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Saturday, August 13, 2011

And what about the Palestinians?

The organizers of the protests in Israel have been careful not to link their demands for social justice to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There is an ongoing debate as to how or whether social justice can be advanced without addressing Israel's 44 year occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. (As September 20 approaches, we may see a new virtual intersection, where Rothschild Avenue meets United Nations Plaza. I know, it's such a Tom Friedman thing to write. But when he riffs on this later, remember where you read it first.)     

In response to this article from Dissent Magazine, which argues that social justice cannot be "re-imagined or expanded" without addressing the Israeli-Palestinian question, Yonathan Shapir shares his insights with us:
It Does NOT Come Back to the Occupation Now (but it Will, Eventually). 

Zonszein and Sheizaf are not grasping the essence of the protest movement. Looking at it through the prism of the Israeli-Arab conflict is missing the forest while focusing on one bush. It is reductionism to the absurd. The truth that any large movement, as this one, will have eventually to confront this conflict is obvious. But to focus on this aspect now is missing something much larger. What is happening is a paradigm shift in the conscience of a large core segment of the population. It is a cry to a more humane society where caring for each other will be the norm, rather than the present "everyone for himself" prevailing ideology. The youngsters in the tents on Rothschild and elsewhere expect the Government to provide more than the bare minimal safety net. They call for a decent living, education, health care, and especially access to housing, for everybody. Philosophically it is the opposite of where Netanyahu has been leading since 2003, when he served as Finance minister in the first Sharon government. Then he imported Reaganism and Thatcherism to Israel. These protesters are yearning for a modern European-style social-democracy. So while here in the US this model is denigrated by those who oppose Obama, there it is the unrestrained free market which is being abandoned. The paradigm shift has already occurred, no matter what happens next on the ground. It might take time until the body politics is transformed, but I am ready to bet Bibi will not be prime minister three years from now.
How it will affect the Israeli-Arab conflict?


It can only hasten the Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank for two reasons. One conceptual and the other practical:
Conceptually - The motto of this uprising is "Tsedek Chevrati", meaning Social Justice. True social justice cannot exist within only one segment of the population, or in one location but not ten miles hence. This means that non-Jewish citizens, and the Palestinians in the West Bank, will be viewed more and more as human beings who deserve the same justice.
Practically - As the State will try to look for the funds necessary to elevate the social services and make housing accessible, the citizenry will become aware of the enormous sums of money going to subsidize the settlements at their expense.
So, yes, eventually this social paradigm shift will have profound effects on the occupation. But to illuminate conflict-related marginal skirmishes, is to set oneself blind to a much brighter light. 

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