Israeli tent protests ignore link between neoliberalism, occupation

Max Ajl writes:

What have thus far been mostly absent [during Israel’s J14 protests] are calls to end the occupation, a silence that speaks eloquently to the composition of Israeli society, in which a call to end the occupation or dismantle the racist juridical structure is perceived as an attack on the state religion: militarist nationalism. Such a call would be “political,” as opposed to the current protests, which are merely “social” in nature.

It is yet early, but two things seem clear. One, this movement will not break the Israeli structure of power. Two, this is an early fracture – a foretaste of later ruptures – within Zionism.

It would be wonderful to be wrong about the first point. One could not predict the fall of the Iranian shah from the Peacock Throne in 1977 before months-long street melees sent him into flight. The rise of Hugo Chavez was not prefigured in the caracazo, the countrywide riots against Venezuelan neoliberal austerity measures, of 1989. Revolutions are inherently unpredictable, as people move out of the gentle ebbs and flows, the quotidian cycles, of their lives, and move to messianic time. At such moments, belief in their own power, a kind of “collective effervescence,” can create opportunities that no one would have predicted or believed possible just weeks before, and radical change becomes a kind of a mirage that one suddenly wills into being real. Such sparks of human creativity and the instinct for freedom kindle flames within structures designed to douse them.

Still, the fractures within those structures are real. The average apartment is unaffordable for 90 percent of the population, what academic and housing researcher Danny Ben Shahar calls a “social time-bomb,” in part the result of housing inflation as a jet-setting Jewish transnational elite flits into Tel Aviv and Jerusalem for the summer, stays at their “ghost apartment,” then returns to Paris and Los Angeles. Inflation is not restricted to the housing market. As Histadrut Labor Federation Chairman Ofer Eini said, “If once I was able to go to the supermarket and make a NIS 700 purchase, today I pay double. And that is not linked to the CPI. If the CPI rises 3 percent, the supermarket prices rise 30 percent. The one benefiting from these rising prices is the government.”

The question of the “government” benefiting from rising prices is dubious. Inflation might be partially pushed by the government, but historically, Israeli inflation has led to a redistribution of economic clout from the bottom and middle of Israeli society to its upper echelons. The upper class, welded solidly into transnational capital circuits, is the real beneficiary, behind the veneer of the state and the politicians it pushes into office. And it frequently does not bother with the veneer: amidst a cartelized economy, prices are pushed higher and higher by the corporations that set prices, while wages do not come close to keeping pace with price increases.

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