Amira Hass reports:
Palestinian social leaders believe the social protests that have erupted throughout Israel are largely influenced by the Arab Spring, contending Israelis must realize they too are suffering due to the occupation and money spent on settlements in the West Bank.
Israelis are imitating the Arab world, and West Bank Palestinians believe this to be a good thing. According to the Ma’an news agency, 14,032 (nearly 75%) of the 18,722 readers who responded to their online survey, believe that what is happening in Israel’s streets is influenced by and imitating the “Arab Spring”.
“Israel is inadvertantly becoming a part of the Middle East,” said sociologist Honaida Ghanim, who researches Israeli society, adding that “this is the power of bottom-up activity, when the country’s ideologists aren’t consulted.”
Ghanim wasn’t surprised when the protests began. As an Israeli citizen, born in Marja and General Director of “MADAR” the Palestinian Forum for Israeli Studies, the sociologist is well acquainted with Israeli polarization. However, she is certain that the recent events in Egypt and Tunisia had a large impact on the Israeli protest movement.
Sufian Abu Zaida is a member of Fatah and former prisoner, who currently teaches about Israeli society in the Birzeit University and the Al-Quds Open University. He was born in Jabaliya, a refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, to a family of refugees from the town Burayr (today Bror Hayil).
The Palestinian teacher promises to remind his students next year that “this might be the first thing Israelis learnt from Arabs. They have always presented themselves as the only positive ray of light in a pitch black Middle East. Suddenly there is something to learn from these retards.”
Ghanim cited additional sociological factors as part of the impetus for change in Israel, saying “on the one hand, there is neo-liberalism and globalization that have resulted in an unacceptable gap between the wealth of the state and individuals and the harshness of life for the masses. On the other hand, these are similar tools – online social networks, with Facebook heading the list, which had a far-reaching effect on the media.”
Despite this, there isn’t much interest among the Palestinians in the protest occupying Israel for over three weeks. “We are a people in perpetual struggle with the government, three weeks of protest are not long enough to seriously catch our attention,” said Nariman al-Tamimi, from Nabi Salih, and Afaf Ghatasha, a feminist activist and member of the Palestinian People’s Party.
However, they are both impressed – as are other Palestinians –that the Israeli movement is geared toward improving the already high level standard of living in Israel in comparison to that of most Palestinians. Israelis are making “demands that are luxuries,” according to Ghatasha.