Reporter compares Kiev to TA protests

"Thank God, that we don't have as many reasons to revolt as the Ukrainians had and still have."

orange revolution 88 (photo credit: )
orange revolution 88
(photo credit: )
Shimon Briman, an Israeli historian and journalist who spent three weeks in Kiev at the end of 2004, says: "It is hard to compare the Ukrainian Orange revolution of 2004 and our demonstration at Rabin Square. Nevertheless, there are some resemblances... but, thank God, that we don't have as many reasons to revolt as the Ukrainians had and still have. "Still, the results of the Orange Revolution in Kiev and of our people's protest may be the same. And this thought is really depressing." Briman was at the Maidan - the center of the Ukrainian protests - for several days. The Orange Revolution was a series of protests and political events that took place in Ukraine from late November 2004 to January 2005, in the immediate aftermath of the runoff for the 2004 Ukrainian presidential election. The election was compromised by massive corruption, voter intimidation and direct electoral fraud. The Ukrainian capital was the focal point of the Orange movement, with thousands of protesters demonstrating daily in Kiev. Nationwide, the democratic revolution was highlighted by a series of acts of civil disobedience and general strikes organized by the opposition. The protests succeeded when the results of the original runoff were annulled, and a revote was ordered, which was declared to be "fair and free." The final results showed a clear victory for Victor Yushchenko over Viktor Yanukovych, who is currently prime minister. With Yushchenko's inauguration on January 23, 2005, the Orange Revolution peacefully concluded. So far, in post-Winograd Israel, protesters demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz have organized one large rally in Tel Aviv's Kikar Rabin - last Thursday - which was attended by about 150,000 people, several small protest tents and, on the political level, a campaign to unseat Olmert is gaining strength in the Knesset. Briman spoke to The Jerusalem Post on Sunday about the similarities and differences between the Ukrainian example and the call for the resignation of Olmert following the publication of the Winograd Committee's interim report on the Second Lebanon War. Are the reasons for the revolt in Ukraine similar to those here, in today's Israel? The answers may be yes and no... The Ukrainians did not lose a war, but they had other serious issues. We do have a problem with the current leadership, which is deemed corrupt and dim-witted, but Israelis still generally trust the system. We do not call for revolt, but for democratic elections, because our leaders have lost our support. We trust our democracy; we just want it to work better. We wish our votes would change the situation, bring the people we trust up there to the power. The last demonstration in Kikar Rabin was not a political one in the sense that no single party or wing stood behind it. Different forces decided to unite to show that this is a joint protest... The state of affairs in Ukraine was much worse. Their Orange Revolution had a purely political background. It divided the people. They were insulted, deeply insulted by an obvious snubbing. The elections were not just rigged. They were rigged so inaccurately, so carelessly, that the people felt as if they had been treated like fools that don't deserve anything better. It was such an insult that it pushed them to the streets to fight, not for their rights, but against this total disrespect toward their will, their existence as human beings. So it was purely an outbreak of people's anger against the system...? The people were fed up with 10 years of president [Leonid] Kuchma's rule, and they went out into the streets, to the Maidan, to protest the election's forgery. But somebody was ready with the logistics to turn this into something much more far reaching than a simple demonstration. What do you mean by "logistics?" Somebody anticipated and prepared to provide everything needed for the people, so that they would agree to stay, to live for several weeks on the streets when the temperatures were below zero. In this way the protest could continue and gather pace. Somebody brought hundreds of tents, comfortable and suited for winter. Heaters, field kitchens, mattresses, sleeping bags, warm clothes... Even stickers for different possible occasions. For example, stickers telling soldiers of the Internal forces [the Internal Affairs Ministry's special units]: "Don't shoot!" were distributed long before the troops actually came." Who was this "somebody?" The Russian authorities claimed that it was organized by the Americans? I don't know, was it the CIA, MI5 or the Russians themselves? Certainly there was some duality in the situation. The people's protest was very sincere. And, moreover, it was unique, for it was a peaceful protest, no violence, no weapons. People fought the Internal troops with smiles, shouting slogans, placing stickers and orange stripes on their anti-riot shields and helmets... But to be truthful, the soldiers were more scared than the people, because they did not know who was and would be in power. It could not have been achieved without the logistics and serious strategic planning. And what about the Jews in Kiev? Jews were on the front line. The synagogue on Shota Rustavelli Street in Kiev and the Simcha wedding hall were turned into dormitories for protesters who came from other cities. The Jewish community collected food and warm clothes for them. But there were two factions, actually. One synagogue was very pro-Yuschenko [the oppositions anti-Russian candidate, who won the election], the other pro-Yanukovitch. Do you see any resemblance between the Orange Revolution and what is happening in Israel now? Well, besides a partial color resemblance it is obviously sincere, and non-violent. And I hope that our Yasam troops [an elite Border Police unit] will not be used to disperse the protesting crowds. But as I said, unlike the Ukrainians, Israelis believe in the system and we have a choice. Our elections cannot be rigged in such a way, and no foreign "somebody" can finance the protest. We have much too much transparency. On the other hand, we may not be insulted enough yet to take it further. The most depressing thought is that the outcome here will resemble Ukraine. The people fought for their rights but the new government did not meet their demands, their hopes. The situation in Ukraine did not change a bit, it even became worse, as the economy suffered a harsh blow. •