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Ben-Gurion University
BGU Lev Grinberg "Is there a chance to democratize Israel without ending the occupation?" U California, Berkeley



Is There a Chance To Democratize Israel/Palestine?



BGU Professor Lev Luis Grinberg
Email: lev@bgu.ac.il

Editorial Note:
Lev Luis Grinberg, a political economist and sociologist from Ben Gurion University is known for his extremely harsh condemnations of Israel; he rejects the notion that Israel is a democracy in any sense and accuses Israeli leaders of conducting "state terrorism" and "symbolic genocide" against the Palestinians.  Grinberg's overheated rhetoric was condemned by academic and lay critics, but it did not curb his appetite for highly provocative rhetoric.
The following lecture is a case in point.
Grinberg, like his BGU colleague Neve Gordon, is highly excited by the Arab Spring because, in his opinion, Israelis were inspired by their Arab neighbors to demand democracy in their own country.  Although he does not compare Netanyahu to the dictator Mubarak, Grinberg feels that the protest in Tel Aviv in the summer of 2011 was about democracy; he notes  that the tent encampment on Rothchild Boulevard was called Tahrir Corner, a reference to Tahrir Square in Cairo.
Grinberg, who is a Marxist, is happy to report that the demonstrations brought forward a new kind of an Israeli, motivated by "solidarity" and not "individualism of the market." He asserts that the demands of the demonstrators will roll back the last 15 years of Netanyahu's market reforms. Indeed, he declares: the "welfare state is coming."
That Grinberg should yearn for the return of the welfare state is not unexpected since he has made a career out of mixing Marxist ideology with academics.   Still, as a political economist he should be aware that socialism has been on the retreat in Europe and beyond.  Grinberg's disconnect from reality is astounding, but maybe not surprising given the lax academic standards in social sciences at BGU that created a true neo-Marxist Ivory Tower in the Negev. 

BGU Lev Luis Grinberg: Is there a chance to democratize Israel without ending the occupation? Is there a chance that the J-14 movement for social justice will embrace justice for Palestinians too?


Is There a Chance To Democratize Israel/Palestine?

The Israeli movement for social justice, J-14, was initiated in the quiet summer of 2011, inspired by the Egyptian democratic mobilization in Tahrir Square and the Spanish M-15 movement. Within 52 days, J-14 gained incredible popularity with 85 percent support, according to the polls, and it mobilized a mass demonstration of more than half a million people, with no precedent in Israel. The government recognized its economic policies were inducing inequality and declared new taxation and budget policies aiming to reduce poverty and the social gap. However, the movement never mentioned the military occupation nor the injustices the state caused to the Palestinians.

Is there a chance to democratize Israel without ending the occupation? Is there a chance that the J-14 movement for social justice will embrace justice for Palestinians too? Using the analytical concepts and insights suggested in his book, Politics and Violence in Israel/Palestine: Democracy vs. Military Rule, Prof. Lev Luis Grinberg (Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel) will analyze the recent political events from a historical perspective.

The lecture was delivered by Grinberg at the University of California, Berkeley, on Nov. 3, 2011

Transcribed by IAM - Part 1

IAM is not responsible for the poor English

With the fall of Mubarak, there was a debate in Israel.   Why  can’t we have such a movement here?    And it is interesting that they ask this question because we didn’t have Mubarak.   No one thought Netanyahu was a dictator or something like this, but they wanted to be part of this democratization in the Middle East.   The first signs of this kind of mobilization started immediately after but some movements was organized on facebook.   They started a movement against raising the price of gas, and they succeeded; another movement against raising the price of cottage cheese and they succeeded; and then started the J-14 movement inspired by the Egyptian experience and it started from an encampment of ten tents in the Rothchild Boulevard but it was clear that it was related to Egypt.  You see here the tents and the name in Hebrew is Rothchild Corner Tahrir.   And this was the idea; we are part of something that is already in action. The incredible impact of this ten tents, I think, is completely without precedent in Israel! Completely without any precedent in Israel!  They succeeded to mobilize within a few days more and more people in Rothchild Boulevard but in    all over the country!   The first demonstration was ten days after that, with 40,000 people in Tel Aviv and with the mobilization there was the expectation that every week there will be another demonstration.   They started from one demonstration in Tel Aviv but it expanded to demonstrations all over the country every Saturday night.   My friend joked that if the was no demonstration on Saturday he would ask his son "what was happening,"?

It was a kind of enthusiasm that we can take to the streets together and struggle, but the interesting point is that different groups joined with different agendas.   The first demand of the group was related to housing.  The price of renting or buying a an apartments was high and they  demanded  from the government to subsidize the rent.  This was the very beginning and later the agenda started to expand to every sphere, education, health, the price of kindergartens, there was a    movement of parents with their children; they were all demonstrating there.   Trade unions joined in.   At the beginning  the doctors who were already striking,  joined, but subsequently the Histadrut  itself,  the national student organization, joined the movement and the media, I think that we could say. that the media joined the movement.   The media covered every thing they did, every day, all day, every demonstration, with a very sympathizing attitude.   And the popular support of the protest was high,  85 percent of the population.   The main cry was that  "people wanted social justice."   I am sorry that we don’t have the Egyptian movie, because it was exactly like the same music and the same tempo.    But it became so popular that every one was using this slogan to sell every thing you want.  

The very fact that they started to talk about the people!  The people, in the case of Israel, you call here, the 99 percent.   It’s very clear that it is the same idea.   We are the people.    But they started to talk about the new Israeli.   A new identity for the Israelis based on solidarity and not on individualism of the market.      They were demanding a welfare state.   This was also one of the slogans.   The welfare state is coming.   And the government was forced to react.   They couldn’t ignore it.   The support was so broad that almost in every party there were people defending the demonstrations and supporting them, and they formed a committee, a special committee, to change the policies of the government in order to overcome the inequality in Israel, completely the opposite of what Netanyahu was doing for the last 15 years.   And the committee suggested, the recommendations were, strong changes in the policy instead of reducing taxes to have higher taxes for the richer, also reducing the security budget, and the government already decided to do it.    The movement said it is not sufficient; they want more but I think it’s already an achievement.    This is only the beginning and they say this is only the beginning and the question is, where are we going to?

The climax was in September 3.   This was called the one million march!   This is only Tel Aviv!  It was all over the country in different places.   I don’t know if you can see the streets entering were also full, and on this square is the square of the state, it’s not the famous Rabin Square!  It’s the biggest square in Israel!    No one had the courage to go to this square to demonstrate!   It was completely full.  Before the demonstration, the newspapers argued how many people were required in order to full this square, with some suggesting  they need half a million.   In my opinion, there was half a million, but the police said there were only 300,000.  So, they debated whether there was  a half million, it’s a peanut, but in Jerusalem, you have 6,000, in Haifa 2,000, I think there were 14 different places where this demonstration took place all over the country.
  End of Part 1 
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