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Israeli Spring

Occupy Wall Street protesters insist their movement echoes this year’s Arab revolutions. A better analogue is the Tel Aviv tent-city protests.

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Occupy Wall Street protesters marching in New York yesterday. (Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)

As the Occupy Wall Street protest enters its third week, with demonstrations popping up in more than 10 cities, the protesters are aggressively pushing a comparison to the Arab Spring. Some say the movement has channeled the zeal (or perhaps the naivete, others would argue) of the 1960s antiwar demonstrations. But it’s not Tahrir Square or Chicago in 1968 that Occupy Wall Street most resembles. It’s the protests for economic justice that swept Israel this summer.

Start with location. Like the J14—the catchy name for the Israel protests, taken from the date, July 14, when they began—the Occupy Wall Street activists have staked out their turf in the heart of the American banking industry. In Tel Aviv, hundreds of protesters railed against the high cost of housing by setting up tents in the area of the city that houses Israel’s largest banks, specifically on Rothschild Boulevard, an exclusive street named after Baron Edmond James de Rothschild, member of the famous Jewish banking family and a patron of Zionist causes. In Lower Manhattan, the Occupy Wall Street protesters have made their base two and a half blocks from the New York Stock Exchange in Zuccotti Park. While there are no tents allowed, hundreds of protesters have made the park their temporary home, camping out in sleeping bags despite rain and the early autumn chill. Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv houses Independence Hall, the site where Israel’s Declaration of Independence was signed in 1948, and Zuccotti Park has been rechristened “Liberty Park” by the protesters, and it is just a few yards away from Ground Zero.

Demonstrators are quick to explain that the movement, Occupy Wall Street, is leaderless. This same lack of leadership characterized the August protests in Tel Aviv. (Yes, Daphne Leef, a 25-year-old film editor, was credited with sparking the protests when she pitched a tent in a Tel Aviv square to draw attention to the price of rent in Israel. But she remained a symbol more than a leader.) This lack of real leadership has, at least so far, resulted in a fuzzy ideology and a dearth of concrete demands from the Occupy Wall Street crowd. In the small hours of Tuesday morning, to take one example, I watched as a 24-year-old protester named Chris from Brooklyn tried to explain the movement’s goal to six of New York’s finest:

“The reason is bigger than you can possibly understand,” Chris said.

“So, explain to it to us,” one of the cops responded. “I work this job because I have a pile of bills to pay. What’s your side?”

“It’s not about the small scale,” Chris said, unable to articulate a better reply. “You don’t understand.”

“That’s where the difference is—between reality and your side,” the cop said. “It’s time to move along.”

This inarticulateness has provided lots of fodder for blistering satire. (“Because if there’s one thing New Yorkers never ignore,” Stephen Colbert quipped on his show, “it’s people sleeping in a park.”) At the same time, this big tent has served Occupy Wall Street, which has drawn a broad-yet-disparate coalition much in the way that the Tel Aviv protests did. Taking a lap through Zuccotti Park, you’ll hear snippets of conversations about the environment, gay rights, police brutality, the Iraq War, Afghanistan, the drone program, tax cuts, foreign aid, and more. But the single overarching theme of the protests has been corporate greed. It is this one-note song of economic inequality that has so far allowed a collection of students, the unemployed, activists, anarchists, immigrants, and union members to form a coalition. They say they represent the 99 percent; the wealthiest 1 percent, they point out, controls 40 percent of the country’s wealth.

Similarly, by avoiding divisive political issues such as settlements, the status of Jerusalem, the future of the West Bank, policy toward Iran, and financial subsidies for the ultra-Orthodox, and focusing on one issue—the untenable cost of living—J14 was able to unite Jews, Muslims, Arabs, Christians, Druze, gays, the religious, the secular, the left-wing, and the right-wing in common cause. In its final rally on Sept. 3, 2011, 400,000 people participated—roughly 6 percent of the country’s population.

“We work for the richest retailer in the world,” a man from upstate New York who works at Wal-Mart said in Zuccotti Park on Monday. “And yet their employees make jack shit.” He wore a hoodie, which partially covered a neck tattoo of the Hebrew letters aleph bet gimel, which he claimed was an acronym for “everybody’s equal.” On the other side of his neck were four Hebrew words, which meant “God’s earth, God’s planet,” bisected by a tree in the shape of a cross.

