After Taking to the Streets – What’s Next?

Globes

Israelis are still feeling the aftershocks following the killing of unarmed 18 year-old Ethiopian Israeli Solomon Teka by an off-duty police officer earlier this month. The officer has been placed under house arrest and the State Prosecutor is considering his case.

Teka was the second Ethiopian Israeli to be shot dead by police this year. The latest killing expanded conversations about the discrimination and neglect of Israel’s 135,000 Ethiopian immigrant community with major media coverage.

Following the massive protests after the killing, one of the issues discussed has been the effectiveness of demonstrations.

Ella Yedaya of Shatil was one of many social change leaders interviewed for the cover story of “G”, the weekend magazine of Israel’s financial newspaper “Globes,” in an article entitled “A guide to the Demonstrator – Street Smart,” by Chen Shalita.

Ella spoke about the how to think strategically about a demonstration, which she thinks ultimately needs to focus on a positive, alternative vision. “Reality has its own rules. There will always be surprises. It is always worthwhile for protests leaders — the ones who make the event Facebook, and the ones who interact with the media — to synchronize their messaging.”

She added that the protest’s message “should not stay in up in the air, but should translate into something specific.” She suggested that protestors should be thinking about some specific questions: “What is the real purpose [of a demonstration], do [the protestors] want to try to drum up public opinion — and if so, which public. Who exactly are they demonstrating against? In the case of the Ethiopian-Israeli protests, is [the protest] aimed at the officer who shot [Teka] or is it against the government? What do they want to happen?”

Michal Sella, the Director of Policy Change for Shatil, spoke about the role of the media in demonstrations, which she thinks is overblown. “At the end of the day, the media is what spurs the government to action, and in order for there to be media, there needs to be a sufficient number of protestors and noise.” But, she added, “No one thinks that we can solve a problem just by protests. But when they’re effective, they generate a slow change in consciousness, and from there it is easier to talk about policy changes [that can happen down the line].” NIF’s Director in Israel Mickey Gitzin noted that the political parties play a smaller role in demonstrations today. “For all kinds of reasons – including the Law for the Funding of Political Parties and the lack of infrastructures that once existed – the political parties no longer have the economic ability to organize demonstrations. But the social change organizations do, often due to our support.”

The article observes that the right sees assistance from NIF, whether funding for social change organizations or helping a demonstration as illegitimate. Gitzin said, “There is no major social issue connected to social equality that NIF is not linked to.”

Gitzin continued, “It is always good to create expanded partnerships. Even if there is a ‘price’ to being identified as ‘leftists,’ as happened when the Jewish Arab partnership Omdim Beyachad (Standing Together) stood alongside the Ethiopian Israelis. These solidarity partnerships help: if Arab women would have remained alone in their campaign to end violence against women, they would have not succeeded in raising the awareness they did without the support of MK Ayman Odeh, Arab citizens and Jewish women groups. Of course, there is still a long way until policies are changed. I’ve seen demonstrations of thousands that didn’t change a thing while small groups made a change.”