The power of people
We’ve long known crowds can influence widespread change, but will the summer 2011 social protests pay off?
Social justice protest Photo: REUTERS
It was quite a sight, with thousands of runners dashing through Jerusalem’s
streets last Friday. I was not one of them, but I was there to witness the
event. The sheer number of people, 20,000 supposedly, running through the
3,000-year-old city, was a welcome change from the usual traffic jams that clog
It appears easier to run when there are thousands of others
running alongside you.
I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of influence
this number of people could have if we all showed up outside President Barack
Obama’s hotel during his upcoming visit.
What if 20,000 people protested
against his common sense-defying decision to soften his demands on Iran at the
latest P5+1 negotiations in Washington? Or his wish to put the creation of a
Palestinian state on an express train, thundering through all the issues as if
peace really is attainable, as if the Palestinians really want it and only
Israel is blocking their way?
Based on his speech at AIPAC this week, it appears
that outgoing Defense Minister Ehud Barak believes peace cannot be achieved in
the near future.
We live in a naive world where ambassadors and diplomats
strut around lavish government halls, trying to make a difference. The United
Nations operates as one huge facade to corruption and waste. The US ambassador
for management and reform at the UN recently called for an “inebriation-free
zone” after becoming fed up with foreign diplomats who constantly showed up
drunk at important meetings.
Meanwhile, the world has not managed to
prevent nearly 100,000 deaths in Syria, nor has it prevented the daily abuse and
torture of North Korean civilians in prison camps.
Credit does go to
George Stephanopoulos of ABC News for asking former basketball star Dennis
Rodman the hard questions over his recent trip to visit North Korea’s leader,
Kim Jong Un. Rodman’s fascination with the 28-year-old dictator is reminiscent
of other times in history when naive people failed to confront blatant human
As John Avlon, senior political columnist for Newsweek
and the Daily Beast notes, Charles Lindbergh “cozied up to Adolf Hitler in a
naive attempt to keep America isolationist in World War II” and “American
singer, actor and attorney Paul Robeson was taken in by the Soviet Union and
proclaimed its lack of segregation was evidence of freedom’s progress while
millions were being murdered by Joseph Stalin in gulags.”
points out that numerous Hollywood stars and famous singers spend time with and
perform for dictators in exchange for huge sums of money.
people aren’t as foolish as Rodman.
What’s astounding though, is that the
people being taken in by Egypt’s promises to reform or Palestinian guarantees to
pursue peace aren’t clueless entertainers, but are supposedly educated and
Which is where we, the people, come
Leaders can no longer ignore the anger and frustration of the masses.
We continue to witness this on a daily basis in countries surrounding
Rumors are that the US administration has plans to force peace
between Israel and the Palestinians – a peace that the Palestinians could never
maintain, let alone be sincere about. If this is the case and Israel’s leaders
and diplomats cannot convince them otherwise, then it will be up to the people –
to us – to gather as one massive group made up of thousands of civilians, to
protest against the inevitable wave of terror that would accompany an Israeli
pullout from the West Bank, an influx of Palestinian “refugees” or a large
Crowd psychology dictates that ordinary people can
influence drastic change and bypass the system simply by gathering in large
On a domestic level, it was the power of the people that pushed
Yair Lapid to the position of kingmaker and now, for the first time in a long
time, without holding our breaths, it looks as if the status quo, from which
many citizens have long wanted a change, may truly end.
And if the
alliance between Bayit Yehudi and Yesh Atid pays off, it will have been the
result of the sheer will and power of civilians to demand and influence
The summer 2011 social protests that took place across the
country were a clear expression by the people to demand change for the
If that change does not come about quickly enough or in a fashion
that satisfies the public, it would not be surprising if the country’s citizens
again feel the need to gather on the streets and collectively demand further
So far, it is obvious here and in our neighboring countries that
crowd psychology works.