Even by the decidedly modest academic standards of social sciences at Ben Gurion University, Lev Grinberg, a sociologist and political economist, stands out. A veteran political activist, Grinberg's academic output tends toward the polemical, especially as it trashes all things Israeli. Grinberg acquired national notoriety when, following the targeted killing of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, he accused the Israeli government of "symbolic genocide" of Palestinians.
Like many of his radical peers, Grinberg has been thrilled by the Arab Spring and the street protest in Israel in the summer of 2011. He readily predicted that the new "mass mobilization" has ushered a new golden age of global justice and popular democracy. Two years later, with his hopes dashed, Grinberg has struggled to reinterpret the events as indicated in his article "The J14 Resistance Mo(ve)ment." Calling it a mixture of Tahrir Square and Puerta Del Sol (a reference to the similar protest movement in Spain, 2011-2012), Grinberg now claims that Israel's "local political crisis is related to the disintegration of society into ‘tribes’ and the complete repression of social and economic agendas by the hostility to ‘external enemies’, and internal hostility between the ‘tribes’." Following his habit of applying Marxist concepts to reality, Grinberg probably did not notice the contradiction in his sentence; if all social and economic issues are repressed by the existence of external enemies, i.e. the Palestinians, how is it that the society disintegrated into hostile"tribes?"
Grinberg's acknowledgment that the ultra-orthodox and the Palestinian Arabs are the poorest groups in Israeli society is also interesting. Keeping with his Marxist dogma, Grinberg has always explained that poverty is created when the wealthy elites exploit the "masses." However, in this case, the poverty of the ultra-orthodox, and to a lesser degree, the Palestinians, is an outcome of life-style choices. The former have large families and a low participation in the labor force for both men and women, in the latter, the female participation in low.
Finally, Grinberg has a hard time squaring his dislike of globalization which has been driven by market economy, with the fact that most of the participants in the Israeli protests were bona fide middle-classes that have benefited tremendously from Israel's ability to partake in the global neoliberal economy.
To escape the conundrum, Grinberg decided to call the Israeli protest a "movement of resistance." Although meshing nicely with his Marxist vocabulary, the reader is left with a nagging question "resistance" against whom?
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The J14 resistance mo(ve)ment: The Israeli mix of Tahrir Square and Puerta del Sol
- Lev Luis Grinberg
- Ben Gurion University, Israel
- Lev Luis Grinberg, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Ben Gurion University, PO Box 653, Beer Sheva 84105, Israel. Email: email@example.com
The article discusses the spontaneous popular movement J14 that erupted into the Israeli public sphere during the summer of 2011. Inspired by the Egyptian and Spanish movements, J14 was ignited by opposition to housing prices, later expanded into protests against neoliberal economic policies and socioeconomic inequalities. The concept of resistance mo(ve)ment is used to comprehend the peculiar intersection between the movement and moment of mass mobilization. The article explores the mo(ve)ment focusing on the political and economic background and context, and analyzing the role of a new generational class who were suffering the effects of a neoliberal political economy. The B Generation in Israel is the product of a double crisis, global and local. The local crisis involves the disintegration of Israeli society after Rabin’s assassination in 1995, and the repression of socioeconomic agendas by fanning hostility to external ‘enemies’. The global crisis is the outcome of a neoliberal economy that weakens middle and lower classes, especially young people living under precarious conditions. The argument is that socioeconomic protests in Israel take place when the external ‘conflict’ is quiet. The calm summer of 2011 was framed in-between Netanyahu’s US campaign against UN recognition of a Palestinian state in May and the scheduled UN discussions in September.