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Sustaining Protest Energy In Israel
By Stephen Lendman
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 and benefits.
(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 countries.
(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 reasons.
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 lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.
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