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Sustaining Protest Energy in Israel

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Sustaining Protest Energy in Israel - by Stephen Lendman

Since mid-July, Israelis have protested in unprecedented numbers for long denied social justice. Succeeding depends on sustaining that energy disruptively for change. Though never easy, it's the only way.

Frances Fox Piven discussed it in her book titled, "Challenging Authority" about social movements becoming pivotal forces for change when ordinary people used their considerable clout, saying:

They have "power....when they rise up in anger and hope, defy the rules....disrupt state institutions....propel new issues to the center of political debate (and force) political leaders (to) stem voter defections by proferring reforms."

When sustained, this determination produces change. Elections can't do it, not in America, most European countries or Israel because entrenched power shuts out independent interests.

Nonetheless, social justice is possible when committed people exert enough disruptive power. Piven explained it as follows:

Societies organize through cooperation and interdependence, but disparate interests at times conflict. While workers depend on management for jobs, managers, in turn, need them to produce. If labor is withheld, operations halt. Both sides have leverage. Either can use it effectively. 

Piven calls the "activation of interdependent power 'disruption.' " It's a strategy based on "withdrawing cooperation in social relations." Protest movements "mobilize disruptive power," achieving leverage by breaking down "institutionally regulated cooperation" by strikes, boycotts, riots, and other disruptive actions without letup until succeed. 

Key is avoiding letting grassroots energy wane. In America, sustaining it achieved representative government, ending slavery, enfranchising women, the right to organize, social welfare and civil rights. 

However, marches, rallies, slogans, or even violence alone or in combination aren't enough. What works is withholding cooperation, breaking the rules, and staying the course despite threats, reprisals, uncertainty, or hardships incurred for the long haul - long enough, that is, to succeed.

It works the same way everywhere, but never easily or quickly. Throughout North Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, Europe, America and Israel, disruptive people power is effective if sustained. It's no different now than earlier.

On August 10, a Haaretz editorial headlined, "Social protests face next challenge: Loss of interest," saying:

Popular outrage "faces its most important test." After an unprecedented show of solidarity, protest organizers and their followers now confront "the bitter enemy of any struggle anywhere: a loss of interest" as energy wanes, the fatal flaw to be avoided.

As a result, "leaders must continue to invigorate the language that is taking shape under them," even if media interest fades and smaller crowds turn out. Staying the course is key to "change national priorities," indifferent to social justice for decades.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) asked "What Happened to Us? How did Israel become a country impossible to live in with dignity?"

Saying "mutual responsibility, equality and justice" are core values, connecting social justice struggles, it explained that for decades Israel "cut budgets and enacted a policy of extreme privatization."

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I was born in 1934, am a retired, progressive small businessman concerned about all the major national and world issues, committed to speak out and write about them.

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