Learning from the Mafia
Israel is not a mafia; it's legitimate, and the Mafia isn't. Still, it's worth taking even a quick look at the history of the crime families in America, at the movies about the Mafia and at classic mafioso behavior, if only as an intellectual exercise.
Israel is not a mafia; it's legitimate, and the Mafia isn't. Still, it's worth taking even a quick look at the history of the crime families in America, at the movies about the Mafia and at classic mafioso behavior, if only as an intellectual exercise. Like many young countries, including the State of Israel, the Mafia came to being out of a violent outburst, a forceful takeover and a no-holds-barred battle of immigrant families that turned into crime families. The Mafia sought to sow injustice; the nascent state sought to obtain justice - justice by its lights, at any rate.
In both cases the first generation was generally violent, armed with guns, deadly language and a sharp tongue. To conquer territory, take over turf and spheres of influence, or to bring down a foreign regime and establish a state - the goals differed, the means were similar. That is how Ehud Barak, for example, was raised, truncheon in hand. A decorated fighter who spent most of his life on army bases, the use of force was his method of choice. Occasionally he tried other methods of action, but always failed miserably. Now Barak plans to return to his roots, stuck in the truncheon phase.
This is precisely where the state and the Mafia part ways. The second and third generations of the Mafia grow and change, sometimes becoming nearly unrecognizable. After taking control of power bases, the mafioso from the next two generations finds other means on which to base his power. He negotiates with other families and organizations, and together they set clear and recognized boundaries in a balance of deterrence that no longer requires violence. He builds his power on legitimate businesses and tries to gradually become a respected and accepted businessman.
The new generation does not resemble the generation of its fathers and grandfathers. Established financially and spoiled by life's comforts, the succeeding generations no longer want to bloody their hands and are fed up with living in constant danger. They seek something entirely different: legitimacy and decency, and these become the supreme goal. These generations wants social acceptance and to repair their family's image. They donate to social causes and create a legitimate economic empire that is a far cry from the old days of bootlegging liquor during Prohibition, for example. It's rare to see young descendants of the Italian-American crime families who have followed in the violent and lawless tradition of the immigrant generation. The Mafia progresses, adapts and changes.
That has not happened to the State of Israel. It's not a mafia, it must be stressed, but as we have said, there is something to be learned from the Mafia nonetheless. The founders' generation, the warriors and the builders, created a state to be proud of, even if it did historic injustice along the way. But the generations that followed never adjusted to change: They're still there, stuck in the violent past, in the truncheon phase, in tower-and-stockade and the reprisal operations, with the rifle as the basis of nearly everything, which over the years was joined by almost every type of weapon on the planet. It is doubtful that the subsequent generations are willing to continue the same way, despite being brainwashed into thinking there is no alternative - but Israel does not deduce anything even from that.
Israel has never made a genuine attempt to be accepted by its surroundings. For a long time now it has not sought more international legitimacy. Just the reverse; for years it has increasingly lost that legitimacy.
Even worse, it does not even seem to care. It doesn't even have recognized boundaries and territory. The truth is that Israel has never even seriously tried to leave behind its old methods: It still lives by the sword, when necessary and also when not. It tries to solve nearly every international problem it runs into, from the Turkish flotilla to the Iranian nuclear program, with force, like in the early days. Listen to Ehud Barak, the man with the piano, changing regimes and sowing terror: That's exactly how people used to talk, in the days of the Mafia.