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guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 18 July 2012 06.33 EDT
The social justice protests we saw exactly a year ago in Israel could not be more different than the renewed wave of rallies that have once again brought people out to the sweltering streets.
Last year, tens of thousands participated in the J14 weekly marches against the high cost of living in Israel and the deterioration of social services. The rallies grew week on week, culminating in nationwide demonstrations on September 3 that brought over 400,000 people to the streets. This was the largest – and most peaceful – protest against capitalism that summer across the globe, not only percentage-wise (6% of the population) but in absolute numbers as well.
There's a different atmosphere on the streets this summer. Polls show there is still widespread support for J14 (named after the day the protest began, July 14), but fewer are participating. Saturday's demonstration, the largest so far, managed to muster just 10,000 people. The ad hoc leadership of the movement has splintered into numerous factions, some calling for more co-operation with the political system, while others want a confrontational approach.
Both the citizens and the state are losing patience. Police are showing less restraint this time round and videos of protesters being beaten have quickly spread across the social networks. Police even brought in a high-tech military surveillance vehicle used in the occupied territories to monitor protesters. And even before the protests started up again, key activists were summoned for interrogation at police stations. On the protesters' side, the confrontational approach took centre stage a few weeks ago when a bank was "occupied" and its windows smashed.