If Palestinians on the West Bank are into their 3rd Intifada, have Israelis in 2023 started their 1st ‘Intifada’?

By David E. Kaplan

Today in Israel is ‘National Disruption Day’. People are taking to the streets en mass – it’s all about direction not of cars but the government! Never seen anything like it before. I have just returned from a huge demonstration at the busiest intersection in my hometown of Kfar Saba, 20 kilometres north of Tel Aviv that began at 8.00am. It did not matter the colour of the traffic lights as the cars, busses and trucks were not going anywhere! It seemed like a metaphor for the country not going anywhere either as if rooted at the no less metaphorical  ‘CROSSROAD’!

They Shalt Not Pass. Buses are blocked from driving through the street as protesters demonstrate against judicial reform in Tel Aviv, March 1, 2023. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)

Posters, flags, blaring over the megaphone and the honking of car horns. At 10.30am the protest  in Kfar Saba officially ended with a rousing singing of the national anthem – Hatikva – the hope. It is a commodity that hangs precariously in the air – hope.

On the way walking home, I receive a text message from my Lay of the Land colleague, Rolene Marks, who was covering the demonstration in her hometown of Modi’in in the centre of the country. A large crowd had assembled outside the residence of the Minister of Justice, Yariv Levin – the architect of the judicial overhaul.  “Protesters were drumming on tambourines, blowing vuvuzelas, and chanting in Hebrew,Yariv Levin you bring shame (“Busha”) to Modi’in,” reported Rolene. While the protests were mostly peaceful “It was very sad to see,” continued Rolene, “to see one religious extremist approach the protestors to spit on them. It was ugly.”

People vs Police. This is where Netanyahu’s government has ‘delivered’ his nation.

I am now back at my computer in my apartment in Kfar Saba and I can still hear motorists expressing their sentiment by honking their hooters. It is so loud you can’t fail to hear, but is the government hearing? Is it even bothering to listen?

The nation-wide protests were scheduled to send a collective message by outraged citizens as Benjamin Netanyahu’s  legislative committee votes to pass the second part of its ‘judicial reform’, a misnomer for its rather ‘injudicious overhaul’. Yes, it began over this issue but is it only over this issue 8 weeks later? There is a collective revulsion of this government whose priorities appear skewed. If the Arabs on the West Bank are engaged in a 3rd Intifada, are Israelis engaged in their 1st Intifada?

As a former student of politics, the atmosphere in Israel reminds me of the protests of France1968, when in the beginning of May of that fateful and turbulent year, a period of civil unrest occurred throughout the French republic, lasting some seven weeks punctuated by protests, general strikes, and the occupation of universities and factories. At the height of those events, the French economy came to a halt. Attempts to quell those strikes by the de Gaulle administration only inflamed the situation further, leading to street battles with the police. And while de Gaul secretly fled to West Germany, it appears our Israeli leadership choses to play the proverbial fiddle, carrying on regardless with its hated legislation, while the country – now literally – burns! The images of revenge settler violence in the Palestinian village of Huwara of burning cars and homes adds to the visual image of a country whose leadership  has lost the plot but worse, lost its soul! 

Torch of Vengeance. This is what the scrapyard in the Palestinian town of Huwara looked like after the settlers had torched it. (AFP/Ronaldo Schemidt)

Adding fuel to the fire, after the riot, chairman of the Knesset’s National Security Committee MK Zvika Fogel of the extreme-right Otzma Yehudit party was unequivocal in his backing for the settler rioters when he said:

 “A closed, burnt Huwara – that’s what I want to see. That’s the only way to achieve deterrence.…… we need burning villages when the IDF doesn’t act.”

Anger Erupts. People rise up on the streets against government going down the wrong road.

We, who know about pogroms, should know better. Just how far low this country’s leadership has sunk, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich -who is also the head of the far-right Religious Zionism party and a minister with responsibility for civil affairs in the West Bank within the Defense Ministry – concurred with his equally disgusting coalition collogues at a financial conference that the Palestinian village of Huwara should be “wiped out’, but with one condition.

And what is that condition?

I think the State of Israel should be the one to wipe it out, not, God forbid, private people.” So that is the only transgression the rioters settlers did on their murderous spree – they should instead have left it for the government’s ordered henchmen to do the hit!

Call in the Cavalry. Police deploy horses and stun grenades to disperse Israelis blocking a main road to protest against plans by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government to overhaul the judicial system, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday, March 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

This man should be in prison not parliament.

While at the demonstrations the common collective chant is ”Bibi Habayta” – “Bibi go home”,  there is an increasing belief, that if in the past people believed Bib always had the solution, now his persona personifies the opposite – dissolution. As the former Minister of Defence Benny Ganz said:

 “The problem isn’t Smotrich, and it’s not Ben Gvir and it’s not Fogel. The problem is Netanyahu. He’s letting the system fall apart. This is all Netanyahu’s responsibility and not his emissaries.”

Crossing Barriers. Ordered to take off the kid gloves, police clash with protestors in Tel Aviv, 1 March, 2023.

The people’s revulsion for the Prime Minister was graphically reflected when only last week, when there are so many existential issues facing a nation of national crisis, the Knesset held a special session to approve state funding on both of Netanyahu’s private residences – one in the seaside luxurious town of Caesarea and the other in Jerusalem. Shouting matches broke out almost immediately as opposition MKs charged the committee for caring more of preserving Netanyahu’s millions than caring about the cost of living crisis faced by millions of Israelis.

The way things are going, today’s Day of Outrage are set to lead to Days of Outrage. Sadly, we’re in for the duration as we have leaders not running but ruining our country.

Worried about Their Future. Despite Prime Minister referring to the protestors as anarchists here are children accompanied by their parents and guardians waving Israeli flags during the demonstration in Tel Aviv on March 1, 2023. (Jack GUEZ / AFP).

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).

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