Israelis campaign for affordable housing, better economic life ("Tentifada"), 2011

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Timing
Time Period:  
Time period notes: 
The campaign slowed as the summer ended and the government responded to their demands, but all protestors did not leave the city until early winter.
14 July
2011
to
November
2011
Location and Goals
Country: 
Israel
Location City/State/Province: 
Tel Aviv
Location Description: 
The campaign began in Tel Aviv but spread to numerous cities across the nation.
Goals: 
Protestors wanted "affordable housing, lower prices, higher taxes on the rich, and better childcare"
 

On 14 July 2011, Daphni Leef, a freelance filmmaker, began a campaign to be known as the “Tent Revolt” or “Tentifada.” Leef, like many middle-class citizens in Tel Aviv and in the nation of Israel, faced great financial hardships in an economy that statistically should have provided a level of comfort. Barely able to afford her home, Leef created a Facebook page, inviting those with similar grievances to pitch tents on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv Thursday of that week in order to convince the government to lower housing costs.

Quickly, three-dozen tents arose on the boulevard, and the purpose of the campaign expanded, as they “called for affordable housing, lower prices, higher taxes on the rich, and better childcare.” Within the tent city they held debating circles, prayer services, karaoke nights, and other events and activities to promote community and incite discussion. Every evening they met to decide what to do next and then deliver their decisions and expand the movement using Facebook, Twitter, and email. Local restaurants and many residents in Tel Aviv provided them with food and other amenities.

The Tel Aviv Municipality gave the protestors a permit to allow continued legal occupation. Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai had initially spoken out in opposition of the protest but later stated that it was “appropriate and justified.” Despite his later concession to the movement, when he visited the tent city he was greeted with jeers by the protestors. MK Miri Regev (Likud) received the same greeting, but MK Isaac Herzog (Labor), and MK Nitan Horovitz (Meretz) both received “warm” welcomes.

The movement rapidly spread across the country while it continued to grow in Tel Aviv. Bnei Akiva students joined in the original city. Rupin College in Netanya, Beit Berl College in Sharon, and Tel Hai College in Kiryat Shmona all joined the campaign, as well. In Kikar Zion, Jerusalem, protestors established another tent city.

The Histadrut trade union vocally supported the protestors, as did the Israeli National Students Union. The protest grew to 300,000, with 3,300 tents in several cities. In a survey, 90% of Israeli citizens spoke in favor and solidarity with the protestors.

On 23 July 2011, the Facebook page called for a mass demonstration in numerous cities. Protestors nationwide marched and waved banners and signs to call further attention to the movement. Signs read, “Summer of discontent,” “Yes, we tent,” “Tentifada,” and “Long live the revolution.”

Finally, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu requested that the Knesset Economics Committee meet in order to alter the national housing bill passed recently. This would then require that construction on projects begin within two and a half years of the approval. He attempted to pass a bill through that would provide affordable housing but it failed.

More rallies occurred in cities throughout the country on 30 July and 6 August. In response, about 100 Tel-Aviv residents opposed to the movement launched a counter-protest through Rothschild Boulevard, calling the tent-city protesters' methods anarchist. The two groups later met for peace talks.

On 8 August, Netanyahu then created a committee of fourteen economists, academics, and officials headed by Tel Aviv University professor of economics Manuel Trajtenberg. The committee would study the situation, draw up a plan, and present it to the 16 minister socioeconomic cabinet, and then that cabinet would provide recommendations to the actual government.

On 22 August and 26 August, protesters occupied abandoned buildings before being removed by police. The Israeli government responded to the encampments and occupations further on 6 September 2011, forcibly evacuating the tent-city. Protesters verbally insulted police as this occurred, and a protesters at city hall became violent, throwing eggs and charging the doors. Police arrested over 30 demonstrators.

Near the end of the month, on 27 September, the tent-city protesters held a press conference to give Netanyahu an ultimatum until 29 October to provide clear plans for addressing the social justice issues they raised. When this goal was not met, demonstrators returned to the streets for rallies, smaller than those from the previous summer

Eventually a small portion of the requested reforms were made, thus improving the public education system and slightly improving housing costs through a program that promoted the construction of affordable housing projects.

As demands were met, though not necessarily to the satisfaction of all the protestors, tents began to disappear across the country. Other pressing concerns became the primary issues and the campaign ended. Nevertheless, the campaign left a mark as being one of the first nonviolent campaigns unassociated with the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.

Research Notes
Influences: 

The "Cottage Cheese Intifada," a Facebook initiated boycott inspired them to begin their own. This was owns of the first major protests in Israel not concerned with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (1)

Sources: 
Buck, Tobias. "Israel's Middle- Class Revolt Hits Fresh Peak." FT.com. Financial Times, 12 Aug. 2011. Web. 24 Mar. 2013. <http://www.ft.com/>.

Connolly, Kevin. "Israel Suffers Summer of Economic Discontent." BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation, 08 Feb. 2011. Web. 24 Mar. 2013. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-14344515>.

Hartman, Ben. "Protest Leaders Call for All Tent Cities to Mass in TA." JPost.com. The Jerusalem Post, 21 July 2011. Web. 24 Mar. 2013. <http://www.jpost.com/>.

Hartman, Ben. "Revolt Over Rent Launched in Tel Aviv" JPost.com. The Jerusalem Post, 16 July 2011. Web. 24 Mar. 2013. <http://www.jpost.com/>.

Hellman, Ziv. "Trajtenberg's Taxing Task." JPost.Com. The Jerusalem Post, 29 Aug. 2011. Web. 24 Mar. 2013. <http://www.jpost.com/>.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Jessica Seigel and Fatimah Hameed, 24/03/2013