Over the weekend, U.S. President Barack Obama declared Colorado a disaster area due to massive wildfires that have rampaged through the state for over a week, claiming victims and leading tens of thousands to evacuate their homes. But no one in the U.S. demanded that Obama be impeached, nor did anyone take to the streets demanding the resignation of the secretaries of the treasury and interior.
Meanwhile, here in Israel, retired Maj. Gen. Zev Even Chen, who lost his daughter Topaz in the Carmel forest fire in 2010, spoke on Saturday night at the main social justice protest in Tel Aviv, repeating his earlier accusations concerning the government's lack of accountability, apathy and arrogance. His motives in speaking are clear. However the connection to the protests — with their stated goal of "social justice" — is not. What does one man's bereavement have to do with the high cost of living in this country? Expressing his personal point of view and enjoining us to reflect on those who risked their lives for others in the line of duty are worthy objectives, but not at a social justice protest. I, too, often wonder who is to blame for the death of my father in one of Israel's wars and why I had to grow up without a dad. But I've always known how to draw the line between wondering who was to blame and the fact that loss and bereavement are unfortunate facts of life.
The organizers of the summer of 2011 tent protests can chalk up numerous achievements. The law requiring free education starting at age 3, government promotion of cheaper housing, reduced fuel prices and housing costs — all of these successes redound to their credit. Of course, change doesn't happen overnight and you can't have everything you want. But last year, when the social protest spoke with a single voice and set clear goals, one could identify with these goals and respond to them.
On Saturday night, we started hearing voices protesting the law that mandates free education only from age 3, which no doubt will reduce the cost of living for many young parents starting in September. For some reason, protest leaders who paid massive cellular phone bills last summer and now pay only 100 shekels ($26) per month have failed to acknowledge this progress and won't let facts get in the way of their ideology.
Perhaps this is because they fell in love with the festive atmosphere of the protests. Perhaps because they believe that Israeli governments can be deposed in city squares, or perhaps they're simply confused. Or perhaps because in the summer of 2012, protest has become their profession.