“Branding” the Protests
SYMBOLS, COLORS, SLOGANS, AND SOUNDS THAT MOVE PEOPLE TO ACTION
Since January 2023, hundreds of thousands of Israelis have come out to protest the government’s controversial plan to overhaul the country’s judicial system.
What began as a single protest on a Saturday night in January in central Tel Aviv has turned into a veritable movement, with protesters of all ages and all walks of life coming out to march and rally in the streets of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and many other cities. They carry flags and signs, they sing songs and chants, they coordinate colors of clothing, and they shout slogans. There is no mistaking their resolve and belief that the country is in danger of losing its democratic character. They demonstrate their opposition through massive protests.
While the protests and demonstrations began as a spontaneous response to the government’s plans to limit the power of the Supreme Court, they have grown into a well-oiled machine, complete with “branding” and design, just like what you might expect to see in any effective awareness campaign. Consistent branding can unify groups and create solidarity with sharp, recognizable messages using symbols, colors, phrases, songs, and more. The current protests in Israel make ample use of all of these tools, which are reflected in the news and social media.
In late March, Prime Minister Netanyahu announced he was “pausing” the government’s legislation while the Knesset went on break from Passover through Yom Ha’atzmaut. Nevertheless, the protests have continued, with organizers saying they will maintain public pressure until the government withdraws its plan entirely.
Take a look at some of the signs and symbols of the ever-evolving weekly protests and consider the influences the protests and their symbols might hold for us and our communities. Click here to learn more about the proposed judicial changes.
SYMBOLS AND COLORS
The Israeli Flag
In recent years, Israeli flags featured prominently in rallies associated with right-wing groups, but the current protests—which are attended by people from across the political spectrum—have seen large numbers of flags waved by people who associate the national symbol with the country’s mainstream. Every one of the current protests features a sea of blue and white flags carried by demonstrators, widely seen as reclaiming it as a national symbol.
Photo credit: @AmnonHarari, Twitter
Pride and Pink
To add colors to the blue and white, the LGBTQ pride flag is carried by many as well, and The Pink Front, a group consisting mostly of artists and performers, adds another shade to the mix.
A Fist Pointing Upward
The fist is perhaps not an original image, but it has been chosen as a symbol since the participants view this as not only a protest but a fight. It is not necessarily a symbol of violence, but a universal symbol of anger, resistance, and determination.
Photo credit: Bezalel School of Art and Design
The Declaration of Independence
Israel’s foundational document is another symbol interpreted to affirm the democratic character of the state, though the word “democracy” itself does not appear in the text. At many protests, a large copy of the Declaration has been carried and even signed by participants.
For a deeper dive, check out our resource, “Encountering Israel’s Declaration of Independence.”
Photo credit: Noga Brenner Samia
Women in Red
A few weeks into the protests a group of women in red robes and white caps, dressed as characters from the popular dystopian novel and TV series “The Handmaid’s Tale,” appeared at a rally. They walked with heads bowed down and clasped hands. This symbol has been used worldwide by feminist movements, including in the US. The feminist group Bonot Alternativa (Building an Alternative), which organized the Handmaid’s Tale protest, maintains that women will be the first to be harmed under the overhaul, which they say will pave the way for new laws that limit gender equality.
Herzl is Crying, Ben-Gurion is Upset: The Colorful Posters of Israel’s Protests.
Graphic designers and copywriters are producing posters that dish out puns and lampoon the government’s leaders who term the legislation “reform” while opponents say it will eviscerate the judiciary.
Poster credit: Herzl is Crying: Creative Underground (@ILdemocracy4ever, Facebook)
SOUNDS AND SLOGANS
Every successful protest needs an anthem. Even though some participants did not think that it is appropriate to sing Hatikvah at the demonstrations, given that not all Israeli citizens feel that the lyrics apply to them (i.e., Jewish heart, nefesh Yehudi), it is sung spontaneously at the end of many demonstrations and public gatherings.
The Pink Front adds not only color but sound in high volume as well. They come equipped with drums and high energy. Drumming nonstop in shifts, they keep the energy high creating a sense of unity and power.
Photo credit: Ohad Tzvigenberg
Among the many slogans that are repeated by the crowds two stand out. The palpable concern for the democratic nature of the state is expressed by chants of Democratia, Democratia! (Democracy, democracy!) and Boosha! Boosha! (Shame! Shame!)
Photo credit: Zohar Raviv
"I Have No Other Country"
A soundtrack can be a strong symbol as well. The list of songs being sung by the crowds and by musicians on stages during the protests is long. However, one song stands out because it is a musical expression of love and devotion to the land and to the Hebrew language despite disagreement or changes in policy. The song Ein Li Eretz Acheret (I Have No Other Country) belongs to everyone.
Written in 1982 by the late songwriter Ehud Manor as an ode to his beloved country, the song has been performed by countless Israeli artists over the years and embraced by people of all political and social perspectives. The unifying factor: a deep love for the country.
I HAVE NO OTHER COUNTRY
אין לי ארץ אחרת
Lyrics: Ehud Manor; Music: Korin Allal
I have no other country
even if my land is aflame
Just a word in Hebrew
pierces my veins and my soul—
With a painful body, with a hungry heart,
Here is my home.
I will not stay silent
because my country changed her face
I will not give up reminding her
And sing in her ears
until she will open her eyes
אין לי ארץ אחרת
גם אם אדמתי בוערת
רק מילה בעברית חודרת
אל עורקיי, אל נשמתי
בגוף כואב, בלב רעב
כאן הוא ביתי
לא אשתוק, כי ארצי
שינתה את פניה
לא אוותר לה
ואשיר כאן באוזניה
עד שתפקח את עיניה