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Rabin Square, Tahrir Square

State violence against social protesters in Tel Aviv



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On June 27, 2012, a Knesset Member finally acknowledged the seriousness of the unending social protests in Israel. Miriam Regev—who was the IDF Spokesperson before joining the Likud party—said “the far left activists want to transform Rabin Square into Tahrir Square, and to throw out the government.” The activists couldn’t hear that, because they left the building as soon as she climbed the podium. Frustrated at the futility of her speech, at its end she shouted at her peer Haneen Zoabi “traitor, go back to Gaza.” This was strange, because the latter is a Palestinian Knesset Member from Nazareth. Jewish Israelis tend to define the latter as “Arab Israelis,” refusing to acknowledge the existence of Palestinians. This wasn’t an isolated event of yet another red-faced Israeli politician; on the same day, Foreign Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Knesset Member Talab El-Sana “You're a terrorist… I’ll take care of you first.” El-Sana is a Bedouin member of the Arab Democratic Party. The idiom “take care” in Hebrew is a clear threat that implies physical violence.

 Miriam Regev Knesset Member - Likud

Miriam Regev Knesset Member - Likud

Haneen Zoubi Knesset Member - Balad

Haneen Zoubi Knesset Member - Balad

The heated event was the result of the last violent housing protests in Tel Aviv on Friday, June 22. Daphni Leef—one of the most prominent activists on the issue—was violently arrested by the police during the event. Several hundred demonstrators had carried tents to Rothschild Boulevard—near Rabin Square—in an attempt to revive the tent city that symbolized the protests of last summer (see Bibi Antoinette: Guillotine in Tel Aviv). The police prevented the placement of tents and arrested Daphni Leef. Subsequently, the protesters knocked over trash cans and shouted slogans against Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but failed to rescue Mrs. Leef.

The site chosen for the event was very emblematic. Rothschild Boulevard is one of the prettiest spots in the city, running southwards of Square Rabin. The latter was the assassination site of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and symbolizes the Israeli government’s sinfulness toward its own citizens. Unlike Tahrir Square in Egypt, it is not a roundabout but a large square placed next to Tel Aviv’s Municipality, a monstrous rectangular building constructed in the best of the blockish Communist architectural style; an amazing reminder of Israel’s past.

Daphni Leef Arrested | June 22, 2012, Tel Aviv Square

Daphni Leef Arrested | June 22, 2012, Tel Aviv Square


The Protests’ Dark Stars


The analogy used by Miriam Regev was more accurate than she probably intended. Tahrir Square became the symbol of the popular protests against Egyptian President Mubarak; eventually they succeeded in ousting him. Yet, Egypt is still run by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and its leader Field Marshal Tantawi. Recent unilateral changes made by the SCAF assure that the country will be led by the military-run National Defense Council even after the recently elected President Mohammed Morsi takes over (see Egypt-Iran: an Alliance is Born). The Israeli leadership is very similar in nature to its oppressive Egyptian peer, to the extent that even baby-faced Miriam Regev is an army general. Ron Huldai—Tel Aviv’s mayor—is also a general. Main Israeli cities are administered by former high ranking military officers. Many of them occupy—“occupy” in the military sense, it is difficult to regard them as properly “elected”—and run the municipalities after leaving the army and often become mayors. Whenever they reach this latter post, they keep it for eons. In Tel Aviv, two generals entered into this category: Shlomo "Chich" Lahat (1974-1993) and Ron Huldai (1998-present). The latter is closely related to Aviem Sella, who recruited Jonathan Pollard to spy for Israel. This over-abundance of generals doubling as mayors is not casual; the proper function of Israeli cities depends on proper communication channels with the IDF. The last person in this saga is not less interesting. Daphni Leef has all the signs of being a Shin Beth underground agent, as was Avishai Raviv; the latter was the agent provocateur in Prime Minister Rabin’s assassination. His acting on behalf of the Shin Beth was proven in court.

Last year, then 25-year-old Daphni Leef, initiated the tent city in Tel Aviv that launched a nationwide protest movement. She urged the public to flood Israel’s streets and show their discontent with the government. Leef accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of “using the nation as a springboard” and “living on our expense.” “The time has come for you to admit your mistakes and understand that your time is running out.” Such a youthful passion, that one could buy her entire story!

Yet, Mrs. Leef is an unlikely candidate to lead the protests. She grew up in a Jewish-secular Jerusalem family and then moved to Tel Aviv at 19, studied film at university and worked in various jobs, most recently waiting tables and video editing. It takes some digging around to find she is more attached to the establishment than it looks. She grew up in Rehavia, an exclusive neighborhood of Jerusalem. She refused to serve in the IDF and was granted exemption (despite not belonging to one of the exempt groups); years later she claimed it was due to medical reasons. In Israeli context, that means lots of Vitamin P (“P” for “Protection”) in her bluish, royal veins. Then, she studied cinema at the film department of Tel Aviv University, which—again—is quite exclusive. Afterwards, she made a film for the “Free Israel” association, which promotes civil marriage in Israel (non-existent until now, see Rabbi accused of bribery appointed Head of Jerusalem Rabbinical Court). Her true allegiance became clear after July 20, 2011, when the Israeli right-wing extra-parliamentary group “Im Tirtzu” announced that they would no longer take part in the protests, claiming that the New Israel Fund and various left-wing groups are directly involved. Im Tirtzu officials said: “Daphni Leef, who is perceived in the media as the initiator of the struggle, is actually a video editor for the New Israel Fund and Shatil.

Now things are clear. The New Israel Fund (NIF) is a US based, non-profit organization established in 1979. In 2008 it contributed about US$30 million to human rights and civil society groups in Israel. The New Israel Fund describes its objective as social justice and equality for all Israelis. The president of this organization is Naomi Chazan, former member of the Knesset for Meretz, a party belonging to the Jewish-left. Suddenly, this young, free-spirit called Daphni Leef turned out to be very well-linked to the establishment. Meretz may be left, but it is still a Zionist party. One of its main members—Ran Cohen—was the officer who wrote the artillery brigade doctrine for Division 98, the special vertical bypass unit described in The Cross of Bethlehem. Is Leef the Shin Beth control-agent over the protests? Probably. In this context, her arrest was just a panicked evacuation by the police of a valuable agent from a violent zone.


Turkish Börek


In the first paragraph I mentioned Avigdor Lieberman’s ugly threat toward Knesset Member Talab El-Sana. The threat took place in the Bedouin village of Al Zarnog in the Negev, while Lieberman was inspecting illegal constructions. That is correct; Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs became the Israeli government representative on the issue of building permits. Miriam Regev was shouting in the Knesset against the housing protesters in Tel Aviv, while Lieberman shouted in the Negev at the Knesset Member representing the Bedouins in their desperate plea to get building permits. Empire folded neatly today. This is truer when looking at the picture of the latter event. Lieberman sits by a table loaded with Turkish Börek; the latter are called “burekas” in Hebrew and are a symbol of Israeli cheesy movies. From now on, they also symbolize Israel’s imperial ambitions over the former Ottoman Empire. Bon appétit!

Foreign Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman

Foreign Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman

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