- Since mid-July, Israelis have protested in unprecedented
numbers for long denied social justice. Succeeding depends on sustaining
that energy disruptively for change. Though never easy, it's the only way.
- Frances Fox Piven discussed it in her book titled, "Challenging
Authority" about social movements becoming pivotal forces for change
when ordinary people used their considerable clout, saying:
- They have "power....when they rise up in anger and
hope, defy the rules....disrupt state institutions....propel new issues
to the center of political debate (and force) political leaders (to) stem
voter defections by proferring reforms."
- When sustained, this determination produces change. Elections
can't do it, not in America, most European countries or Israel because
entrenched power shuts out independent interests.
- Nonetheless, social justice is possible when committed
people exert enough disruptive power. Piven explained it as follows:
- Societies organize through cooperation and interdependence,
but disparate interests at times conflict. While workers depend on management
for jobs, managers, in turn, need them to produce. If labor is withheld,
operations halt. Both sides have leverage. Either can use it effectively.
- Piven calls the "activation of interdependent power
'disruption.' " It's a strategy based on "withdrawing cooperation
in social relations." Protest movements "mobilize disruptive
power," achieving leverage by breaking down "institutionally
regulated cooperation" by strikes, boycotts, riots, and other disruptive
actions without letup until succeed.
- Key is avoiding letting grassroots energy wane. In America,
sustaining it achieved representative government, ending slavery, enfranchising
women, the right to organize, social welfare and civil rights.
- However, marches, rallies, slogans, or even violence
alone or in combination aren't enough. What works is withholding cooperation,
breaking the rules, and staying the course despite threats, reprisals,
uncertainty, or hardships incurred for the long haul - long enough, that
is, to succeed.
- It works the same way everywhere, but never easily or
quickly. Throughout North Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, Europe,
America and Israel, disruptive people power is effective if sustained.
It's no different now than earlier.
- On August 10, a Haaretz editorial headlined, "Social
protests face next challenge: Loss of interest," saying:
- Popular outrage "faces its most important test."
After an unprecedented show of solidarity, protest organizers and their
followers now confront "the bitter enemy of any struggle anywhere:
a loss of interest" as energy wanes, the fatal flaw to be avoided.
- As a result, "leaders must continue to invigorate
the language that is taking shape under them," even if media interest
fades and smaller crowds turn out. Staying the course is key to "change
national priorities," indifferent to social justice for decades.
- The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) asked
"What Happened to Us? How did Israel become a country impossible to
live in with dignity?"
- Saying "mutual responsibility, equality and justice"
are core values, connecting social justice struggles, it explained that
for decades Israel "cut budgets and enacted a policy of extreme privatization."
- As a result, like America, it dramatically backed away
from providing housing help, healthcare, education, employment, and social
welfare. Instead, the private sector was given "responsibility"
to deliver them, at a price unaffordable for millions.
- Notably, "social services have dried up, equality
has been trampled, and our common goals as a society have been dashed."
- In fact:
- (1) Since 2003, rent assistance for eligible recipients
was cut in half, then reduced another 30%.
- (2) Slashing budgets drastically cut or privatized social
services, shutting out those who can't afford them.
- (3) Public healthcare spending declined 40%.
- (4) Though unemployment is relatively low, so are wages
- (5) Over the last decade, 250,000 classroom instruction
hours were cut, despite somewhat increasing them in the past two years.
Moreover, the expenditure per pupil is lower than the average in developed
- (6) Over the past decade, eligibility for unemployment
benefits have tightened, the benefits paid reduced, and period extending
them cut. Moreover, since 2003, income support for eligible recipients
was slashed by 30% per family. In addition, less public transportation,
rental assistance and property tax relief was provided.
- Notably, one in four Israelis are impoverished, including
one in three children. Moreover, over a fourth more are in danger of becoming
one of the country's poor. It's a shocking indictment of an unequal, uncaring
society, concerned only about wealth, power and military might, a small
scale replica of America, throwing its citizens overboard for the same
- As a result, sustaining popular outrage in Israel is
crucial. In America, it's vital to ignite it more disruptively than in
decades. It's the only way social justice is ever achieved at a time it's
so desperately needed.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
- Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and
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