This article was published on page 16 of The Jerusalem Observer on 2 December 2011 and can be found online here:
Inspired by scenes of uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, Israelis cascaded into the streets this summer demanding “social justice”. The figurehead of the movement—a woman whose sole accomplishment was pitching a tent when she became homeless—had started a Facebook group that sparked the inferno of discontent among Tel Avivians. In no time flat, she and a small cadre (known as the “Rothschild Gang”) became the leaders of what was reported as the largest protest movement Israel had ever witnessed.
The movement Daphni Leef initiated was nothing more than a decapitated millipede—a mass of legs with no head. Holding placards and demanding “social justice”, the protesters this summer made a list of demands but proffered no practical solutions to their woes. Their greatest threat to the establishment was that they would continue to march to the street. In many ways they reminded me of a South Park mob shouting “rabble, rabble, rabble” and “they took our jobs!”
The unwitting leader of the social justice movement demonstrated her leadership acumen and diplomatic panache a few weeks ago when she told Bibi that “you are looking at a tired woman. But more than this, a determined and furious woman,” and that she would not talk to him directly again. Sounds to me like Leef pulled one out of Bibi’s playbook and was met with similar success. She followed these comments up with another ambiguous statement: “we and many others will be in this Knesset to prove that the public wants something else.”
Pray tell, Daphni Leef, what does the mob want? As a leader she is as effective at moving people as the Jerusalem light rail during rush hour. Thomas Friedman published an op-ed November 15th, 2011 in The New York Times wherein he pointed out that Facebook and Twitter have convinced everyone that they are the tip of the spearhead in social movements. Unfortunately, “…at the end of the day…someone needs to meld those ideas into a vision of how to move forward... Those are called leaders.” Neither Daphni Leef, nor the Rothschild Gang, nor the heads of the student unions,who claim it is their turn to lead the charge, can claim that title. None have put forth plausible, sensible solutions and a clear vision of what “the public wants”.
The Facebook leadership syndrome has infected the minds of this generation’s Israelis. We are convinced that by clicking “like” we have made a stand, or that starting a group or event makes one a leader. And the many participants in Jewish leadership programs who strive to be the future of Israel, where are they?
It therefore comes as no surprise that the ill-conceived plans of the mob crying for social justice have been washed away with the winter rains. Netanyahu, who is made of sterner stuff than Leef reckoned, has negotiated this minor obstacle with finesse. After all, if he can wile his way past Obama, Biden, and the rest of the international community for three years, he can handle a Tel Aviv yuppie living in a tent. If the likes of Daphni Leef are the best Israeli youth can offer, then there is no hope for social justice in Israel anytime soon.