The Social Periphery's Protest

he Social Periphery's Protest, Kibbutzim College of Education, Tel-Aviv, November 20, 2011
This joint event of the Campus-Community Partnership and the Education for Social Justice Program and the Unit for Social Involvement of the Kibbutzim College of Education, marked the opening of the academic year – aiming to expose students to the actions and dilemmas of one of the groups making up the widespread social justice protest which developed this past summer.
For the invitation (in Hebrew), press here.
The event centered on a panel entitled "The Social Periphery's Protest: Distinctiveness and Dilemmas". Participants in the panel were Attorney Sameh Iraqi, deputy mayor of Tira, and member of Mossawa Center; Yael Ben-Yefet, director of the Mizrahi Democratic Rainbow; and Dr. Hani Zubeida, of the Political Science Department, Yezreel Valley Academic College – all members of the Social Periphery Forum, a forum incorporating representatives from the tent encampments that were set up in underprivileged neighborhoods, villages and towns throughout the social peripheries of Israel this past summer.
The panel addressed the position of the social periphery's protest within the widespread social justice protest. The speakers related to the Social Periphery Forum's objectives, its distinctiveness, and the role of the media in representing its struggle.
Yael Ben-Yefet related to the disappointment from how the protest, that asked to raise the flag of social justice and change, eventually reproduced the familiar social and institutional processes. According to Ben-Yefet, the leaders of the social justice protest come from an ethnically characterized social group and cannot truly represent the periphery's demands. The Social Periphery Forum was initiated in order to allow groups from the periphery to express their demands independently, directly. Relating to the media's role in the protest struggle Ben-Yefet said that the media allocates roles in a superficial manner. For example, when preparing a news item on a poor individual it will always want to shoot that individual's refrigerator (presumably empty). Ben-Yefet added that the fact that the protest's leaders are not able to represent the periphery's problems emanates from an innocent position, as well as from unawareness and even ignorance.
Attorney Sameh Iraqi claimed that the fact that the widespread social justice protest grew out of the middle class is completely natural. This class has convenient access to the media and to the public institutions, since it is part of them, and therefore holds the power to advance change. The periphery's struggle did not begin this summer, but the movement of the middle class became an opportunity. The problem is that the middle class, despite its call in the name of the people, did not succeed in representing the real distress of the majority – of the poor Jewish and Arab neighborhoods and towns. The underprivileged communities, Jewish and Arab, were intentionally divided and disconnected by the public institutions, and the Social Periphery Forum asks to link them into one struggle. The real struggle, asserted Iraqi, is always surrounding land and housing, and a true social process could take place only while addressing these problems. The media, naturally, represents the middle class. For the Social Periphery Forum it is harder to penetrate the media's consciousness, but this is something that needs to be fought over. The entire society needs to be recruited to join the struggle of the periphery and to create true solidarity.
Dr. Hani Zubeida talked about how as a researcher of social movements and social protest, the events of this past summer pleased him, but, he added, the periphery must be represented in the widespread protest. Society is a pyramid whose base is the periphery, and that is why it is important to secure the periphery's rights and care for its representation in order to lead toward real change – if we will remove the base the pyramid will collapse. The Social Periphery Forum's role is to represent. The representation of the different populations in the Knesset, and in the judicial system, for example, must be according to their percentage in the population, as opposed to the current situation. Relating to the media, Dr. Zubeida mentioned that the media's role is to sell, and therefore it does not represent the periphery – poverty does not sell.
Following the panel, participants broke down into two discussion circles, which continued the discussion of the panel, and addressed different issues relating to the social periphery's struggle. One circle focused on the needs of those who are still in the tent encampments, and the different ways in which students can become involved or initiate actions that will answer the direct needs of the residents of the remaining encampments. The second circle discussed the manner in which the Social Periphery Forum constitutes a connection between different social groups, and particularly between Jews and Arabs in Israel.