29 November 2011 (English translation 12 December 2011)
Robbery by the tycoons
We have recently been witness to the growing phenomenon of the robbery of the public in broad daylight by capitalists. It works like this: tycoons issue bonds in the stock exchange for companies in their ownership while giving optimistic forecasts that it is a secure investment. Funds for pensions and other social benefits that manage the savings of the public through financial institutions then invest in the bonds, and when the date on which the bonds are supposed to mature arrives, the tycoon says: sorry, the company is losing money and I cannot pay. The public that had trusted the judgment of the fund managers loses its money.
The tycoon who is doing that at the moment is Yitzhak Tshuva, owner of the Delek Group. Investors thought that he was a responsible and trustworthy businessman and fell into a trap. Tshuva turned out to be a reckless adventurer. Playing the world-class operator, he bought the Plaza Hotel in New York and planned to set up a casino in Las Vegas, but it all turned out to be a big flop. Now he owes over 2 billion shekels. So what does Tshuva do? He separates the Delek Group from his direct ownership, so that he cannot be held legally responsible for its debt.
Tshuva has sufficient resources to pay the debt. He owns many companies that earn good profits, from which he could have covered his debts. But the rules of capitalism provide legal loopholes that permit tycoons to avoid making payments on bonds they have issued. When a downtrodden simple citizen who took out a mortgage to buy a modest apartment runs into financial difficulties and cannot make the payments, the bank evicts him from the apartment and sells it. But when it is a tycoon who owes billions does not pay, he continues to enjoy life and the millions that flow into his pockets from other companies he owns.
Clearly we need a new law that will stipulate that, if a company owned by a tycoon cannot meet its financial commitments (even if he has used the trick of giving up direct ownership) and that tycoon also owns other companies that are profitable, he is required to divert profits from them to cover his debt to the investors who had put their pension funds into the losing company. If he does not own other companies, then he can dig deep into his pockets and put his personal wealth at the disposal of his creditors. If necessary, he can sell all the villas that he had bought all over the world. The man who works hard for his living and saves shekel after shekel for his old age should not have to fall victim to the caprices of a tycoon. How many Knesset Members today would be willing to support such a bill? Ten at the most – and that is a liberal estimate. Because Israel has sold its soul to billionaires.
The Israeli ghetto
In the kibbutz school I attended as a child, I was taught that Zionism is the liberation movement of the Jewish People, the objective of which is to convert the Jewish People from a nation of merchants who live in ghettoes and who wander from one to another of the hundred and twenty countries throughout which they are dispersed and who depend on the charity of strangers, sometimes up to their necks – to a nation that stands on its own two feet, manages its own affairs in its own state, works the land and lives in peace with its neighbours. In short: a nation like all the others.
What happened in practice is that the State of Israel has turned into the biggest Jewish ghetto in the world. Fences and walls on all sides. A metal fence topped with razor wire is being built along 240 kilometres of the Egyptian border. A fence that will run the full length of the Jordan River is being planned. The borders with Syria and Lebanon are also enclosed with fences and military posts. An 8-metre-high wall runs right through Palestinian neighbourhoods in Jerusalem. An apartheid fence is being built along the entire length of the West Bank, with the objective of preventing Palestinians from entering Israel. The settlements in the Occupied Territories are surrounded with iron fences and electronic sensors. A team of armed soldiers is stationed in every settlement. And within the borders of Israel too, many of the small settlements, especially those near Arab settlements, are equipped with fortified fences.
Only the big cities have been spared this punishment.
In short – Israel is an armed and fortified ghetto. Not exactly Herzl’s dream.
And by the way – Palestinian villages do not have fences, on either side of the Green Line. Could it be that is because people who have been living in this country for many generations feel that this is their natural home?
