There is something rotten in the state of the social justice protest movement. Extremist and violent groups are trying to wrest control of it for unworthy ends. They are trying to divert the movement into political support for the left-wing Meretz and Hadash parties, as well as sow anarchy that will ultimately lead to the movement's collapse.
The originators of the protest — for example Yitzhak Alrov and the cottage cheese revolutionaries, along with members of the "Israel is dear to us" consumer protest movement (the word "dear" in Hebrew also means "expensive") and the movement opposing market concentration — have all been shunted aside. These groups started the protests and made tremendous sacrifices in the battle against economic concentration. They opposed the monopolies controlling the economy as well as extortionist cartels that disgracefully took advantage of Israeli consumers. They fought against the price-gouging tycoons that make it impossible for Israelis to meet their monthly expenses. These original protesters were shunted aside by the media, which instead gave the spotlight to extremist groups they identify with. These marginal groups have little interest in battling economic concentration. Rather, they seek to realize their extremist political agendas by violent means.
The media also gave extensive coverage to extreme leftists politicians like Dov Khenin and Zahava Gal-On. In the past, these politicians never fought against the exploitative and monopolistic economic regime established by Israel's socialist founders. Now, all of a sudden they pretend to be the defenders of workers and consumers. The media are helping them deceive the public and use the protest movement to overthrow Israel's democratically elected government by undemocratic means. In its place, they hope to install a government that will establish a Palestinian state, which is not at all the reason the protests came about. Another part of the media is working hard to cheapen the protests, so that every group of children that is angry at their teacher turns into a media sensation and earns the status of protesters.
"Most of the protesters and their supporters are involved because they fear not being able to make ends meet," Eitan Avriel wrote, correctly, in the financial newspaper The Marker. "People are afraid of being unable to find employment, of not advancing at work, that their salary won't allow them to buy an apartment or to help their children." Avriel points to a certain cognitive dissonance between public sector workers, with their secure jobs, relatively high wages and guaranteed pensions, and private sector employers, who live with daily employment insecurity. But he does not delve into the root causes of this anxiety, nor does he explain how such job insecurity came about in Israel.
In my conversations with many of the protesters, including university graduates, I learned that many of them had earned degrees in the humanities and social sciences, through hard work and great expense, but find their degrees to be worthless when seeking employment. Humanities and social sciences departments have been taken over by ideological left-wing professors. Rather than educate and inform their students, they engage in political indoctrination, instilling students with a post-modernist, neo-Marxist worldview. These students can sustain a political argument until the cows come home, as well as bravely speak out against the establishment, but their education does not adequately prepare a person to make a living in the modern economy.
The universities play a large part in cultivating a Third-World mentality of "I deserve this" among Israel's elites. Israel's cultured elites especially cultivate this mentality through their obsession with a politics of envy that masquerades as an aspiration to equality and the "just" distribution of national wealth. Money is expected to rain down from the heavens, without our having to maintain the economic incentives that actually create wealth.
The Histadrut labor federation severely damaged the expansion of employment opportunities in Israel and destroyed employment security. The rigidity with which it set out labor relations and wages forestalled job creation, especially for entry-level workers, whose productivity is low. Employers are justifiably concerned that hiring new employees creates expenses and liabilities (in terms of employee benefits and pension contributions) that they cannot sustain, so they avoid hiring new employees.
The politicization of employment led by the Histadrut jobs poisoned workplace relations and severely undermined the productivity of Israeli workers, which stands at a mere two-thirds of that of the American worker. Instead of producing, the Israeli worker must focus his efforts on the intrigues and machinations of workers' committees. The resulting low productivity has led to the miserably low wages of most Israeli workers. The government, the Knesset and politicians are of course the main culprits in limiting Israel's economic growth. About half of Israel's gross domestic product is used by the political establishment, much of it in ways that harm Israel's economy, like heavy taxation, a failing education system and government interventions that demand extensive regulation and bureaucracy.
Thus, Israel's genuine protest movement, if it survives, has many struggles ahead if it is to ensure that the country has a functioning economy and that all Israelis can subsist in dignity.