“There’s a lot of love,” an unemployed Occupy Wall Street protester named Donna told me. On Monday evening and in the early morning hours Tuesday, I saw what she was talking about. The sound of drums and guitars gave the space the feeling of a carnival. A quick tour of the plaza revealed a surprising abundance of provisions: Anarchists with logistical acumen! There was more food than could be eaten, and no one knew from where it had come: deli sandwiches, Pop Tarts, apples, bananas, coffee, and bottles and bottles of Poland Spring. There was talk of donating the excess food to homeless shelters. Countless supplies had arrived via UPS and from strangers dropping off supplies throughout the day. There were tarps to sleep under and aluminum and cloth blankets for campers. A compost station had been set up for leftover food. Two protesters sat rolling cigarettes from mounds of tobacco, offering regular or mint. I was offered a free umbrella. A similar camaraderie pervaded the Tel Aviv protests this summer.

In Zuccotti Park, a medical team roved the plaza giving out vitamins. A sanitation crew kept the square clean. Protesters used the bathroom in a nearby McDonald’s. “They’ve been very nice to us,” Anya, who came from Iowa for the protest, told me. “The workers are part of the 99 percent.” At 1:00 a.m., a bounty of McDonald’s cookies and coffee arrived.

I met a guy named Max, sipping McDonald’s corporate coffee. “I work for the U.N. now, doing geospatial analysis,” Max said. He was more than a little drunk, skeptical of the movement, and may or may not have been telling the truth. “I was watching the Russians today on the Internet. And they are following the protests closely.” Max said he lived nearby and had just dropped by to check out the scene. “The protesters have … no mission,” he told me. “It’s like they are fighting a ghost.”

The same could be said of the Tel Aviv protests, which nevertheless galvanized an apathetic Israeli generation into political engagement.

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Jules says:

Yes occupy Wall St. could be analogous to near almost anything…a Tunisian late winter thaw, an Egyptian spring, a Syrian fling…it could be as such so to most anything but not a late out of the gate Israeli spring.

Lynne T says:

Jules: get a life.

You don’t want a role model that hasn’t achieved any change.

Exactly right Lynne.

Bishop says:


Why do you think the Tel Aviv tent-city protests didn’t achieve any change?

Care to tell me which protests did achieve change?

Jules says:

Bishop, explain how you think they have.

America Wakes Up.
When things get bad enough even our lost generation will move. Best to read:
Sy Fort Lee NJ

Jules says:

It’s high time the sleepy heads got off their duffs because I’ve had enough of that old spoiled stupid fathead tea party stuff.

Bishop says:


Well first it took out hundreds of thousands of people to the streets for a show of solidarity never seen before in Israel. That is something i thought I’ll never see from the young Israelis. It’s them who made The Israeli government realize how unbearable the cost of living is in Israel and the government reacted almost immedietly .The Trachtenberg committee’s recommendations, although addressing major issues, are not enough so nothing is over, there’s a huge protest planned for the first weekend after the holidays.

The change the Israeli society is undergoing is immense and there’s more to come.

I suppose the only way to really appreciate the Israeli spring is to be a part of it.

Jules says:

And as an American and a world citizen of conscience I am sick and tired of seeing this spectacle too, and it is beyond the time for it to stop. If Israel intends to engulf the entire West Bank and East Jerusalem Israel can most assuredly do it on its own dime and not mine as I will not be partner and accomplice to this kind of shameful and inhuman exploit in crime.

Bishop says:

This video was taken in Jaffa. That’s in ISRAEL Jules. What does the west bank or east Jerusalem have to do with this video? When someone illegally invades a house in order to live in it and by doing so breaks the law, he will be evacuated and it doesn’t matter if he’s Jewish or not Jewish. If he will not do so peacefully the police has every right to use force.
Judging by the comments on youtube it looks like the man behind the video got what he wanted – Israel is demonized yet again.

Israel is already engulfing the entire West Bank and East Jerusalem and doing so on the Israeli tax payers dime not yours.

You’re a world citizen of conscience(whatever that is) all right but only when it comes to the Palestinians and their fight for “Justice” and a Judenrein state of Palestine.

