By Gideon Levy, Haaretz – 28 July 2011
The tent protesters have learned to read and write, now it’s time to change writing instruments and receive the book; now they must get down to writing their own bible – with a pen that does not get erased like a pencil.
The graduation ceremony was moving. All the students completed their first grade studies with honors in the open democratic school of the tent protest.
They learned to read and write, even calligraphy, just like we did in our childhood. Tens of thousands came to the ceremony – the demonstration last Saturday night – filled with enthusiasm, the likes of which has not been seen in these parts for a long time. An air of inspiring alertness and involvement prevailed in the classrooms – the tents throughout the country and especially in Tel Aviv. But now it’s goodbye first grade, time to graduate immediately to second grade.
In the second grade of our childhood we had a different ceremony, the “Torah Giving.” Again the excited parents came to school and we children went to shake the principal’s hand and receive our first Bible from him. That year we were also allowed to start writing with a pen, no more pencil (and eraser ).
That is exactly where the tent protest is right now. Pardon the seemingly patronizing tone. The protesters have learned to read and write, now it’s time to change writing instruments and receive the book. Now they must get down to writing their own bible – with a pen that does not get erased like a pencil.
We must cross our fingers for them, encourage them and pray for their success, but their next test is harder. Now they must know what to do with the new language they have learned, and perhaps bequeathed. Now they must know not only how to write, but what. If in first grade they learned that they have power, can influence, that not all is lost, not all is in the hands of a handful of self-seeking, cynical politicians. Now they must learn how to use this power they have accumulated so rapidly. It is time to formulate goals and form a leadership. The first objective is crucial, the second less so, for the moment.
Until now the means have justified the cause. In such a complacent, indifferent and sleepy society, merely taking to the street justifies almost any cause. The impressive revival has already chalked up achievements, but everything will blow away with the wind and evaporate, unless they graduate immediately to the next grade.
The cause of the protest – excessively high rent – is a matter that even a more honest, decent and persuasive prime minister than the current one would not be able to solve with one press conference.
Let’s face it, this problem cannot be solved from one day to the next. Tired of bullshit and deceit, the protesters’ resolute response was appropriate. But they must also realize it is impossible to solve the problem at once. It is their right, perhaps also their duty, to demand Benjamin Netanyahu’s head – a sentiment sizzling beneath the surface – but this is not enough. Their matriculation exam is still ahead: Will they make do with reducing the rent by NIS 1,000 a month, or do they want another state for years to come? Do they want to spearhead a revolutionary move – they have already taken this rusty, dusty word out of the attic – or will they be satisfied with a mere cosmetic fix? Even Netanyahu can provide that kind of fix, given some time.
After they have learned to write it is time to see whether they are self-indulgent youngsters, or whether they have the courage and forbearance to deal with the really big problems and propose solutions and alternatives.
This could undermine their unity, but their unity must not become the cause. It could also raise a public controversy and end the wall-to-wall hug, but it is the only way to achieve something. The time has come to stick their hand in the fire and fight for all the issues they have steered clear of so far – the security budget, the settlements, the occupation, the breaches of democracy and the rule of capital, without which no real rectification can be made, not even in the cost of rent.
They will not be able to evade these issues, if they want to be significant. So they had better not tarry. The fire will burn painfully, the pampering consensus will come to an end. Some will retire in anger, but hey, a protest is no picnic. If they want another country, not just another apartment, this is their mission. If they miss this opportunity, it will not return soon. Therefore we look to them with such great expectations. Welcome to second grade.