Social protest leader: System must be replaced

In shadow of army service rally Saturday, 1,000 social reform supporters illegally march through center of TA.

Barak Cohen 370 (photo credit: Courtesy/Youtube)
Barak Cohen 370
(photo credit: Courtesy/Youtube)
Israel’s political system is non-democratic and needs to be overturned and replaced entirely, a prominent Tel Aviv protest leader said Sunday, the day after several hundred people marched through the city’s center in a social justice protest held without a permit.
“All of the 1,000 people there [at the march] last night would tell you that the [Israeli] regime is not a democratic one. Israel does not have a democratic system.”
said Barak Cohen, who was widely-photographed after his nose was bloodied during scuffles with police at a social justice demonstration that spun out of control two weeks ago. Cohen, an attorney, has also been representing a number of people who were arrested during that protest.
Israel’s political system “resembles that of a dictatorship, not only a political one, but also an economic dictatorship where equality is not a basic right,” he said.
Most of Israeli society is not willing to hear the message being put out by he and other protesters, Cohen continued, but the more they stay out in the streets, “the more people slowly realize that their reality is one of slavery. And when they realize they are able to get out of this slavery, they break out of the system – and this threatens the leadership’s ability to hold power.”
On Saturday night, a social justice protest march made its way from Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv to the Habimah National Theater, before heading towards south Tel Aviv by way of Rothschild Boulevard.
The protesters stopped outside the city’s Independence Hall, the site where David Ben- Gurion pronounced Israel’s independence on May 14, 1948. Cohen said the moment was of great significance because “declaring an independent state isn’t something you have to do only once, you can do it again, to declare the foundation of a new state with a completely new political system.”
Cohen added that while he believes the movement’s place remains in the streets, he and others have not completely ruled out the possibility of organizing demonstrators into a political faction of some sort.
Saturday night’s demonstration was overshadowed by a far larger rally held outside the Tel Aviv Museum, which called for universal military or national service for all Israelis. That protest was the subject of a week of build-up in the media and brought tens of thousands of people out into the street.
Organizers and participants in Saturday night’s social justice demonstration spoke of a media campaign to promote the universal service rally at the expense of their own, with many saying the smaller number of participants was a testament to that fact.
The protest was also notable in part for the return of the “Raccoon,” an IDF field surveillance vehicle that made an appearance at last week’s protest. Neither police nor the army have as of yet explained the Raccoon’s presence, or who ordered that it be there.
The social justice movement stands a test of sorts this Saturday evening July 14th, which will mark the one-year anniversary of the demonstrations that began when Tel Avivian Daphni Leef pitched a tent on Rothschild Boulevard to protest high housing prices in the city.
Billed as the “Rosh Hashana” of the protest movement, organizers hope the event, to be held at Medina Square in Tel Aviv, will create a repeat of last year’s “march of the million” – which brought over 300,000 people to the square.