Amnon Cohen, Committee for a Workers’ International
After 27 weeks of mass demonstrations, the anti-Netanyahu democracy movement is experiencing a new upsurge, with daily protests outside the homes of MKs (members of parliament), as well as thousands demonstrating in Ben Gurion Airport, and talk of a new general strike. The Israel state forces’ assault invasion of Jenin refugee camp, killing 12 Palestinians, was a transparent attempt to detract from, and head off, the protests. But it did not stop this process.
Tel Aviv police chief Ami Eshed, who has led a relatively restrained approach to policing the protests, resigned on 5 July. He was effectively forced out by ultra-right security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who was demanding more brutal policing.
Eshed told a TV press conference: “I pay an unbearable price for my choice to prevent a civil war.” But elements of civil war are developing. Eshed’s resignation was met with thousands of demonstrators blocking the main Ayalon motorway, and clashing with police – who used water cannons, injuring a dozen protesters, including one Udi Ori, an air-force pilot who required eye surgery. A right-wing motorist drove his car at high speed into the crowd, injuring two more protesters.
Udi Ori was the opening speaker in the mass Saturday rally in Tel Aviv three days later. Setting the tone, he said that if he ends up losing his eye, it will be a small price to pay for defending democracy. 180,000 protesters attended, and representatives of the doctors and students announced a strike on 11 July if the government passes the next stage of its legal reforms.
A tech CEO also announced that the tech companies will shut down and encourage their staff to join the demos. A large demonstration is planned at the airport that afternoon. A retail conglomerate has announced that it will shut down its shopping malls. And Yair Lapid has called on the Histadrut trade union federation to call a general strike.
The leaders of the protest movement have announced that they plan to intensify the protests and move them to the next level, described by protest leader Skimah Bressler as “impolite protests”. Thousands of army veterans held an all-night protest outside the home of defence minister Yoav Gallant, calling on him to speak out against Netanyahu’s attacks on democratic rights, as he did in March. Elite army and navy reserve units have again announced that they will refuse to serve if the high court’s powers are curtailed.
But there is a lack of discussion about what the demands of the movement are. At the previous Saturday demonstration, members of the ‘Brother’s in Arms’ military veterans group physically attacked members of the anti-occupation bloc who unfurled a sign saying: “It is obligatory to resist settler terror”.
Protest leaders have argued that raising the occupation is a divisive detraction and that the protests need to focus on the main aims. But there is no clarity what the main aims of the movement are, what its demands are, and what, concretely, it means by the slogan “Democratia”.
The protest leaders have set up an organisation to mobilise the core of activists and stewards called ‘Kaplan Force’, and thousands have answered the call to join, donned its T-shirts, turned up to its actions, and joined its WhatsApp groups. But only administrators are allowed to post messages on these groups, with no explanation of who these administrators are, and how they were appointed. There are no forums where members can discuss the tactics, the strategy, and the demands of the protest movement, or elect its leadership.
Like the democracy movement as a whole, it lacks any kind of basic democratic structures. The movement is directed and bankrolled by capitalist grandees, banking and tech CEOs, former politicians, generals and secret service chiefs. These representatives of the capitalist establishment (many with dubious democratic credentials) hide behind innocuous ‘leaders’ with no political backstory, who have popped up to front the demonstrations.
The slogan ‘democracy’ is designed to be sufficiently abstract to appeal to the wider masses, while not threatening the profits of the capitalists. But the capitalist establishment is mobilising the masses, because they do not have the power to rein in Netanyahu and his ultra-nationalist coalition partners. So Yair Lapid, the capitalist opposition leader, who had no time for workers’ issues when he was prime minister last year, is calling on the Histadrut to call a general strike. But his party, Yes Atid, offers nothing to workers who are being crushed by the cost-of-living crisis and rising mortgage payments.
The Histadrut leadership is, in effect, being pressured by the capitalists to launch a general strike! The Histadrut should say: yes we will strike, but our strike will be the decisive factor in this movement. So from this point on, we will lead the movement and organise democratic debate and decision-making within it, to ensure that it fights for the interests of our members and other workers, rather than for the interests of sections of the capitalist class and the judicial establishment.
- This article was written on 9 July, before the 11 July actions
The endless cycle of Israeli state terror
The latest assault on the West Bank city of Jenin was the most brutal since the eleven-day siege of the refugee camp there in 2002.
In 2002 Socialism Today, the monthly magazine of the Socialist Party, featured the Alan Hardman cartoon on its front cover, a graphic condemnation of Israeli state terror.
Then it was the Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon who orchestrated the butchery, today it’s Benjamin Netanyahu, but the conclusion is the same: there is no way out of the Middle East conflict on the basis of capitalism.
A comprehensive collection of Alan’s cartoons is currently in preparation, charting his unique contribution to the struggles of the workers’ movement in Britain and internationally.
Details of its progress will be reported in the Socialist.
Maisoon Assadi (1963-2023)
Maisoon Assadi, a Palestinian activist and Committee for a Workers’ International supporter, sadly passed away last month. Amnon Cohen pays tribute to her at socialistworld.net