While you were paying attention to the debt ceiling fiasco...
Approximately 30,000 protesters marched in Tel Aviv last night, with social justice activists blocking central streets and chants of “Mubarak. Assad. Netanyahu” filling the air.
Tel Aviv police arrested 42 activists, which is an extremely rare number, “if not unprecedented,” according to +972 Magazine, which has been closely following the circumstances surrounding the sudden rise of Israel’s progressive left.
The protests are part of a larger movement that began as opposition to rising housing prices, and indeed is still centered around that issue, but has spread to other social justice and progressive causes.
These protests are being described as “the greatest challenge PM Netanyahu faces on the home front,” and show that the progressive left in Israel has awoken.
Change in Israel may be coming.
Noam Sheizaf offers a good visual description of how, last week, these protests began to foment:
It happened almost overnight: Friday morning a week ago, walking near Habima Square in central Tel Aviv, I saw only a handful of tents, with no more than a few dozen Israelis who answered an internet call for an ongoing protest against rising rent costs. On Saturday evening the tents covered an entire block on Rothschild Boulevard, and protesters threw cottage cheese containers on the Likud HQ on nearby King George Street. A couple of days later, the tent protests came to dominate the news cycle.Housing minister Ariel Attias (Shas) argued that the protesters were spoiled kids that refuse to leave the fashionable center of the country, but by Tuesday there were tents in Jerusalem, the southern city of Beer Sheva and as far north as Kiryat Shmona, near the Lebanon border (see a map of all the protests here). By Wednesday protesters tried to break into empty apartments in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem; the tents on Rothschild Boulevard stretched several blocks, all the way from Habimah Square to Shenkin Street, and marches and rallies were scheduled for the weekend. The Friday papers declared that Binyamin Netanyahu sees the tent protest as the greatest potential political threat to his governing coalition.