On Saturday 6 August an estimated 300,000 people took to the streets of Israel demanding an end to high rents, decent housing, price controls and wage rises. This movement of Israeli workers, Jewish and Palestinian, has rattled the hated right-wing Israeli government and political establishment.
socialistpartyni.net spoke to Rami Eitan a member of Maavak Sotzyalisti (Socialist Stuggle), the Israeli sister party of the Socialist Party about recent developments.
What are the issues which have led to the mass demonstrations in Israel in recent weeks?
The mass protest started over the deepening of the housing crisis in Israel. Lack of affordable housing and rocketing rent prices brought many young people to pitch a tent in the middle of a main boulevard in Tel Aviv, and similar tent cities have spread all over the country. While the demand for affordable housing was and still is the main demand of the protest, other demands such as an increase of wages, and price control for most basic commodities are common as well.
In recent years the Israeli masses have been under severe attacks of neo-liberal policies imposed by all establishment parties that chose to lower taxes such as corporate tax and increase taxes on gas, water, transportation and such.
What is the attitude of workers and youth in Israel towards the Government and the establishment?
There is a wide acceptance among workers and youth that the government is controlled by corporations and business tycoons. Most people will say that this is the core of the problem, and that the political establishment does not represent ordinary people and is generally apathetic to their daily problems.
What programme is Socialist Struggle Movement putting forward in the movement?
We put forward a programme of not only demands, but also how can we achieve them. We call for a general strike as a mean that can put more pressure on the government. We also point to the crucial question of leadership and maintain that a democratic organisation of this movement is key for it to be able to go forward. These mechanisms can be the base of a wide workers party that will be able to challenge the capitalist parties and offer a true alternative after the tents will be gone.
Some groups on the left write off the Israeli working class claiming that they will not linking up with the struggle of Palestinians. Is this the case?
The national question in Israel/Palestine is crucial for the development of every mass movement, and we have put forward the demand to link this question to the social struggle within Israel as a mean to build the base for a united struggle of the working class in Israel and Palestine. Unfortunately many left groups here don’t see the need for this and are afraid of alienating layers of Jewish workers.
Consciousness can only be developed through struggles, and we can see that happening here as a vast majority of the protesters refuse to let far right organisations get involved in the protests, and refuse to hear of “solutions” such as deportation of immigrant workers or expansion of the settlements in the West Bank.
While it is generally true that most workers will not immediately link the social and national question, it is our role to make this connection and put forward a programme to widen this movement and call for a united struggle to replace capitalism in the region as the only way to solve the national question.