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Leader of Israel's #J14 Social Justice Protest Movement Enters Mainstream Politics

BY Lisa Goldman | Monday, October 15 2012

Screenshot from Stav Shaffir's campaign video.

A leader of Israel's social justice movement has announced her candidacy for the Labor party in the upcoming elections. Stav Shaffir, 27, is one of the faces of the J14 movement — so called because it began on July 14, 2011, when her co-activist Daphni Leef pitched a tent on Tel Aviv's posh Rothschild Boulevard to protest the prohibitive cost of housing.

Largely inspired by the Egyptian uprising that began earlier that year, the J14 movement used several social media platforms to publicize events and raise awareness — particularly as the Israeli mainstream media under-reported the protest marches. Twitter had been slow to catch on in Israel before the J14 movement, but as the protests gained momentum and morphed into a general protest at the high cost of living and shrinking welfare state, young people opened accounts in droves and began tweeting with the hashtag #J14, even as Facebook pages about the movement garnered thousands of "likes," while long status updates were the catalyst for epic online exchanges.

In keeping with the social media theme of the J14 movement, Shaffir, who gave a talk about Positive Politics at the 2012 Personal Democracy Forum in New York City, released a YouTube video to announce her candidacy — below, with subtitles inserted.

Shaffir's decision to enter politics after she rose to prominence as an anti-establishment protest leader was met with some disdain from young leftist activists. While some said they had no problem with her entering politics, they did object to her choice of the Labor party, which is an old establishment party currently on the decline. Labor leader Shelly Yachimovich has drawn the ire of the politically active left with her refusal to condemn Israel's settlements in the West Bank.

Around 500,000 Israeli Jews live in the West Bank, alongside 2.5 million Palestinians; but whereas the Israelis enjoy full rights of citizens, the Palestinians live under military occupation. International law prohibits states from settling their citizens in territory under military occupation. Yachimovich's position on the settlements prompted Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy to to brand her a "fake leftist".

Videographer and leftist activist Eran Vered created a satire of Shaffir's video, in which he dubs her announcement with the script of an old television advertisement for Miss Clairol shampoo. Vered posted the video on Facebook, where it rapidly went viral amongst Israeli activists.

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