Why Israeli Housing Protests Don’t Parallel the Arab Spring

Question from a  reader in White Plains, NY:

The housing protests show that the Arab Spring has reached Israel. It’s a big story. Where’s HonestReporting on this?

At face value, certain populist and social media aspects of the protests are parallel to the Arab Spring developments. Organizers are openly saying as much.

But that’s where the parallels end. The crowds in Rabin Square and Tahrir Square aren’t climbing the same mountain.

Instead of saying “The Arab Spring has reached Israel,” say “Israel has reached the Arab Spring.” (In that vein, I find David Suissa’s 22-state solution inspiring.)

Some journalists find the Arab Spring angle sexy, and the parallel is has some validity in terms of how the protests are organized. But that’s it. These protests are a domestic political issue beyond the scope of HonestReporting’s work.

If the government decides to takes back Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square with tanks, helicopters, and snipers, that would be a paradigm shift.

Tent city in Haifa

The Israeli protesters are exercising their freedom of assembly and freedom of speech to pressure elected officials to respond, or get voted out of office.

 The protest movement has long been a part of Israel’s political culture. I recall the Peace Now demonstrations against the 1982 War in Lebanon and rallies supporting and opposing the Oslo accords in the 90′s.

And Israel already has the democratic institutions — such as a freely elected legislature, broad array of political parties, independent judiciary, free press, an army under civilian control — that Egyptians, Syrians, Libyans, and Palestinians can only aspire to build.

(photo by Hanay via Wikipedia)

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