11 August 2011

The Tent Protests - Haifa

(c) Photo by Dina Alterman

The “tent protest” is spreading and getting larger by the day.
In the Haifa Arab neighborhood Wadi Nisnas, a number of tents have been set up on the roundabout at the entrance to the Wadi. The activists came up with their own local demands from the government, which include demand for attainable housing solutions for Haifa’s young Arabs, free education for all from kindergarten all the way to university, real development of Haifa’s Arab neighborhoods in cooperation with the residents, cancellation of the discriminating policy according to which no mortgage is granted for apartments and houses in Arab and weakened neighborhoods, cancellation of all discriminating criteria in mortgages, anchoring the right to education, health and welfare in law and making them basic rights that are granted free to all, cancellation of all discriminating criteria in the employment market and in higher education and, most important (to me at least), ending the occupation and directing resources and budgets to housing and social needs instead to settlements and militarism.

Yes, definitely a political protest. The connections have been made.

The government and IDF still think they can brainwash the public and recycle the same old strategies of instilling fear. Lt. General Benny Gantz of the IDF said that they are ready for any kind of cutback, but it will mean they will not be able to purchase any new defense systems. He further talked about the continuous threat in light of the political uncertainties in the area.

So, it’s the same old tactic. But really, now, do they think the public will continue to believe in this? I mean, can’t they get a bit creative? It’s clear to all that the budgets for reforms will have to come from somewhere, right? And it’s more than clear that the IDF gets the biggest part of the budget pie. For crystal-clear, and “justified” reasons. After all, isn’t Israel surrounded by enemies whose only purpose is to destroy the Jewish State?! They are so enmeshed in this that they can’t see anything else. Maybe, just maybe, there is a non-military way of existence? Maybe there is another way, if we just stopped thinking in terms of “defending ourselves from the enemy” and instead begin thinking how we can all live in this place together, and how we can create some kind of a sane and sustainable reality for us all.

Anyway, I went to the demonstration in Wadi Nisnas yesterday. Though I was dead tired, it was important for me to be there. Because this is my protest also. It was very different from the demonstration in Horev Center two weeks ago. It felt much, much more political.

After that, we went to the Hadar Tent. This tent is different from the one in Carmel Center. In Carmel Center, they have “cultural” evenings. I haven’t been there myself, but I heard that they have poetry evenings, lectures on different issues, political discussions. And most of the tent people are activists. In Hadar, it’s not like that at all. I was there last night for about an hour. There were very few activists. Most of the people were residents of Hadar. One woman told us that she’d been living without electricity for nine months. Most of the people I saw are from the very lowest socio-economic strata. Children eating watermelon. Although I myself am struggling economically to survive, and feel that this protest is my personal protest, I couldn’t help but think of the differences between us.

(c) Photo by Dina Alterman

It’s true, I’m probably considered lower middle class. I’ve got a Masters degree, got a good job (actually two part time jobs), stable income, a rented apartment, electricity and running water. I even have a swimming pool subscription. My teenage daughter doesn’t lack anything. And still. I feel that I am barely making ends meet. Still I have lots to complain about in terms of my economic situation. I can’t afford to buy an apartment, and I don’t have any substantial economic security-net. And so when I think of the woman who lives without electricity, I see my situation in a different light.

It’s important that this protest doesn’t leave anybody behind. Not the middle class, not the weakest socio-economic groups. The solutions have to be such that will enable dignified living for all groups. The voices of the weakened and the marginalized have to be heard and taken into consideration.

This is a social political protest. All encompassing. To meet the social needs of the different groups, including housing, health, education and welfare, resources need to be redirected to these issues. Both the public and the government know where these resources can be found – national security. So the first connection has been established. Now the second phase of redefining priorities, redefining concepts, redefining security.

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