This summer Israelis came together in record numbers chanting “The People Demand Social Justice.” The term “Social Justice” is broad enough that it can encompass just about anything and successfully included every kind of Israeli. There was one group which was ostensibly left out of the “tent” this summer: the Palestinians.

While most of the protests that sprang up were spontaneous, those who did take leadership positions choose to sidestep the Palestinian issue so that they could deal with the countries domestic/financial crisis.

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The reaction by the international community to this was swift and startling to many in the Israeli left- there was a lot of criticism and very little support. It was most obvious on twitter which was full of derogatory messages. Israeli leftists were denounced as “sell outs” and demands were made that ending the occupation be part of the list of demands for the summer.


“We are really sad about this,” says Yair Mehalelel a long time activist. “We feel betrayed really. We have gone out for them so many times- we faced tear gas with them, we fought our own government for them. Now we are having our own fight with the government and we expected that they would stand by us and they didn’t. The solidarity that we expected just didn’t happen- we could have fought this together but they just want us to talk about themselves. ”

It was not just the organizers who felt this way. The antagonism has led to a lot of introspection within the Israeli left wing community.  “We are tired of having our politics dominated by the question of what to do about the Palestinians. It is ridiculous that we would get criticized for trying to resolve our own domestic financial issues. In England or Egypt they were rioting in the streets and nobody is saying to them wait- stop- you need to deal with other issues first.” said Eyal, a young Israeli who is a political science major living in the center of the country.

He took a breath and then finished by saying “Besides, I don’t even know if anything with the Palestinians is really up to us at this point. We tried. They say it is our fault but it’s all we’ve wanted for a long time so I don’t know what to think.”

By the end of the summer one thing became clear- Israelis from every sector have prioritized collective unity and a focus on their domestic financial issues over security or the question of what to do about the Palestinians. This could be a game changer for politicians if Israelis change their political alliances according to domestic issues rather than security. Israelis are ready to explore their identities and change their focus.

While some interpret this as racism others disagree like Leila from Tel Aviv, she said “We don’t have any problem talking about Arab Israelis, Bedouin or Druze. We need to fix the situation- they are citizens of this country and they need more services, better integration into society. But, I guess that also means that they will need to do some kind of national service and pay some higher taxes like we do. But when it comes to the Palestinians, it is totally different. In Gaza they have been bombing us all summer- and we are supposed to always put them first? That doesn’t make sense. When do they put us first? Have they stopped for a minute to pause and think that we have pushed their agenda for years and now we need a little time to deal with our own? Did they put up tents or march in solidarity with us? No. I wish they would get behind us rather than demanding that we get behind them right now.”

This could be seen at the Million Man protest on Sept 3 when busloads of Israeli Arab citizens were cheered as they arrived singing and demonstrating in Arabic. On the other hand, people who attended a protest earlier in the summer carrying signs in support of Gaza or ending the occupation (during what was supposed to be a silent vigil for the people who had been bombed) were pelted with bottles and garbage and needed police protection.

“The worldwide left is angry with us?” says Meirav an English teacher and long time member of Israel’s left wing movement.  "Well" she said " I don''t know how to respond to that.  We can’t go on like this. We have the right to stand up for ourselves- we have the right to make decisions and deal with our government. We have a lot of issues that have nothing to do with the Palestinians.”

Upon reflection she continued “Maybe that’s not quite true. Maybe it is all connected more than people would like to think- I mean, we give up our lives in war or at least three years of our lives to the Army or national service, we pay through the nose for defense spending, and live in a constant state of fear and anxiety. Our lives are a lot harder because of the Palestinians. We’ve spent generations trying to fix this and nothing works. Sooner or later we need to focus on ourselves."

The question being bandied around the international community is:

“Can Israelis possibly discuss creating a just society without discussing the Palestinians?”

The apparent answer from Israelis: “Yes, we can.”

Now the question which needs to brought up is: What happens to the Palestinian cause if they lose the support of the Israeli left?

As always you can find me on twitter @sarahnadav
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