Masses enlisted for Tel Aviv Human Rights March

Organizers say social justice movement will give march added relevance; focus on gov't "assault on democratic values."

Tel Aviv Social Justice Protest 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Tel Aviv Social Justice Protest 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Come rain or shine, organizers hope to bring masses of Israelis into the streets of Tel Aviv on Friday for the third annual Human Rights March.
The march is being organized for the third year in a row by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) in collaboration with dozens of other local human rights organizations. Organizers say the recent social justice movement that swept the country over the summer, bringing hundreds of thousands of Israelis into the streets, will give the march added relevance.
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“Despite the fact that the public voted with its feet for social justice last summer, the government continues to focus on legislation assaulting democratic values. This year at the Human Rights March, we will remind the government that it has forgotten to listen to us, the people. We will march for social justice, freedom of expression and protest, for human rights for all of us, Israelis and Palestinians,” ACRI director Hagai El-Ad said in a press release issued this week.
The march will begin with a 10 a.m. gathering at Habima square, the nexus of the summer’s social justice movement, and will make its way to Rabin Square for a midday protest.
Libby Lenkinski, ACRI’s director of international relations, said Thursday that a lot had changed since last year’s march – “mainly that hundreds of thousands of Israelis now know what it feels like to get off the couch and march in support of something.
Hopefully some of that energy will translate tomorrow both in numbers and energy.”
Lenkinski said she believed the march was coming at a time when “Israel’s democratic principles are increasingly being called into question,” citing what she referred to as “anti-democratic trends in legislation in the Knesset [as well as] a public atmosphere that is hostile toward civil society organizations and human rights organizations in general.”
She said anti-democratic legislation was broken down into four categories: legislation like the Nakba Law and the loyalty oath, which target the country’s Arab minority; laws like the boycott and foreign funding laws that target civil society and NGOs; legislation to limit the power of the High Court of Justice; and legislation to limit freedom of speech.
She said all of these were coupled with a hostile public atmosphere, but expressed hope that “we can meet this with people power in the other direction.”
Sunday will see a number of additional protest actions, directed at what organizers say are the worsening socioeconomic gaps in society.
Under the banner “Fed up with mortgages – let’s strike back at the banks with a consumer boycott,” a protest set for Sunday will begin with participants placing repossession notices on banks in their area.
The notes will read, “We announce that this bank has been repossessed due to its inability to keep up with mortgage payments.”
In a statement sent out on Thursday, organizers said the protest move was meant “to fight back against mortgage prices, a struggle that is devoted to ensuring that every citizen of Israel can buy themselves a house.”
Organizers said that within two days of their setting up the group last Monday, over 2,000 participants had signed up on Facebook.
In the statement, the initiator of the protest, 33-year-old Tel Aviv hi-tech worker Yoav Gottreich, said that banks had made mortgages into “a means to milk money out of young couples. We are launching this protest to bring down mortgage prices, so that young couples can buy a house without becoming enslaved for the rest of their lives.”
The statement also said the protest group would take steps to deter young people from taking mortgages in the near future, though it was not stated how this would take place.
Also Sunday, a group of protesters will be demonstrating outside the Israel Business Conference in Tel Aviv, in a call for social and economic reform.
Meretz Party spokesman Hamotal Cohen said the 12th annual protest was sending a message “for economic and social reform, and this year it has been boosted by the social protests over the past summer.”
The demonstrators’ message, she said, “is that the social justice protest can’t be silenced.... We are the 99 percent and you [the government] are the 1% in the leadership who make the decisions which are absolutely against the desires of the people.”