Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once championed as a right-wing hero has become a symbol of disdain. Weekly demonstrations have been surfacing for months escalating on August 7th when thousands of demonstrators gathered outside his official residence in Jerusalem, with protestors taking to the streets demanding the resignation form Netanyahu on grounds of growing corruption charges, incidents of fraud, acceptance of bribery, fueled by the failure to handle the coronavirus crisis.
A turnout of such substantial was last seen in Israel over the protest of high cost living in 2011. Now the rallies took shape in form of anti-government sentiment organized by a group of activists under a unifying banner chanting slogans, carrying signs demanding for their voices to be heard. Since July the demonstrators have been protesting against the mishandling of the COVID-19 by the government and its repercussions leaving the economy in a battered state. Initially, Israel contained the virus but soon it prematurely lifted the lockdown enabling a second wave of the virus that resulted in a surge of new cases now being reported at 86,593 for a country of nine million people.
Despite reopening the economy, the staggering unemployment rate continued to fall over 20% from the previous rate of 3.9% before the pandemic, severely affecting businesses and livelihoods of the people, with the economy expected to fall 6% in 2020. What has been even worse is the response from the government instead of providing assistance in times of an economic crisis the government further managed to anger the citizens by issuing contradictory policies that offered no support to hundreds of thousands of unemployed workers. Given the scenario, Netanyahu’s approval rating plunged further bringing it to just 30%.
Netanyahu now facing trial has been in power for a decade, with his fifth term as a prime minister, the Supreme Court is to determine his fate but there has been speculation accusing Netanyahu to limiting the court’s power by passing legislation that protects him from the corruption charges while continuing to deny any charges of wrongdoing on his part. Speaking to a news outlet Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party gave a statement calling the protestors “left-wing riots” and accusing the media of encouraging the demonstrators by giving them coverage. While Netanyahu negates the claims of the demonstration and the nature of its participants, the rallies continue, the protestors gather, resulting in an organically formed, group of activists of diverse ideologies branding together under one common cause.
In a defensive political move, Netanyahu continues to address the protests as a “left-wing anarchist” by selling a left-wing story and presenting himself as a proponent of ideological right against the radical left minority. While it is the right-wing activist that are denouncing the claim that protest is foundationally left-wing, rather it is a broad-spectrum movement that has representation from all sides against a common persecutor that has bred widespread ills and has raised grievances for the people of Israel.
With democracy at stake, the question of a left or right has become inconsequential in the face of economic meltdown, accelerating corruption scandals, and mounting unemployment all in coexistence with a global pandemic. The protests are blending together people from both ends of the political spectrum putting their ideological differences aside to unite for a common purpose. Before this, the voices of the anti-occupation movement echoed alone, now they form a natural part of the demonstration. They are protesting as not to thrust a left agenda but to oppose the corruption supplemented by political tyranny that has grappled the whole of Jerusalem.
However, what cannot be overlooked is the possibility of radical change. Although the main goal of the protests remains clear. Overthrowing of Netanyahu from power to pave way for a political transparency that salvages the remnants of the faltering democracy but what remains to be questioned is the extent of internalizing injustice within the system, now it is Netanyahu, tomorrow it maybe someone else, the extent of corruption that has become the political norm has taken birth in the system and it is there where a revolutionary brewing for a fundamental change lies. The integration of the anti-occupation group with the mainstream protesters is the semblance of conformity that indicates the potential for a radical change. Anti-occupation protesters have also configured their rationale to fit the theme of the demonstrators. They are demanding justice for Iyad-al Hallaq, the Palestinian autistic man that was shot dead by the Israeli police but the unifying factor remains and anti-occupation group identifies with it too, the vehemence of corruption that has taken root under the façade of a decaying economy has rallied up a diverse portfolio of demonstrators including the anti-occupation group indicating that the occupation is a consequence of the corruption that itself is a manifestation of a vile adherence embedded deep within an anti-democratic system which has long been marginalizing its ideological opposite across the west bank and has now turned against its own people.
Dua Sohail is a student of Social Sciences at IoBM. Her interests are Social Change, Modern Philosophy and Politics.