Friday, April 13, 2012

The double tongue of the Philosopher-Minister

Netanyahu , our Prime Minister, is apparently concerned about the threat of renewed social protest - which filled last summer the Israeli streets -  even more than he is worried about the Iranian Bomb. It is a fact that already for more than a month we have not heard from him even a single word about the new Auschwitz threatened by the nuclear duck in Tehran. Instead, we hear every day about how well our society and economy is faring, and why the social protest people have absolutely no reason to go into the streets. And if they do insist on demonstrating, then let them accuse the Arabs, or the ultra-Orthodox, or the major trade unions – let them accuse whoever they want,  just as long as they don’t blame the government nor hard-working tycoons who made their billions with the sweat of their brows. Meanwhile the police is not taking chances, and whenever there is a social protest  even in small numbers, officers rush to disperse it and those who appear to be the ringleaders are hauled off to detention and instant trials

And now entering the fray is also the well-known philosopher Dr. Yuval Steinitz, Netanyahu's old friend, the man who jumped out of the ivory towers of the Haifa University straight into the stormy waters of the Israeli economy.  Aristotle would have been delighted: a  Philosopher-King, or at least - a minister.

Two newspapers, "Israel Today" and "Makor Rishon", dedicated several pages to extensive interviews with the Philosopher Finance Minister. In the two papers Steinitz said almost exactly the same, praising without limit the excellent functioning of our economy under the leadership of "myself and the Prime Minister."

Again and again he reiterated how fortunate Israel is compared to other Western countries. Again and again he explained how confused and wrong-headed are the social protest people who regard everything on the dark side and who insist that the fruits of the economic prosperity do not get to them nor to their families or their friends and neighbors. In both papers Steinitz quoted the compliments he got at international conferences and from analysts at foreign newspapers. He explained that only in Israel does the media take a biased hostile approach towards himself and  the  Prime Minister, and their policies.

In both papers the interviewers certainly did not embarrass Steinitz with unpleasant questions. For example, none of them asked him about the many cases where the Prime Minister  took significant economic decisions and his friend the Minister of Finance only heard of them through the media.

But still, the two interviews were not completely identical. In "Makor Rishon" the Minister of Finance told some interesting things: "As for increased funding to the settlements, I do not want to get into numbers but let's just say that aid to settlement in Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights has soared by several dozen percentage points during my tenure as Finance Minister. This comes from my deep sense that in past years the settlements  have been deprived of funds because of various constraints. There were international pressures, some organizations no longer invest in settlements in the Territories, out of fear it would hurt their fundraising ability.

We had to compensate for the damages caused by settlement freeze and slowdown in construction - I'm very proud of it. In addition to the financial aid I was privileged to contribute greatly to the Ariel Hall of Culture whose completion was stuck for years because of budget shortages, and also the Hall of Culture in Kiryat Arba. Now we are also helping the building of a Hall of Culture in Ma'aleh Adumim. "

The clever Philosopher Finance Minister said these  things on the pages of "Makor Rishon", a newspaper whose readers are mainly settlers and the settlers' staunch supporters. However, in "Israel Today", a newspaper which is distributed free to ordinary Israelis, to random passersby on the streets, Dr. Steinitz chose not to say even one word about the settlements and the government funding given to them. Guess why.

See you on May 12

It seems the stiff-necked, stubborn social protest activists are turning a deaf ear to the reasoned exhortations of the Prime Minister and his friend the Philosopher. They just can't comprehend how well off they are, how wonderfully flourishing the economy and state are, how perfectly happy everybody is. So ungrateful!

For example, just look at the message I received from Yigal Rambam, one of the organizers of last summer's social protest.

Give us back our democracy! - May 12, 2012
Come to a mass happening on Tel Aviv's Rabin Square.

For the sake of our children, so that they could continue to have human  dignity, for the democracy which was stolen from us, for a sane life in this country! Against the economic oligarchy which had gained control over the State of Israel and its resources, for the people bowing down under the burden of the cost of living and the taxes.

At the beginning of this opening of this summer's campaign, we will say loud and clear to the economic oligarchy: We have had enough, return Israel to the Israelis!

Come and get to know all of the people's protest movements. Throughout the day there will be social activities all over the country, culminating with a joint mass event of the social activists and the movements of popular protest.

All must come in order to clarify that we will not take it any more! We are fed up!  We will not give in! We have had enough of the current system!

Come and bring your signs, your guitars and your sushi.
Come and present your own activity or join whichever activity suits you best. Come to show your way of making this a better country, for the benefit of all of us.

Our plight is a global phenomenon:

While our wages are being eroded, the prices of food, electricity, gas and water have gone up. Our savings were stolen when tycoons are allowed to default on paying their bond-holders, and the exorbitant fees imposed by banks and pension funds.

Every sphere of basic livelihood in Israel suffers from economic distortion – being either dominated by monopolies and cartels or subject to excessive and unjust taxation.

This is a global phenomenon - and we suffer from it every day.

Israel is dear to us, and daily life in Israel becomes ever more dear. We're not going to abandon Israel to the tycoons, lobbyists and the combinations of  capital and government, which arise under any government. Israel belongs to us, not to any financial oligarchy, national or international.

Israeli citizens understand that exchanging one political party with another does not change the system. The tycoons dominate the government and the media. The change must go be deeper: the country must be returned to the people. Israeli citizens must regain to the sovereignty which had been usurped bit by bit by a few, who control the economy and the corridors of power.

It's time to reclaim what was taken from us. If we don't do it for ourselves, who  will do it for us?

Young and old, we have all grown since last summer. This is a demonstration where protesters from different backgrounds, different age groups will link hands, we will no longer let anyone divide us. We all strive for a better future for our children. We call here upon all the protest movements, especially movements that deal with issues of food, housing, education and health, movements that demand solutions to the disadvantaged populations and the middle class, movements demanding tax cuts where they are needed and the correction of distortions in the socio-economic system. 

We urge everyone who wants to make a real difference through an authentic popular protest, and who is not going to make use of it as a tool for electoral gain, to join us and lend a hand and take part in the popular happening.