The Tel Aviv stock marked crashed and trading was halted today in reaction to the contentious politically driven decision by Standard & Poor's to lower the U.S. debt rating, but the protesters on the streets were not an Israeli-style Tea Party.
In a social justice movement that began as a tiny tent city meant to show the out-of-control cost of housing, more than 300,000 Israelis filled the streets of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and elsewhere to protest growing economic disparity between the wealthy and middle class citizens of the Jewish state.
The protesters turned their scorn on right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the Tel Aviv stock market plummeted by more than 6% overnight on news the S&P had downgraded the U.S. debt rating. The Israeli market closed automatically when stocks tanked.
The stock market in Dubai also crashed, while the Saudi Arabian trading barely rebounded after a severe decline yesterday. Analysts blamed it all on the S&P action.
Investors are now bracing for declines overnight tonight in the Asian and
European markets and many fear even more gloom and doom when the U.S. markets open tomorrow morning.
The middle-class uprising in Israel appears to have more in common with the Middle Eastern pro-democracy movement known as the Arab Spring rather than the right-wing Tea Party hysteria that S&P blames for lowering the U.S. credit rating from AAA to AA+.
The Guardian of London described it this way: "Despite Israel's relatively healthy economic growth and low unemployment, wage disparities are big, wealth and corporate power are highly concentrated, food prices have increased almost 13% since 2005 and many people spend 50% of their incomes on rent or mortgages."
A sign carried by one protester yesterday written in Hebrew and Arabic said, "Egypt is here."
It should come as no shock that a social justice movement would take root in Israel, since the Jewish state was founded as a European-style socialist market democracy.
The founding father of Israel, the intellectual revolutionary David Ben-Gurion, was expelled from Palestine by the British colonial overlords in 1915 for his socialist activities. He later tempered his personal politics, but never lost touch with his socialist roots.
"Without Hebrew labor there is no way to absorb the Jewish masses. Without Hebrew labor, there will be no Jewish economy; without Hebrew labor, there will be no [Jewish] homeland. And anyone who does anything counter to the principle of Hebrew labor harms the most precious asset we have for fulfilling Zionism," Ben-Gurion said circa 1920, according to journalist and author Tom Segev in his book, "One Palestine Complete."
The Israeli demonstrators promise a million-person march next month, if not sooner given the economic conditions.