When the Israeli tent protests began, some of the movement’s fiercest critics – outside the Israeli government – were progressive Arab intellectuals and activists. The protests seem to draw inspiration, tactics and even slogans from Tahrir Square, but to many people in the region they look a lot like ‘Israeli falafel’: a bland imitation of the real thing. Omar Barghouti described the protesters’ failure to target the illegal occupation of Palestinian land as a ‘hysterical denial of the colonial reality’.
But the denial may not last. While the army raises the spectre of a ‘radical Islamic winter’, Israeli demonstrators and the press are beginning to ask tough questions about the corruption of the military-industrial elite. And the cost of housing inside Israel can’t be easily kept separate from the enormous subsidies granted to the settlement project. The link is frequently made by Israeli leftists, as well as by Palestinians in Israel who suffer from both economic inequality and racial discrimination. As they have long argued, the occupation is a threat not just to Palestinian freedom, but to the prospect of a decent future in Israel.
With these common interests in mind, a coalition of 20 left-wing political parties and NGOs, on both sides of the Green Line, from the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine to the Israeli Communist Party, issued an unusual joint declaration on Monday, expressing support for the protests and for the Palestinian statehood initiative, praising the participation of Palestinian citizens of Israel in the J14 movement, and calling for a ‘joint popular struggle of Israelis and Palestinians’ against the occupation. ‘The social and economic distress of citizens in Israel’, the statement reads, is caused not only by ‘capitalist economic policies’, but by the ‘continuation of the occupation and excessive security budgets… We therefore believe that an end to the occupation and establishment of a fair and just peace are essential for a life of peace and welfare.’