Alternative tent protests cast doubt on 'social leaders'

Media fascination with Daphni Leef and her friends has hurt the cause, founder of a separate tent-city protest group says.

Peres and housing protest leaders_311 (photo credit: President's Office)
Peres and housing protest leaders_311
(photo credit: President's Office)
In Tel Aviv on Thursday, tent city protest leaders called for a series of dramatic steps, including the dissolution of the Trajtenberg Committee and for the Knesset to cut short its recess to work on answers to the social problems that have been underlined by protests held across the country since mid-July.
Absent were representatives of the National Student Union, who have worked hand-in-hand with the protest leaders based at Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard tent city since the demonstrations’s first days.
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The union was quick to dismiss rumors of a deep fissure in the movement, with spokesman Eyal Basson telling The Jerusalem Post, “We are still cooperating with them and in the field everything is the same. There was a disagreement over the Trajtenberg Committee and whether to have dialogue with the government or not.
We believe that you can have dialogue and still have protests going on at the same time.”
Nonetheless, 44-year-old attorney Yaniv Moyal of Tel Aviv said that the social issues movement has suffered because of the emphasis placed on 26-year-old Daphni Leef and her friends, after Leef started the protest with a call she put out on Facebook group she created on July 14.
One of the founders of an alternative tent protest leadership group called “Protest Tents: The National Leadership,” Moyal said the group was founded in the second week of the protests because “we felt that there should be some sort of sane voice to the protests. Other people in the movement are saying that they won’t talk to the government, they just want to yell slogans like ‘social justice,’ but how do you calibrate that? “They need to speak logically and with more content to what they’re saying. We believe that the way is to talk with decision-makers and not to say that we won’t talk to them.”
Moyal’s criticism is based largely on what he says has been the media’s anointing of Leef and her close circle of friends as some sort of protest royalty, despite their lack of experience or clearly defined goals or demands.
“Ever since week two of the protests we’ve had a set of concrete steps laid out, and the media has decided to ignore us because they thought we’d ruin the momentum by coming out against the people who started the protests,” he said.
“[The media has] made [Leef] out to be some sort of god, and then this movement broke out all over the country dealing with the government decisions affecting the entire country.
The problems we’re dealing with are about a worldview in regard to society.
“Just because a child can yell that the emperor is naked doesn’t mean that same child has the ability to sew the emperor a new set of clothes,” Moyal said.
He also said that he didn’t trust the decision-making process or the motivations of Stav Shafir and Regev Kuntas, two members of Leef’s inner circle,. “I have no idea what their interests are, but I think they’re just to bring down the government, and if we do that, we’ll have elections again and woe unto us.”
When asked about Leef’s announcement that the Trajtenberg Committee should resign, he said, “This is the approach of a little girl who wants all of these people to resign. The Trajtenberg Committee said they won’t recommend breaking the national budget; you can try to influence them or talk to them, but not just call for them to be dissolved.”
He added that while it has been his experience that founding a committee is typically a way for the government to shut up an issue, he does not believe that is the case with the Trajtenberg Committee.
Moyal said he and his organization do not stand alone in their dissatisfaction with Leef and her inner circle.
“No one supports the fact that we are in the sixth week of these protests and haven’t demanded anything or achieved anything or laid out any real demands. There are more than a thousand sources of [tax] money in this country that we don’t use because of the financial interests of the wealthy. We are being run by oligarchs. There is NIS 32 billion that we could raise each year by changing the tax code for the wealthy. We don’t need to break the budget,” Moyal said.
In spite of talk of a fissure in the movement, a series of protests are scheduled for Saturday night, a week after the movement held a somber march in Tel Aviv of around 5,000 people, following the terrorist attacks in the South.
Noam Schalit, father of kidnapped IDF tank gunner Gilad Schalit, will take part in the Tel Aviv protest, to mark his son’s 25th birthday, his sixth in captivity, which falls on Sunday.
In addition to Tel Aviv, where the protest will be held at the corner of Ibn Gvirol and Arlozorov street, rallies are planned for Jerusalem, Rishon Lezion, Bikat Ono and Katzrin.
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