J14 clashes show growing trend of civil disobedience

Israelis employing provocative civil actions to draw attention to a struggle are commonplace in the West Bank. But scores getting violently arrested in the center of Tel Aviv over non-Occupation issues are a relatively new sight, signalling civil disobedience may be a trend on the rise within Israel

J14 Protestors in front of Tel Aviv Municipality (Photo: Activestills)
J14 Protestors in front of Tel Aviv Municipality (Photo: Activestills)

While reading reports in the top stories of Israeli news sites that 40 people got arrested in front of the Tel Aviv municipality last night (Wednesday) and seeing photos of them getting forcefully and dramatically dragged away by police, it occurred to me that these are not sights one often sees inside Israel or in the top stories of the Israeli newspapers. (The protestors gathered there to demonstrate against the municipality’s evacuation of tent encampments in the city. While a large portion of the tents have come down because protestors have decided to take them down, others insist on keeping them up.)

I am accustomed to seeing such images of Jewish Israelis confronting authorities, mostly in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, protesting against the occupation in one form or another, usually alongside Palestinians. The Anarchists Against the Wall have been doing it in the West Bank and The Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement has been doing it East Jerusalem and throughout Israel.

But in these images of the J14 movement, the struggle is not about Israeli policies in the occupied territories or Israeli-Palestinian relations, but rather internal socioeconomic affairs. And the people getting arrested now are not the same people who get arrested regularly in places like Bil’in, Sheikh Jarrah and Nabi Saleh (although there is surely some overlap). Rather, they are the tent protest leaders.

Yigal Rambam being arrested (Photo: Activestills)
Yigal Rambam being arrested (Photo: Activestills)

Here is a video by Israel Puternman of the protest last night:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUpLRi28TB8[/youtube]

This is a unique phenomenon, at least in the last couple of decades (the Black Panthers did produce similar images back in the 1970’s). The Israeli activists who are protesting housing prices and economic policies are using the tactics of civil disobedience that those in the activist left have been employing. Those who got arrested yesterday “imported” this model of action into the social protests taking place in Israel’s liberal and cosmopolitan city of Tel Aviv: The act of going to a location that has significance to the struggle (in this case the municipality and the mayor’s residence) chanting certain slogans and demands, and then engaging in an act of civil disobedience by doing a kind of sit-in and getting arrested. The willingness of these Israelis to pay a heavy price for their beliefs, by getting arrested and potentially accruing a criminal record, is indicative of a certain resolve and conviction in the cause that we have not necessarily seen up until now in the relatively calm, family-oriented, festival-like demonstrations we have seen thus far.

And apparently it also yields results, as reports have come out that the protestors won an appeal to put a freeze on the city’s move to evacuate the tent encampments throughout Tel Aviv (including the main camps on Rothschild and Levinsky), until a hearing between the two sides is held. The hearing is set to take place later today. However, the police have decided to issue indictments against seven of the protestors, the charges will likely be illegal gathering and assault of a police officer.