In USA Today op-ed, Michael Oren, Israeli ambassador to U.S., says Israeli social justice movement not like Arab Spring • Arab protests push for democracy, which threatens regimes, while in Israel, democracy is what enables protest in the first place.
Israel's social justice protests may be occurring just down the street from the tumultuous town squares of the region-wide Arab Spring, but in style, essence and candor, they are worlds apart, Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren said on Tuesday.
"More than a single season separates the Arab Spring from the Israeli Summer," Oren wrote in an Op-Ed for USA Today. "The violence characterizing the Arab demonstrations and the peaceful nature of Israel's reflects the most outstanding difference between them."
Oren points out that there are very few cases in which Arab Spring protests have not been marked by violence and bloodshed, whereas in Israel, artists and poets, not security forces, greet the demonstrators. In the Arab world, he adds, regimes are threatened by the demand for freedom and democracy, whereas in Israel, these principles have long existed and are simply being harnessed to push the demonstrators' agenda. "The government views them not as a threat but as an opportunity," Oren wrote of the protests, pointing out Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's establishment of committees to address the activists' demands, as well as the development of online forums for dialogue about the movement.
Oren concludes his piece with a description of his recent visit to Tel Aviv's historic Rothschild Boulevard, where the first tents in the protest sprung up six weeks ago and where the movement continues to be centered. "I did not see a single police officer, much less a soldier, in any way trying to silence the activists," he writes. "The peaceful, nonpartisan nature of the protests is a testament to Israeli democracy."
There is one thread tying the "Israeli Summer" to the Arab Spring, Oren says. Whether they speak Arabic or Hebrew, all of the protesters in the Middle East are challenging the status quo and hoping the government hears their concerns.
"Seasons, by definition, pass," Oren says, adding that he hopes the Arab world will someday enjoy the same democracy that is bolstering the Israeli protest movement. "We can all work for a permanent future of liberty, opportunity and peace."