“At ten o’clock in the morning, Thursday October 5, 2017, about 500 teachers gathered in front of the Budget and Planning Office in Tehran.” That’s the opening sentence of Zep Kalb’s article “Another Brick in the Wall,” published in November in the journal “Middle East Report.” He then continues, “They were joined by thousands of colleagues protesting in front of education offices in a reported 21 cities across the country. Turning Global Teachers’ Day into a nationwide occasion to express their discontent, Iran’s teachers demanded higher wages and more government investment in education.”
In 2015, there were several teachers’ demonstrations in Iran. The peak was in April of that year, with protests in 61 cities. In February 2017, 140,000 people signed a petition demanding an increase in Iran’s education budget. Kalb’s article said that 110,000 of those signatures were obtained via the internet.
It’s no wonder that today, Iranian authorities are blocking social media. They know that objections to the puzzling division of resources and the lack of transparency cross class and social lines, and that the economic protest is political criticism. Indeed, over the past few months, bus drivers in Tehran and employees of the sugar cane industry have been on strike, and now students are joining the workers.
In contrast to Iran, Israel has no need to block social media outlets that disseminate pictures of protests and their suppression. The Israeli government knows all of the following very well:
1. The Israeli public is enthusiastic about the demonstrations in Iran and supports Iranians’ right to protest and voice opposition. In its view, the suppression of the demonstrations is just further proof of the loathsomeness of the ayatollahs’ regime.
2. As a matter of choice, and with a clear mind, the public in the start-up nation refuses to register Palestinian protests, doesn’t want to hear about the reasons for them and dismisses their message in advance.
3. We’ve long since ceased presuming to uphold the universality of values and principles.
4. When social media networks here disseminate pictures of protests, it’s so that the Israeli public, which is shocked by their suppression in Iran, will demand that our army increase its suppression of the Palestinians. Under the pressure of Israelis’ shock at the Palestinian protest in Nabi Saleh, the police and military justice system embarked on a campaign of vengeance against a teenage female protester, her mother and her cousin.
This difference isn’t surprising. In Iran, the protests reveal a dichotomy between the citizens and the regime. The citizens have nowhere else to go, and the regime – with all its jails and its arrests, all its means of suppression – knows it can’t do without them. Moreover, it is committed to holding some sort of elections to preserve its legitimacy.
Most Palestinians, in contrast, aren’t Israeli citizens, and for those who are, their citizenship is both Class D and conditional. There is always legislation in the pipeline that will further reduce their status. And the Palestinians who aren’t citizens don’t count at all, because they have no right to vote. It’s always possible to imagine and plan for their expulsion from this land, not merely their arrest.
The people who rule the Palestinians, on both the bureaucratic and political level, don’t depend on their votes to get elected or be appointed and earn their living. Quite the contrary: The more they oppress the Palestinians, the more assured their livelihood is.
Israeli economic protests – by teachers, the disabled, junior university faculty, doctors, nurses and others – have ceded all political character by refusing to demand a shift in the division of resources, which prioritizes arms build-ups and the investment of enormous resources, with no transparency, in Yesha-stan.
Arms build-ups, military careers and the settlements – identical triplets subjugating the Palestinians – are Israelis’ immediate or potential compensation for the destroyed welfare state. Here in Israel, when it comes to our domination over the Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line, the Jewish Israeli public is itself a regime of ayatollahs.