Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another


Panic in Zuccotti Park

Through the Israeli lens, what does Occupy Wall Street portend?

Print Email
The scene at Zuccotti Park last night.(The author)

As is pointed out today in Tablet Magazine, the Occupy Wall Street protests in Manhattan’s Financial District bear an eerie resemblance to the social justice movement that captured Israel’s imagination this past summer. Most significant is that neither movement seems to advocate—indeed, both take pains to avoid advocating—a particular political agenda. Instead, both are responding to a broader sense that things are going really wrong, and that something equally vague must be done to combat the amorphous airborne toxic events that by this point constitute the societies of the two countries. At a lower frequency, both movements contain leftist elements that stopped wondering why only the right-wing was permitted to get angry and instead decided to get angry themselves.

Such, anyway, was the impression I got last night during a visit to Zuccotti Park, a square block’s worth of open space crammed in between the charmless, tall new buildings of Wall Street, excepting a grand old prewar one that sits just south of it, on Broadway. Plenty of people were there for the scene. And it’s quite a scene! There were drum circles, and there was pot; there were costumes and chants, food-lines and free cell phone charge stations; in the southwestern corner of the park, as though consciously farther from where the sun rises, the open air bedroom of sleeping bags and tarp, dozens of tired young people sleeping on top of one another but none atop the impeccably maintained flower beds.

(Note: I did not witness the apparent violent confrontation with police, which reportedly took place a few blocks down, at Wall Street. I can say the only boos were at police buses that drove south down Broadway.)

But there was also a theme. Adam Chandler is right to point to the “99 percent” motto—the truly stupefying yet plainly true notion, or not notion but objective fact, that the wealthiest one percent of Americans controls 40 percent of the country’s wealth—as the controlling motif. “Affluence Creates Poverty,” read one sign. They are smart and they are organized. Here was one chant, called for as the police began to arrest a few people. “This is a peaceful demonstration. This is a peaceful demonstration. If you cannot behave yourself. If you cannot behave yourself. Go home. Go home. You are fucking us up. You are fucking us up.

But what really got me was the coiled undercurrent of rage. It is a rage of reaction to the Tea Party, which over the past couple years has appointed itself—and why shouldn’t it have?—as the keeper of America’s true flame in a time of darkness. But this is a time of darkness for all Americans, and there are solutions alternative to those proffered by the Tea Party. “I Want My Country Back,” declared one sign. And my favorite showed the Gadsden flag: don’t tread on us. In so many ways, this was a welcome antidote to the last mass response to the Tea Party, Jon Stewart’s craven, useless Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear.

And yet, in another way, it’s just like that sorry spectacle. I approached an exuberantly upbeat man in full suit and tie with a nametag identifying himself as a media representative named Bill and asked him what all this was. He proceeded to emphasize that Occupy Wall Street is “not left, not right, not Democrat, not Republican.” There were hints of an agenda—corporate greed, unemployment—but everything implicit was pretty easily cancelled out by statements like, and I quote verbatim, “We don’t have a message, even.” Why not? It all sounded pretty lefty to me. But it was insisted to me that this is not a movement—at which point Bill leaned in and whispered that, yes, of course, he had worked for the Obama campaign, and he is from Chicago and worked for Rahm Emanuel’s mayoral campaign there. Why separate the two, when they clearly go together? The problem isn’t corporate greed; it’s corporate greed unchecked by government. It shouldn’t be the Goldman Sachs CEO’s cardboard head I saw bloodily impaled on a pike. (And indeed, some people had better ideas of whom to blame; and I was treated to the spectacle of a young black man wearing a t-shirt with a picture of President Obama, a wide red diagonal line striking him through. I wish you’d told me in November 2008 to prepare for that.)

So what’s next? In Israel, the tent protests dissipated with little sign of anything. Yet all of a sudden that antique known as the Labor Party is polling in second place. Maybe this is how it begins; maybe the increasing involvement of organized labor will force a specific agenda to the forefront. Or maybe this is how it ends.

