Israeli tent protests and saying a lot without saying anything
On Saturday, an estimated 400,000-450,000 people (depending on was counting) poured into the streets of Tel Aviv to mark the end of what some are heralding as a “summer of new Israeli hope”. One of these heralders is Daphne Leef — refusenik, trust-fund baby, filmaker and supposed “protest leader” — the keynote speaker at Saturday’s event. Leef, who grew up in the exclusive Israeli neighbourhood of Kfar Shmaryahu, was shocked when she could not find an affordable apartment near her film-editing job in Tel Aviv.
Adamantly refusing to have to do anything stupid like commute to work from outside the centre of Israel’s largest city (after all, Kfar Shmaryahu girls don’t take buses!), she instead decided to camp-out in the street and block traffic until rental prices came down. This caught on in a huge way, with thousands of Israeli students spending the summer chilling in tents in downtown Tel Aviv, listening to music, smoking nagerilah and generally not finding a summer job to pay for that apartment that they went back to every now and then to shower and watch TV.
Her speech on Saturday seems to have been very well received in certain circles. One friend, for instance, described it as “a great speech… full of references to togetherness, fraternity and collective action and change.” The second half of that sentence is certainly true – she did make a lot of references to togetherness, fraternity, collective action and change. She spoke about how “they” kept trying to bring these protesters down, but “we” showed them!
This summer was a wonderful obstacle course. What hurdles didn’t they put before us? What didn’t they say about us? How they tried to break us up. The first thing they said about us was: spoiled brats. Sushi and nargilas. From this we learned that the automatic response of the publicly elected is to give not respect to our actions. Their first priority was to say – it’s nothing, zero, just a group of kids. At that point there was only the tent camp on Rothschild Boulevard. They called us vague and deluded. The result: tent camps began to be set up throughout the country. They had no choice but to understand that this was something bigger, something of our own.
Despite all of this powerful demonisation of “them”, she can never seem to figure out exactly who “they” are; although she does come up with a few examples over the course of the speech, like the government and the banks. Like a true champagne socialist, she even referred to “swinish capitalism”, really sticking it to the people who paid for her lavish upbringing.
Although “they” definitely are evil, because “they” killed her friend Alex.
And after we jumped all the hurdles and all the spin didn’t succeed, what did they have left? To attack me. This thing started with one person who did something. I set up my tent on Rothschild out of a personal feeling of to be or not to be. A person very close to my heart, Alex, put an end to his life. He was a poet. He wrote that even if you have a heart of gold, you will not manage to change the world.
Assholes. And how are “we” fighting “them”? Well, she has some very powerful words on that matter:
We’ve created a new discourse here. This is the new discourse: We’ve replaced the word pity with the word compassion. We’ve replace the word charity with the word justice. We’ve replaced the word donation with the word welfare. We’ve replaced the word consumer with the word citizen. We’ve replaced the verb ‘to wait’ with the verb ‘to change’. We’ve replaced the word alone with the word together. This is the greatest thing that we’ve done this summer. I don’t know about you, friends, but it’s already irreversible. We’ll not agree to go backwards! We are striding forwards, to a better future, to a more just country. Social Justice!
See that? “We” totally updated the Israeli lexicon! But more than that, “we” dreamed! “We” made a stand! “We” had a purpose! Well, I think it was a purpose. There must have been some kind of point, right?
Because all of us are dreamers and we all have the right to dream. To be poor isn’t only not managing to make it to the end of the financial month or to be homeless. To be poor is to be troubled by these things, fundamentally, to such an extent that you are not able to dream, to think, to learn, to hug your children.
Yup, Leef knows what it’s like to be poor. She’s really been on struggle street – you know, that one in North Tel Aviv on the waterfront. As an aspiring filmaker, she found herself unable to afford an apartment in one of the most expensive parts of Israel. She’s had it rough, “they” were keeping her from dreaming. There’s no way she could get to sleep in a crummy apartment on Tel Aviv’s periphery, that’s way too suburban.
She did go there though, and she made a huge discovery: poor people are people too, even if they didn’t go to the best schools! That said, she still doesn’t want to actually live with them.
They told us – go to the periphery towns. What a terrible and condescending thing to say. What is that – “go to the periphery”? It’s something you say as if – there, there are no people. That there is a wasteland. Silence. And you know what? How lucky it is that they sent us to the periphery. Because we discovered there what we already knew – that this country is full of beating hearts. I went there and found friends for life.
But more than just bringing houses down, “we” are going to achieve something special. “We” are going to change the world! And live in the streets… until it starts getting cold out, because daddy said that he wouldn’t pay for a nice apartment until “we” get a “real job”. We’ll show him a “real job”!
I’ll be here as long as necessary. I want to show Alex that yes, you can change the world, that everyone can. You only need to believe, get up, and do something. The responsibility is on each and every one of us. To stand up and move and talk and do and not give up.
In taking to the streets, we found home!
Hear that? “We’re” not going to give up! What aren’t “we” giving up on? “We’re” still not sure. All “we” have actually asked for is a massive increase in Government spending because, you know, no one should miss out. “We’re” all entitled to Government handouts, every single one of us. That’s the Greek way, and they aren’t doing so badly these days right? Let’s make Israel more like Greece!
In fact, I’m going to take this movement to Sydney. I’m sick and tired of having to commute for 40 minutes every morning to my job in the city and some of my friends have had to move into places as far away as Maroubra! This is a disgrace! No respectable Eastern Suburbs kid should be put through that! We’re going to go and block George Street until they give us all apartments in Elizabeth Bay that are affordable for arts graduates! Come on guys, if we start planning now we can take full advantage of the uni break from November onwards!
Of course, we may have to move back home come March. But that’s beside the point.