Sunday, July 31, 2011

On tents and demonstrations in Israel

This is typically a professional Blog, with some off-topic deviations;  this posting is one of them.
Nowadays nobody that lives in Israel can ignore the phenomenon of the last couple of weeks:  mass protest in term of people demonstrating by living in tents in various places, mainly central Tel-Aviv, and the demonstrations all over the country last night (see picture above from the Tel-Aviv demonstration).    What is the demonstration about? -- it started as protest about the cost of housing both purchase price and rental price, and accumulated other reasons for protest - talking generally on "social justice".    In Israel the political focus as well as the major voting pattern is determined according to the war-and-peace decisions. Thus there is some abuse of the terms "right" and "left" in the Israeli politics, where (in gross generalization) typically "left" is referred as those who believe that Israel should take active steps towards peace, and support the establishment of Palestinian state, and "right" is referred as those who don't believe that peace is possible in our generation, and are against the establishment of Palestinian state.  Since many of the people are frustrated from the "peace process", there are more in Israel who voted for the "right" block in that sense, and currently we have the most extreme-right coalition ruling the country ever.     However the politically right administration happens also to possess social and economic right ideology, and it seems that this is the break point between the government and the people.
There are two types of socio-economic systems: the American system in which there are relatively low taxes, and relatively low social services; and the system of some of the European countries - with high taxes and high social services. It seems that gradually Israel adopts the bad aspects of both -- taxes are high (used to maintain the enormous defense expenses as well as supporting sectors that are part of the current coalition), social services are gradually decreasing.  On top of it,  the "free market competition" ideology that the current Prime-Minister imported from the USA in its extreme form, does not seem to work here. The reason is that the country is too small to have real competition, thus in each branch of the economy (banking, communication, food...) there are a small number of players who realize that it will be good for all to divide the market and maximize the revenues from its market share, and not really compete.  The Cartel oriented market and high sales taxes in various forms results in the fact that the prices of everything in Israel are now more expensive than almost anywhere else in the universe. Those who suffer most are the young people that try now to establish themselves, and discover that even with relatively high salaries, they get to financial difficulties, this is the population that started the protest, and this is the root cause of the current protest.   The required solution -- total change in the priorities and returning to the socially-based country.  Is it going to happen under the most right-wing government ever?   Will this become a social revolution or just phase out?  we'll have to wait and see. 

A footnote:  the entire protest started within Facebook, which still serves as a major vehicle for coordination.



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