An estimated 500,000 people took to the streets of Tel Aviv on Saturday night, by far the largest demonstration in the social protest movement that has swept the country for two months. Protesters marched down Rothschild Boulevard, a fashionable street which has been the site of a tent city for the last two months. The first tents were a protest against Israel’s high housing prices, but the weekly demonstrations have grown to focus more broadly on Israel’s socio-economic problems.
Many protesters carried signs complaining about privatisation and corruption. Israel’s once heavily state-run economy has been heavily privatised. Others targeted specific businessmen believed to have benefited from their political connections, like the Ofer brothers, who have extensive holdings in Israel’s oil and gas industry. Tens of thousands also marched in other cities, according to local media reports. At least 50,000 people rallied in Jerusalem and 40,000 in
Haifa; more than 50,000 turned out in a half-dozen other cities. In Tel Aviv, many streets were closed to traffic, and Kikar HaMedina (State Square), the
largest plaza in the city, was filled to capacity with demonstrators.
ISRAELI’S PROTEST ILLEGAL OCCUPATION OF PALESTINIAN LAND
Dozens of protesters held signs and chanted slogans about the Israeli illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories. “Justice is exiting the territories,” one said. Another banner read: “The occupiers demand social justice / The occupied demand justice”. The movement’s organisers, too, have been reluctant to discuss the occupation, out of fear that it will divide what has been a unified movement. “It’s not a mainstream subject,” said Gali Erez. ” It would take time for people to start understanding.” Several protesters did make a connection between the settlements, which cost billions of shekels to maintain, and Israel’s socio-economic problems. One sign bore a photo of Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s right-wing foreign minister and a settler himself, with the slogan, “Where is the justice? Where is the money?”. A few groups of Palestinian Israelis marched at the rally, including one from Jaffa that walked with protesters from Hatikva, a poor Jewish neighbourhood in southern Tel Aviv. But Palestinians, who make up more than 20 per cent of Israel’s population, have generally been under-represented at the demonstrations.