It happens periodically: we choose our public enemy du jour. Once selected, his fate is sealed: a wild assault, including every possible form of demonization and incitement, with all the trimmings, and no chance of escape. A shrill chorus, conducted and enflamed by the media, stands together and sings a uniform song of banishment, as if in some ancient voodoo ritual. This, after all, is a day of glory for the journalists, their chance to show how brave they are, how opinionated and moral, and to drive every possible dagger - collectively, of course - into the disgraced individual. That is what a fighting press does.
Usually the people in question deserve to be denounced, having indeed sinned. But the act of their denunciation is out of all proportion to the crime. Sometimes the wrong people are involved: Others are more deserving of being banished, but they are insulated, immune to disgrace. From Elhanan Tennenbaum to Etti Alon, from Moshe Katsav to Ehud Olmert, and, in a different vein, Yigal Amir - all of them have been deserving of punishment, but none of them has been the devil he or she was portrayed as being. Whether they raped or exploited, committed murder or treason, deceived or embezzled - they are still human beings, and deserve certain basic rights.
This week another member in bad standing has joined the list: Boaz Yona, former CEO of collapsed construction company Heftsiba. Yona probably deserves the heavy sentence he will be given as part of the plea bargain he made with the authorities; after all, he left behind hundreds of families whose world collapsed when their money was lost. Let's not forget, however, that we are talking about a swindler, nothing more. A not-so-petty criminal is extradited to Israel from Italy. Did you take note of the police and media forces that attended the event? Flight 382 from Milan became the best show in town Monday, with all the necessary and fabricated dramatic components. "I came here to look this monster in the face. Just like he buried 600 families, he should be buried himself," said one Heftsiba victim, and his words, of course, were given great prominence in the reports. "Monster"? "Buried"? Who are we talking about?
This choice of public enemies is not accidental. It serves many needs. No one can fault the victims, whose outcry is usually sincere and heartfelt. But what of all the rest? Yona as a monster sells newspapers and raises ratings, like any other form of titillation; Yona in handcuffs, surrounded by dozens of policemen, serves the interests of the police, who finally have an achievement to boast of; Yona's characterization as a monster also focuses the limelight on him, only him, while leaving in shadows other factors responsible for the collapse of Heftsiba and the loss of the apartments, such as the banks, which were supposed to oversee the projects. Moreover, Yona's depiction as a monster enables us to forget the Israeli lust for cheap homes, even when they are built on stolen land, like many of Boaz Yona's apartments. The Heftsiba case is only one of the inevitable bad fruits of that lust.
But all these are trivialities: Who cares about them, when we have such a convenient victim as the rich contractor whose arms were burned with cigarettes in the Italian prison?. Just like he deserves.
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