Communists and Hadash Call to Protest the High Cost of Living

A mass demonstration will be held, tomorrow, Saturday night, December 22, opposite the governmental office complex near the Azrieli intersection in Tel Aviv, as other protests are being held throughout the country.

As was the case in earlier protests held this month, the organizers have called on participants to wear fluorescent yellow safety vests, inspired by the mass protests in France. The Communist Party of Israel and Hadash have expressed their support for these protests and have called for the public to participate in the demonstrations against the high cost of living.

"The prices are going up; we're demonstrating. The yellow vest protests have reached Israel."

“The prices are going up; we’re demonstrating. The yellow vest protests have reached Israel.”

The leaders of the protests against planned price hikes called Sunday, December 16, for consumers in Israel to boycott the products of the Osem food company, owned by the Swiss multinational Nestle Corporation, because it’s raising its prices. Playing on the company’s advertising slogan, the leaders modified it saying: “It’s robbery – It’s Osem” and called on consumers leave the company’s products on the shelves until Osem announces it is canceling the price increases.

“On Friday, we proved that the tycoons and monopolies cannot make harsh decisions by themselves that the public will passively accept,” said the chairman of the National Students union, Ram Shefa. “We will simply not let it happen. This battle will continue as long as the government does not intervene and stop the economic decrees.”

The protests come on the backdrop of recently announced price increases for a number of basic products and services. The Israel Electric Company has been given permission by the Public Utilities Commission to raise rates between 6.9  and 8.1 percent, while the Water Authority announced that water prices would rise nationwide by an average of 4.5 percent. The dairy concern Tnuva, owned by a Chinese state corporation, has announced price rises of between 2 and 3 percent, and bakeries and bread companies are seeking 3.4 percent price increases on price-controlled bread products.

Osem, one of the largest food manufacturers in Israel, announced that prices for a large number of its products will go up at the beginning of 2019 by between 2 and 4.5 percent, and thereby became a target of particular ire by organizers of the protest.

But following calls for a consumer boycott against it, Osem-Nestle announced on Wednesday that it was postponing the prices hike announced last week. The conglomerate is Israel’s third largest food company, with an 8.5 percent share of the consumer food market. Its retail sales in Israel totaled NIS 3.5 billion in 2017.

Organizers of the protests have said, “For hundreds of thousands of Israelis, the price increases that have been announced on food, water and energy are going to be destructive. The price rises are the equivalent of these organizations sticking their hands into the pockets of the elderly and the poor who live on stipends and from families who earn low incomes. Israelis are the ones getting the bill on the corruption and lack of effort by the government, and they are tired of paying that bill.”

Related: Ten Arrested During “Yellow Vest” Protest Rally in Central Tel Aviv