Israel’s political system is non-democratic and needs to be overturned and
replaced entirely, a prominent Tel Aviv protest leader said Sunday, the day
after several hundred people marched through the city’s center in a social
justice protest held without a permit.
“All of the 1,000 people there [at
the march] last night would tell you that the [Israeli] regime is not a
democratic one. Israel does not have a democratic system.”
Cohen, who was widely-photographed after his nose was bloodied during scuffles
with police at a social justice demonstration that spun out of control two weeks
ago. Cohen, an attorney, has also been representing a number of people who were
arrested during that protest.
Israel’s political system “resembles that
of a dictatorship, not only a political one, but also an economic dictatorship
where equality is not a basic right,” he said.
Most of Israeli society is
not willing to hear the message being put out by he and other protesters, Cohen
continued, but the more they stay out in the streets, “the more people slowly
realize that their reality is one of slavery. And when they realize they are
able to get out of this slavery, they break out of the system – and this
threatens the leadership’s ability to hold power.”
On Saturday night, a
social justice protest march made its way from Defense Ministry headquarters in
Tel Aviv to the Habimah National Theater, before heading towards south Tel Aviv
by way of Rothschild Boulevard.
The protesters stopped outside the city’s
Independence Hall, the site where David Ben- Gurion pronounced Israel’s
independence on May 14, 1948. Cohen said the moment was of great significance
because “declaring an independent state isn’t something you have to do only
once, you can do it again, to declare the foundation of a new state with a
completely new political system.”
Cohen added that while he believes the
movement’s place remains in the streets, he and others have not completely ruled
out the possibility of organizing demonstrators into a political faction of some
Saturday night’s demonstration was overshadowed by a far larger
rally held outside the Tel Aviv Museum, which called for universal military or
national service for all Israelis. That protest was the subject of a week of
build-up in the media and brought tens of thousands of people out into the
Organizers and participants in Saturday night’s social justice
demonstration spoke of a media campaign to promote the universal service rally
at the expense of their own, with many saying the smaller number of participants
was a testament to that fact.
The protest was also notable in part for
the return of the “Raccoon,” an IDF field surveillance vehicle that made an
appearance at last week’s protest. Neither police nor the army have as of yet
explained the Raccoon’s presence, or who ordered that it be there.
social justice movement stands a test of sorts this Saturday evening July 14th,
which will mark the one-year anniversary of the demonstrations that began when
Tel Avivian Daphni Leef pitched a tent on Rothschild Boulevard to protest high
housing prices in the city.
Billed as the “Rosh Hashana” of the protest
movement, organizers hope the event, to be held at Medina Square in Tel Aviv,
will create a repeat of last year’s “march of the million” – which brought over
300,000 people to the square.