Shmuli defends student union spending on J14

National Union of Israeli Students Chairman says he would do it all over again if he had the choice.

Social protests yelling 521 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Social protests yelling 521
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
National Union of Israeli Students Chairman Itzik Shmuli on Wednesday dismissed criticism following a report that the union spent over NIS 1 million on organizing “social justice” protests over the summer, saying he would do it all over again if he had the choice.
In a statement issued following the report on Ynet, Shmuli said “I am very proud of the students’ central role in the protests. The role of students in society isn’t merely to attain a degree but also to take a central role in working for the sake of a better society.” He added that the expenditures were approved by all of the union’s board members.
Shmuli also wrote on his Facebook page Wednesday “I don’t regret anything!” and that the union used their own funds so that they would not have to rely on “private donations whose sources we would not be able verify.”
According to the Ynet report, the Union spent NIS 218,000 on custom t-shirts, NIS 200,000 on logistics for the “million person protest,” NIS 155,000 for bus rentals, NIS 100,000 for advertising, NIS 29,000 for consultants, NIS 21,000 for tents and camping supplies and around NIS 16,000 for production fees.
A spokesman for the Student Union told The Jerusalem Post that a claim made by anonymous union officials, quoted in the Ynet article, that the union is now cutting funding for other projects is “complete nonsense.”
The spokesman added that the union’s expenditures are available to the public and the report did not reveal something that they tried to hide. The Union website lists in their budget for 2012, NIS 100,000 for “the social justice struggle.”
Shmuli was viewed as one of the leaders of the “J14” protests over the summer, along with Daphni Leef, the 20-something Tel Avivian who launched the movement by pitching a tent on Rothschild Boulevard to protest high real estate prices.
Shmuli brought the union into the protests around a week after they started, and the organizational weight of the union helped spread the movement to tent cities across the country. He later faced some criticism after the union took down their tents following the “Million Man Protest” on September 3, from those who called for maintaining the protest until their demands were met.