Is this ghetto a result of imposed circumstances, or is it encoded in the DNA of Zionism? I once thought that it was a situation of “no choice”; but with the passage of years it has become clear to me that the ghetto is voluntarily self-imposed to a great extent. It is no mere whim that caused Israel to reject the Arab League’s proposal for a comprehensive peace, under the terms of which Israel would withdraw from the Occupied Territories where a Palestinian state would be founded, and in return the whole Arab and Muslim worlds would recognize Israel and establish diplomatic and economic relations with it. (Even Iran announced that it would not stand in the way of the Palestinians if they signed a peace agreement with Israel)
Can there be a Middle East with open borders like the European Community? The mere thought that Israel might be flooded with Arab tourists and that Saudi or Egyptian millionaires could buy factories or real estate in Israel (as Israeli capitalists do abroad) is enough to inspire fear in all branches of the Zionist establishment. It is not for nothing that the Israel Land Administration and the Jewish national Fund control over 90 percent of the land in Israel, just as it is not for nothing that the State of Israel has seized or expropriated hundreds of thousands of dunams of land that had been owned by Arabs and transferred it through various legalistic machinations to Jewish hands. If Israel is to live in peace in a Middle East with a clear Arab majority, it needs to give up its Jewish tribalism and stop fearing what we call here “the loss of the Jewish majority”, just as in today’s Europe the Poles no longer fear the loss of the Polish majority at the hands of their German neighbours.
The betrayal of the doctors
Recently a booklet entitled, “The cure before the disease (1) – the involvement of medical professionals in torture and abuse”, was published by two organizations: Doctors for Human Rights and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel. (The English version of the report is entitled “Doctoring the Evidence, Abandoning the Victim: The Involvement of Medical Professionals in Torture and Ill Treatment in Israel”. (2)
It is a grave indictment, a shameful stain on doctors in Israel who collaborate, actively and by omission, with the Occupation army, the police, the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet), and the Israel Prison Service in the commission of brutal violations of human rights.
The booklet opens with the story of Meissa Irshaid, a lawyer of from the Public Committee Against Torture, who was arrested while she was accompanying demonstrators. Before her arrest a policeman slapped her, hard. After she was arrested she was humiliated and verbally abused by the police. In pain, Meissa asked to have the injury on her face looked at by a doctor. Escorted by two policemen, she was taken to the Ziv hospital in Safed, where she was examined while still handcuffed. She tried to tell one of the doctors who examined her that the injury was the result of police violence at a demonstration. The doctor interrupted her and said, “that doesn’t interest me.” And the male nurse who attended to her said, “if you don’t like it here, leave this country and go somewhere else.”
If that is how they treat an Israeli lawyer, it is easy to imagine how they treat detainees who are Palestinians from the Occupied Territories. And indeed the picture is a grim and depressing one. The booklet surveys the international conventions relating to the practice of medicine that oblige doctors not to collaborate with torture and human-rights violations. It tells of the duplicitous stance of the Israel Medical Association, which – even though its ethical code states that doctors must not participate in torture – calls on doctors to collaborate with the security forces.
And that is what happens in practice. Too many doctors violate the ethical code and collaborate with the torturers in the following ways: they ignore detainees’ complaints about torture; they write sanitized medical reports that deliberately omit the fact that certain injuries they have observed are clearly the result of beatings; they examine detainees and authorize ISA agents to proceed with interrogations that include torture; they violate their obligation to respect the privacy of their patients and transfer medical reports to interrogators who accompany detainees to the hospital and they do not report to the police when detainees are brought to them with injuries sustained in the detention cell, despite their duty to do that. There are many such examples in the booklet.
Whoever wants to know where monsters like Dr. Mengele come from should read the booklet, because that’s how it starts.
The percentage of convictions achieved by prosecutors in the Israeli military courts in the Occupied Territories is 99.76. That fact was published in the newspaper Haaretz on 29 November 2011. As we have seen, in the context of the apartheid regime that Israel has set up in the Occupied Territories, the settlers are subject to the Israeli civilian law that is applied within the Green Line, even though they live outside it, and only the Palestinians are forced to live under the tyrannical fist of military justice. That percentage is yet one more trademark of a dictatorial regime. Where else do we see such percentages? A partial list: President Bashar Assad was elected by a similar margin, as were the North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, the former Romanian leader Ceauºescu and the East German leader Erich Honecker. And the conviction rate achieved by state prosecutors in those countries was similar. This is the distinguished family of which Israel has become a part. Yet another reason to get rid of the Occupation as soon as we can. Its flames have begun to lick at the cuffs of our pants here on this side of the Green Line. (3)
1. The original Talmudic meaning of the phrase “cure before the disease” was that God creates the cure before He creates the disease. And there is a pun here as well, because the word for “disease” in the phrase – “maka” – normally means “blow” – as in a slap, kick, punch etc. – in modern Hebrew.