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A Tale of Two Tents

Settlers in Hebron seem more clued in than youth in Tel Aviv

Marc Tracy
April 05, 2012
A tent on Rothschild Boulevard last summer.(Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images)
A tent on Rothschild Boulevard last summer.(Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images)

The settlers whom the Israeli government evacuated from a house in Hebron (after making noises about letting them stay there a while longer) are planning to pitch a tent near the site to protest their allegedly premature removal, to hold a Seder, and generally to make their presence felt. You can’t help but see it as a nod to the #j14 tent protests of last summer, which eventually brought hundreds of thousands of Israelis into the streets of all major cities, and most notably Tel Aviv, to protest the increasing high cost of living, economic inequality, and power of the small handful of super-rich tycoonim.

And indeed, Shmuel Rosner reports that as the weather turns nice in Israel again (no jokes: they had snow in Jerusalem this winter!), the tents are coming back. Shaul Mofaz, the new leader of Kadima, the prime opposition party, has pledged to lead the protests, but it’s unclear that the Occupy-style movements needs formal leadership, much less wants it. (And anyway, Labor leader Shelly Yachimovich seems on first glance to be the more obvious choice.)

But of course, according to Prime Minister Netanyahu, inequality is not so bad in Israel! And, in a sense, he’s right! Once you take the Haredim and the Arabs out of the picture—once you focus on the secular or only somewhat religious Israeli Jewish population, the sort of Israelis many American Jews seem most comfortable thinking about, and not coincidentally the group most energized by last summer’s tent protests—the picture looks much better. The protests focused a little on the problem of over-subsidizing the Haredim, and pointedly—for fear of dividing people—not at all on the Israeli Arabs, and even less on the Palestinians.

It’s fun to make light of Bibi’s almost sarcastic formulation: “if you deduct the Arabs and ultra-Orthodox from inequality indexes, we’re in great shape,” he said yesterday. The fact is, though, that as of last summer the #j14 protesters were making much the same cavalier “deduction.” If they really want to change things, they might address the totality of the Israeli situation for the single, interconnected thing that it is. Their fellow citizens in the tent in Hebron are actually being a lot more honest about things.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.