Our media have come a long way since the days when cases of suicide were not publicized for fear it would become contagious, until the live broadcast of the flames rising from Moshe Silman's body. It didn't take long for threats of upcoming incinerations to be heard. Nobody imagined at the joyful tent protest on Rothschild Boulevard last summer that this year there would be a violent deterioration and a frontal clash between the legal authorities and angry demonstrators, who feel they were misled last year.
Silman found himself in a difficult financial situation. He carefully orchestrated his macabre act during an angry demonstration. Judging by the history of his financial and emotional state, there is no guarantee that he wouldn't have committed this act of despair even without the audience and the cameras.
The next day the signs were raised: "Bibi, you are the personal tragedy of all of us," and "We are all Moshe Silman." That was the continuation of the social protest's deterioration into acts of violence, shattering bank windows in the heart of Tel Aviv.
With all our regret over Silman's fate, the attempt to turn him into the double of the Tunisian vegetable seller who set himself on fire, ignited the revolution in his country in doing so, brought down one government after another, is not to the point. Silman is a man to whom fate was cruel. Israel is not a corrupt country, its leaders do not have safety deposit boxes in Switzerland and they don't execute proponents of democracy. It was not Israel's leaders who brought Silman to his tragic situation. Our bureaucracy has a life of its own, and can drive anyone crazy when in need of assistance entitled to him by law.
The social protest must not be hijacked by people who have passed the threshold of despair. We are not suicidal by nature. After all, the citizen only wants what he is entitled to. The protest leaders would do well not to let their protest deteriorate into violence, although the government and its branches' alienation in their attitude toward those dependent on them could make you explode. Even in great America there is poverty and unemployment: There it's every man for himself, but he gets what he has coming to him from Social Security, without harassment and humiliation.
The government is not supposed to be alienated from the suffering of the individual. The transition from the cooperative kibbutzim, the government of mutual assistance, should not accept the phenomenon of every man for himself. The government takes pride in the fact that Israel is a welfare state. In that case, how have we reached a situation where large sections of the public live in abject poverty? The mechanisms of mutual assistance are steadily shrinking. The same television that broadcasts a man setting himself on fire shows us horrifying pictures every day of people living in crowded conditions and shocking poverty, in basements with rusty lumps that were once showers.
Israel has gone through many stages from socialism to a privatized society. The period of Prime Minister Golda Meir of the socialist Mapai party (the forerunner of Labor ) was the setting for the uprising of the "Black Panthers," of whom Golda said "they're not nice." Nice or not, that was the first time they managed to bring to the fore the status of Mizrahi Jews of Middle Eastern descent. Defense Minister Ehud Barak was referring to that generation when he asked forgiveness in the name of generations of Mapai for shortchanging the Mizrahim.
What is happening here now is the bubbling beneath the surface, which stems from the social gaps. Among the luxury buildings and the high-rises live people who cannot make ends meet, or are ground to dust by the official institutions that are supposed to help them.
Socialism died a long time ago here. A large percentage of the newly rich made their fortune in high tech. Big capital operates under the aegis of the government. We have a prime minister with a villa in Caesarea and an official residence in Jerusalem, and access to all the flights in the world. We have a defense minister who left his ostentatious apartment in the Akirov Towers, and until he moves to his new home near Assuta, has rented a temporary apartment for NIS 35,000 a month. If he's going to save, he'll do it right.
Bibi and Barak are focused on the insanity of bombing Iran. There is not enough space here to enumerate the injustices and folly of the present leadership. The moment the demonstrations of great hope turned into demonstrations of despair, they have run their course. Neither breaking windows nor suicides will save us. What will save us is the only weapon that the voter has: the polling booth. Twice he fell and rose - this time Netanyahu's political demise is engraved on the wall.
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