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Photo by: Ben Hartman [file]
Coming protests will be huge, housing activists vow
By BEN HARTMAN
29/07/2011
"This one will be about everything," Rothschild tent protester says; protests planned in TA, J'lem, Haifa, Beersheba and other cities.
 
Saturday evening’s protests in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, Beersheba, Ashdod and Nazareth against the high cost of living will be even larger than last week’s, activists said on Thursday.

Stav Shaffir, 26, one of the first activists to take part in the Rothschild Boulevard housing protests that started in Tel Aviv two weeks ago, said Saturday’s protest “are going to be much bigger. We’re going to have protests in six different cities at the same time... This protest is really gathering all the different protesters: the teachers, the mothers, the doctors, all different types of people.”

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She added, “The last one was just about housing, but this one will be much bigger because now it’s about everything.”

Like last week’s protest, which brought about 20,000 people into the streets of central Tel Aviv, Shaffir said Saturday’s events will include “no politicians – never.”

The housing protest movement, which was launched two weeks ago on a Facebook page set up by 26-year-old Daphni Leef, has been criticized for lacking a unified message or a clear set of demands. According to Shaffir, that should change on Saturday.

“At the protest we will state our demands, and it won’t just be about housing,” Shaffir continued.

When asked if they would present an itemized list of demands, she said, “we will present the type of society we want in Israel. The society we dream about in Israel and how we can make it happen.”

Shaffir, who has achieved some fame due to an YouTube video, where she can be seen verbally sparring with MK Miri Regev (Likud) on a Channel 1 news program, said that protesters have formulated a large number of ideas, but that more than anything else, their vision is for a more just society.

She said that she doesn’t believe that the protests are looking to bring down Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

“We don’t care – it’s not only Netanyahu’s fault that our country is the way that it is,” Shaffir said. “There’s no government in the past 20 years that I can say that I could really trust. There’s a huge problem of trust between the government and its people, because the people got used to thinking only about security threats, and they can’t even think about the day-to-day things because they aren’t as important as our security situation.”

In addition to Saturday’s protests, many people have said they won’t go to work on Monday.

On Facebook, more than 17,000 people had already RSVP’d participation in the strike by Thursday. In keeping with what is a constantly evolving movement – without a centralized leadership – it’s safe to assume that additional protest moves will be carried out on a rolling basis throughout next week.

Yonatan Levi, another activist who has been a staple of the protests since the first 12 tents were set up on Rothschild two weeks ago, said that next week will include a series of protest moves.

In particular, Levi mentioned a protest that will be planned to coincide with the Knesset vote on the prime minister’s bill to speed up housing construction by creating national housing councils, during which he said activists planned to hold a mass protest outside the Knesset, and place the building “under siege.”

Levi said that the participation of the Histadrut Labor Federation will provide significant reinforcement to the movement. “We always wondered where [Histadrut leader] Ofer Eini was the whole time, and we never planned having them be involved, but the power that he has and that he represents give us a great deal more power.”

Levi did admit, though, that at the end of the day, whatever protest moves are carried out across the country won’t be decided on by the protesters on Rothschild Boulevard.

“We aren’t the ones who decide really. Its already been way out of our hands for a long time,” he said.

Like Sheffer, Levi said the protest movement isn’t focused on removing the prime minister from power.

“What’s the point if Netanyahu leaves and ‘Netanyahu II’ comes along, with the same detachment from the people. There isn’t that much difference between him and other politicians. It’s about changing the entire approach to what the country can do for its people,” Levi said.
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