to what size and strength it’s actually going.”

All the individual demands being put forward on the streets of Tel Aviv and other cities could be expressed in two words: social justice.

“This protest started as a protest about housing, about the fact that we don’t have a place to live, even if we work full time… [Even if] we don’t come from a low-[income] family, we can’t really see our future in terms of housing or education or health, because all those things that are so basic in our lives don’t exist anymore,” Shaffir explained.

“The demand is what everybody has as a dream for – the ideal country you want to be a part of. People are talking about social justice,” she added.

The activist pointed out the current protest is the biggest rally Israel has ever seen, and that there is no way for the government to ignore it. However, she fears that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu might be tempted to divert public attention away from the issues by playing on people’s fears of a possible military threat from Israel’s neighbors.

“At the moment our biggest fear is that Netanyahu, being so afraid of what’s going to happen, will start a war somewhere, because that’s the situation in Israel. We are used to be a part of this big war zone. We are not allowed to talk about the way we live, because we are always under pressure, we are always under a certain threat,” Stav Shaffir explained.

However, this state of affairs is something Israeli citizens want to change now:

“They want to say: ‘OK, so, there are threats and we [have] big problems with the countries around us and with the Palestinians, but still there are things that we have to solve.’”

The protests have already had a serious outcome, the activist noted: people in Israel have realized that they can dream of a different future and that they have the power to insist that their dreams come true.

­It cannot be ruled out that the Israeli government might resort to provocative measures to try and disperse the crowds, Yaniv Moyal, an activist and lawyer, told RT.

”The government is sending people here [to Tel Aviv] to make a provocation in order to find a reason to take this demonstration to a violent situation, to give them a cause to clear this whole thing out,” he said. “We are not going to let them do that. The protest will continue – that is for sure.”

Yaniv Moyal believes that the ongoing events in Israel are of historic importance.

”What we have here is history. This day will be remembered in history because Israelis used to be apathetic to the situation,” he said. “It took 60 years for people to actually get off the couch and come and demonstrate for social issues. We have not done it before.”

Moyal went on to add that the time is ripe for the government to start listening to its own people.

”If the government does not listen to the voice of the people, the government will fall,” he said. “We can take the government and send them home.”