Saturday, June 23, 2012

J14 Returns To Tel Aviv, Its Future Unclear

This evening, thousands of Israelis are assembling at Kikar HaBima in Tel Aviv to protest.  This week's assembly is labeled as a defense of the Israeli LGBT community in light of homophobic comments politicians have made over the past few weeks.  The protest has particular significance given the arrest yesterday of J14 movement organizer Daphni Leef who led a group of activists to try to reestablish a tent protest on Rothschild Boulevard in central Tel Aviv.

Police have turned out in full force to keep the peace after protesters yesterday knocked over trash cans, spat, and threw objects at the police according to reports.  Tonight, protesters smashed a window at the Bank haPoalim in Kikar Rabin.  These actions indicate that many of the protesters out at the moment are a more ideological bunch than the broad sweeping cross-section of Israeli society which turned out last summer.  While a combination of savvy movement leadership and government missteps may change the equation, media portrayals of protesters as angry leftists is not doing the movement any favors.  

Additionally, the police have deployed heavily in the area, mostly to ensure public order.  However, they may successfully intimidate the more moderate protesters who turned out last year.  

Whether the protests will gain the momentum of last summer remains to be seen.  However, at the moment, the message of the movement is being driven by members at its ideological edges rather than its center.  Last summer the movement captured the hearts of hundreds of thousands of Israelis, but has not yet regained these supporters in 2012. Unless the J14 movement can re-align with the center, this summer's protests will be the story of a movement vacated by its moderate base which will ultimately be unable to create social change.

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