"Social" protest (file)
"Social" protest (file)Israel news photo: Flash 90

Organizers of two “social justice” protests in Tel Aviv were disappointed Saturday night when just thousands turned out for the rallies.

The evening was also marred by violent fights as some participants in one rally, held in Kikar HaBima, fought with security personnel at the other, held at the Tel Aviv Museum. One even attempted to burst onto the stage and disturb the event.

Those causing the disturbance were apparently angered by signs bearing the words, “There is a Future” – the name of a new political party started by journalist Yair Lapid. They accused the Tel Aviv Museum protest organizers of attempting to use the “social justice” movement for their own political ends.

MK Yuval Zellner (Kadima), who spoke at the Tel Aviv Museum rally, claimed that the low turnout showed how necessary the protest movement is. “The small crowd is evidence of the despair the middle class feels over the government’s weak, ingratiating policy,” he said.

“The ongoing harm done to the middle class, and to those who bear the burden [of national service] is what unites the government’s commitment to hareidim and to the wealthy: a policy that ignores the needs of the heart of the Israeli public, which cries, 'No more!'” he continued.

Student Union head Itzik Shmuly spoke as well. Addressing Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, he said, “You’ve violated your contract with the people. A contract according to which we would work hard – and you would know how to steer the ship… You all have jumped out of the ship into the lifeboats, and left us behind with the holes. You gave your people a free lunch, and abandoned us.” He added, “We won’t be a ship of slaves.”

"Social justice" protests in the summer of 2012 have failed to gather the larger crowds seen the summer before. The protests have turned violent, with protesters smashing bank windows and blocking streets. Several people have self-immolated following the self-immolation of a man at an earlier Tel Aviv rally.