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The Greatest Depression
By Stephen Lendman
One sign is the enormous worldwide financial shock, erasing nearly $8 trillion of equity wealth since late July. Another is teetering global economies, notably across Europe and America.
Still another is growing poverty, deprivation, and despair for millions without jobs, enough income, or futures. Combined they indicate Depression in its early stages and deepening.
In 2008, trends analyst Gerald Celente predicted it, saying:
"All levels of government will be caught up in the private sector collapse as tax bases shrink and tax revenues sharply decline. Attempts to make up shortfalls by raising taxes, tuition and tolls, and imposing higher user and license fees, will do little to resolve the problems, but will do a lot to infuriate citizens."
Indeed so disruptively across Europe - in Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Ireland, Britain and elsewhere with much more potentially anywhere for long denied social justice.
On August 6, rioting began in Tottenham, North London after police shot and killed Mark Duggan, a 29-year old father of four. It triggered other outbreaks on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday in Brixton, Enfield, Walthamstow, Islington, Hackney, Croydon, Lewisham, Peckham, Clapham, Ealing, central London, and Birmingham, Britain's second largest city.
They also spread to Liverpool, Manchester, and elsewhere as raging anger set Britain ablaze. On August 9, London Guardian writers Vikram Dodd and Caroline Davies headlined, "London riots escalate as police battle for control," saying:
"Buildings were torched, shops ransacked, and officers attacked with makeshift missiles and petrol bombs (as) youths laid waste to streets right across the city. The sheer number of incidents (rage) on a breathtaking scale."
Celente warned about it numerous times on a global scale, saying:
"When people lose everything and have nothing else to lose, they lose it."
In Britain, across Europe, and potentially anywhere under intolerable social conditions, a spark can ignite a firestorm, triggering anything from peaceful protests to violent rage.
Britain's ablaze from the latter. Since mid-July, Israel experienced the former, unprecedented nonviolent street protests for long-denied social justice.
On August 9, Jeff Halper's article headlined, "The Tent Protests in Israel: Can They Break Out of the Zionist/Security/Neo-liberal Box?" saying:
Weeks of protests "constitute a grassroots challenge to Israel's neo-liberal regime." On August 8, 320,000 turned out, involving all sectors of Israeli society from students to seniors to mothers to taxi drivers to doctors to teachers, and many others - everyone struggling to make ends meet in a grossly unequal society. Israelis call it "proteksia," a system of rule by money and connections, the same one destroying America.
Having finally had enough, they demand change and are going for broke to get it. At the same time, "it remains to be seen what will happen as the government stonewalls and pushes back. This is an uprising worth following. Not an Arab Spring perhaps, but a promising Israeli Summer. Not a true revolution, but a return to a welfare state that is nonetheless structurally discriminatory."
Halper wondered what will happen if tent protests continue into September. Will Israelis "link up with their Palestinian counterparts?....Imagine a mass march from Tel Aviv to Ramallah - and back."
The possibilities are breathtaking - a potential "new social, political and economic order," but it remains to be seen what's ahead. What's encouraging is that protest organizers embraced two Arab Israeli demands - for state recognition of unrecognized Negev Bedouin villages and permission for local authorities to approve construction to help relieve a serious housing shortage, causing prices to skyrocket - what sparked protests in the first place.
On August 9, Haaretz writer Gili Cohen headlined, "Israeli government failing to provide for thousands entitled to public housing," saying:
"The list of those (entitled) to housing, but who are still waiting for the government to provide it, stands at about 10,000 veteran citizens and another 50,000 new immigrants."
In large cities like Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa, waiting lists can be six years or longer. Though rent subsidies are provided, they're woefully inadequate, failing to keep pace with skyrocketing prices.
Possibly a Jerusalem District Court petition can help. Prepared by the Center for Legal Assistance, it asks for compensation for those still on waiting lists, saying it's essential if the government can't provide it.
According to a 2008 report, authorities sold at least 26,000 public housing apartments from 2002 - 2009 to raise revenue. At the same time, no additional units were built, contrary to the public housing law that requires doing it. As a result, the report says:
"This set of priorities is leading families without apartments and in need of public support to have nearly no chance of housing" when rents for many Israelis are unaffordable.
On August 9, Haaretz writers Ilan Lior and Jonathan Lis headlined, "Protest leaders present their vision for social justice in Israel," saying:
Protest organizers and student leaders, along with social organization representatives and ones from youth groups "issued a joint statement Monday presenting what they see as the main principles behind their struggle for social justice."
Their "Framework of investment for a new socio-economic agenda" Vision Document began by saying:
"For a number of decades, the various governments of Israel have opted for an economic policy of privatization that leaves the free market without reins. This economic policy....has become our daily existence - a war for survival to subsist with dignity."
Its six principles include:
(1) Minimizing economic, gender-based and national social inequalities.
(2) Making the current economic system more equitable.
(3) Reducing the out-of-control cost of living, as well as demanding full employment.
(4) Prioritizing areas on the outskirts of cities.
(5) Providing for the needs of those most vulnerable, especially the poor, handicapped, elderly and sick.
(6) Investing more in healthcare, education, personal safety, housing, transportation and public infrastructure.
Later, protest leaders will present a second document, explaining their demands in detail. They include providing public housing, better lower cost healthcare, free education, lower classroom sizes, more social workers, teachers and doctors, full employment, higher wages, lower taxes, better benefits, ending privatizations, increasing rent subsidies, and more.
In response to growing protests, the Knesset interrupted its summer recess for a special session either on August 10 or 15. Some MKs want a later date to keep the protests alive. Showing no sign of waning, they're, in fact, growing.
On August 8, hundreds of pensioners protested at the Tel Aviv government compound (Kiryat Hamemshala), demanding lower drug costs, canceling the VAT on essentials, and demanding no cut in their pensions.
According to Giora Rozen, other social organizations plan emergency sessions to present their demands, saying "most of (them) represent the lower strata of society. Therefore, there can't be a solution without dealing with Israel's poor population together with civil society organizations."
On August 9, Haaretz writers Barak Ravid and Johathan Lis headlined, "Netanyahu: I understand my views on Israel's economic policy need to change," saying:
On August 8, he told Professor Manual Trajtenberg, the panel of experts head who'll talk with protest leaders, "that (it's) necessary to change economic policy." Trajtenberg said more than his fundamental positions need changing, adding that:
"There's a system in Israel to set up a committee and then kill the issue. Another panel with all the familiar faces will be no good here. Unless the political leadership unites behind the recommendations, it won't work."
Major social injustice issues brought hundreds of thousands onto Israeli streets. Promises won't satisfy them. They want real change now. Trajtenberg said leveraging their outrage is vital. "(I)t's burning in my bones. I don't know if I'll succeed. But we must take the risk."
At the same time, reversing decades of social injustice under Israel's most extremist ever right-wing government may be daunting no matter the pressure. Nonetheless, Israelis are committed to try, given how intolerable current conditions have become.
For growing numbers, failure isn't an option. Going for broke motivates them to press on and not quit. It takes that spirit everywhere to triumph for what otherwise might be impossible.
Famed anthropologist Margaret Mead once said:
"Never underestimate the power of a few committed individuals to change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
If a few can do it, imagine what committed hundreds of thousands can achieve in Israel or anywhere. Given a deepening global Depression, what better time than now to go for it.
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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