Jules says:

Bishop you are blind to a bigger issue and I cannot help or aid you you in that area only you and other Israelis can do that within your own society.

Bishop says:

What’s the bigger issue Jules?

Jules says:

You won’t stand as persuasive by being blindly evasive. If the wider picture is not fully obvious to you, all I can feel is sorrow and true pity for you. You are a fascist Bishop of the ugliest kind whether it be on yours or on my dime.

Bishop says:

What gives you the right to call me a fascist? Maybe I should have brought that up earlier but I don’t support the occupation the west Bank and East Jerusalem, I, like many Israelis, am against it and for a 2 state solution.
Do you support that as well or maybe a one big Palestine solution which will make you not only a fascist but also antisemitic.

Asher says:

Gee, Jules, I don’t care if you’re American and Jewish, or if you come from Mars or Uranus. The bottom line with you and the 972 rag, is that Israel can do no right. I can’t wait for the day that those who claim to be pro-Palestinian actually concentrate on that rather than being anti-Israel. Because, see, my pro-Israel mindset is totally ready to accept a real, live Palestine, but apparently that goes only one way.

You are the blind one, Jules. A real hate monger. Have a great fast.

Bishop says:

Asher, apperantly all world citizenz are hate mongers disguising themselves as pro palestinians. It’s like a trend nowdays.

Your trending is trending unending to colonize the entirety complete and whole of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. I call and term that fascism and ethnic cleansing. If you can and have another definition of said deeds and adventures I welcome hearing what it is.

Bishop says:

Not a single iota of truth. If Israel wanted to colonize the entirety complete and whole of the West Bank and East Jerusalem it would have done so years ago and it would have resulted in more than a million settlers living in the west bank and the abolishment of the Oslo peace accords. If Israel wants to colonize the west bank why did it dismantle 4 settlements in the north of Samaria in 2005? I guess the only ethnic cleansing Israel is conducting is to its own citizens.
It’s easy to throw these words around without even understand what they mean and the same goes for “Apartheid” and “Genocide” – 2 words often mentioned by your antisemitic “progressive” friends. Since The number of Palestinians living in the west bank rises each year and a first Palestinian city is being built near Ramallah I have no idea where you’re going with this.
BTW are you going to answer my question or continue avoiding the subject? Should I hold my breath?

ניתן לסדר היתר בניה למערכת סולארית (חשמל חינם לעולם) בבנין משותף ולחלק הכנסות כספיות בשם הוועד וגם /או לדייר יחיד, וכמו כן לבית פרטי. הטפול: אישור ממועצה המקומית, קניית פאנלים וכל הקשור להתקנה שתפיק חשמל מן השמש (כמו שמזמנים דוד שמש), מומחים להעמידה על הגג, וחשמלאי לחיבור לרשת חשמל – בחסכון של 30,000 שלא ישולם לקבלן (ורבית על הפרש כמות ההלוואה). לרשום לכנס בנושא להתקשר אל משה דייויס 08-997-3247

Jules says:

I see Bishop, the word you have for it is antisemitism. How brave and original of you. You are clearly a moral coward and that is really all there is to be said for you. I greatly pity you.

Bishop says:

Yes Jules, advocating the elimination of the Jewish state of Israel and calling it Justice is what antisemitism looks like to me and the vast majority of Jews.

Is that understood or should I draw it in crayons on a placard and walk around with it in zuccotti park like a mindless zombie?

Now run along to your world citizens’ commune to smoke some weed. Peace.

Advocating the elimination of? Are you smoking lots of hash or are you just angry fascist frustrated and cheap vodka smashed?

I do so dislike being patronized to by pathetic psychos.

Bishop says:

YES. advocating the elimination of Israel.
When you blame Israel of ethnic cleansing without even proving this outrageous accusation you’re taking part of demonizing campaign being conducted by anti Israel organization and aimed at one thing only – Wiping Israel out.
I’ve addressed all of your arguments but you failed to do the same and you continue avoiding answering my question: Are you for a 2 state solution that will end the conflict or not?

Go Israel

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Israeli Spring

Occupy Wall Street protesters insist their movement echoes this year’s Arab revolutions. A better analogue is the Tel Aviv tent-city protests.

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