It feels manipulative to note that, exiting and walking a block uptown to the subway, you pass directly in front of Ground Zero. But you do, and any accounting of the scene—and of the movement?—feels incomplete without that coda.

Israeli Spring [Tablet Magazine]
Related: Chuckles [Tablet Magazine]
Earlier: A New Day for Labor?

Print Email

Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180

Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.

Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.

We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.

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

Marc, you sound so intelligent and knowledgeable,and then you go making statements like this: “So what’s next? In Israel, the tent protests dissipated with little sign of anything.”

The Trajtenberg committee just submitted its first report this week and made all kinds of concrete recommendations to restore social justice in Israel. That’s “little sign of anything”? And they managed to protests all summer without one altercation with the police. These protesters couldn’t manage a few hours.

Please, I beg you: Read up on the topic before spouting nonsense.

Chaim says:

When are we going to realize that greed is in everyone, it all depends what side of the fence you are on.

Jules says:

Here is the “slick” fit of retrofit politics:

Beatrix says:

In Israel, the protestors were left wing showing unhappiness with a right wing government. In Wall Street, the protestors are left wing showing unhappiness with a left wing, incompetent President. Of course, they don’t phrase it that way. Instead, they’re unhappy that businesses can be successful in our capitalistic society. Or something.

Beatrix says:


Salon is the most antisemitic rag on the Internet.

Jules says:

Beatrix, you are the most mournful and maniacal self hating Jew I have ever had the unpleasant and dubious pleasure to make ugly acquaintance with. I see and appreciate well that you are hamstrung and incapable of deep and meaningful critical thought and that it is a simplistic and jingoistic shtick that you have so cheaply bought.

Jules says:

Salon is heads above most news and views sources.

Beatrix says:

I was here before there was an Israel, and I can tell you that you would not have wanted to be a Jew in America before Israel was founded.

Everyone else came from somewhere, Ireland, Norway, England and Africa. But Jews were here because we had nowhere else to go. We didn’t belong anywhere.

Germany was willing to let its Jews go, but no one else wanted us, and so the Germans efficiently killed every one of us that they could.

In America, we were the brightest kid in class that no one liked. We were the rich white guys that everyone resented. We were the weaklings that let Hitler kill us and didn’t fight back. We were always portrayed as small, white and pathetic.

Then came Israel. They fought back and won against overwhelming odds. They were magnificent. In an area largely stuck in the middle-ages, Israel established a viable, modern democracy, and they did it as farmers, and soldiers, and factory workers. They weren’t rich Jews with Christian servants or bright geeks.

And people looked at all Jews differently. Despite the fact that Israel is controversial, which Jews have always been, Jews are accepted, and even respected now. If we allowed the world to destroy Israel, Jews all over the world would lose our power base.

I don’t know if Jules is an Arab propagandist, but if he were, I’m sure he’d enjoy the irony of calling someone who fights for Jews a “self-hating Jew.”

According to the Syrian propagandist, the Koran allows and encourages lies if you’re fighting for Islam. I know there is a difference between criticizing some of the things that Israel does, and putting down everything Israeli.

Beatrix says:

I attack antisemites on every web site where they’re found. So many are fifth columnists who pretend to be American or even Jewish, but who turn out to be Arab propagandists.

One I even felt sorry for. His antisemitism was so vicious that I thought he was a mentally ill 60 year old American, which is what he told me to play on my pity until someone who had encountered him before informed me that he was a 32-year-old Syrian propagandist.

I’ve also doubted others who pretended to be American. They wouldn’t give me their nationalities, but they finally admitted that they weren’t American.

Freedom of speech is always important, but so is suspicion when you’re at war, and America is at war and Israel is at war.

These clowns will be back to occupying their mothers basement as the weather gets colder.

This site can be a walk-by way of for all of the info you wanted about this and didn’t know who to ask. Glimpse here, and also you’ll positively discover it.


Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

Panic in Zuccotti Park

Through the Israeli lens, what does Occupy Wall Street portend?

More on Tablet:

Making Sex Education Smarter

By Marjorie Ingall — Teenagers need to learn about more than anatomy, as some Jewish educators already know