'Most Israelis feel social protests can spur change'

NGO Shatil survey finds that 89 percent of population believes government has not properly dealt with social problems.

Social justice protestors in Tel Aviv 370 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Social justice protestors in Tel Aviv 370
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Some 89 percent of the population believes the government has not provided an appropriate response to social problems in Israel and that social movements can lead to change, according to a survey released on Sunday.
The poll – which surveyed 482 men and women and was published by the NGO Shatil, which aims at empowering citizens to lead social change in the country – also showed that only 11% of respondents believe that solutions to social problems should be provided by the state.
Sixty-eight percent said they believe that the social justice movement that started in the summer of 2011 intensified the public’s confidence in its ability to lead change, while only 8% think that it has hampered the process.
Respondents were also asked what causes would lead them to participate in protests.
While 57% said they would protest against tax increases for the poor, 52% mentioned any harm caused to education or the education budget.
Some 41% said that tycoons’ conduct would lead them to demonstrate, while 40% said that measures that threatened Israel’s democratic nature would urge them into the streets.
In addition, 58% of respondents believe that social organizations contribute to promoting key issues in Israel, while only 9% feel that such organizations do not contribute to social issues.
The data also indicated that 30% of Israelis actively participated in demonstrations and less than 20% avoided such active or passive activities.
Among those who participated in activities for social change, most mentioned signing petitions. Thirty-two percent talked about addressing decision-makers and the media directly, while 8% joined a political party.
Shatil, which is marking its 30th anniversary this year, will be holding a conference entitled “People Change Reality” on Monday. The event will focus on how to build a civil force that produces social change and impacts society.
“I think that any activity that reflects the interests of citizens is a strength,” CEO of Shatil, Ronit Heyd, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.
“It’s about citizens being active, monitoring the decisions of members of the Knesset, addressing decision-makers directly,” she added.
“This is what at the end of the day creates power instead of leaving it in the hands of decision-makers who tend to see numbers and not people.”
Heyd said that the recently passed state budget – which is “far from what was promised to voters during election time” – obligates citizens to monitor the government’s actions.
“We live in a fascinating period,” she told the Post.
“On the one hand, our reality becomes full of elements threatening democracy like racism, religious issues and other thing. But on the other hand, there is a sort of citizens’ awakening, which peaked in the summer of 2011, and we see much more belief in our ability to influence life in the country, which is touching and very encouraging.”
Heyd said that the goal of Monday’s conference is to provide individuals as well as NGOs and other organizations with new tools to help lead social change.
International representatives from a number of other NGOs are also expected to attend the event and present some of the social initiatives undertaken in their respective countries.