Text size

A dear, well-known friend of mine told me a few months ago that whenever he attends a soccer game, he sees Ze'ev Rosenstein in the VIP gallery, and the sight makes him crazy. Me, too. That's how it is here: The soccer league invites Rosenstein, and Israeli society invites its Most Wanted to sit in its own VIP box. Israel now resembles Nineveh, when Jonah, son of Amitai, was sent to "proclaim to it" - to warn its citizens to cease engaging in their evil ways, lest, "Forty more days, and Nineveh will be overturned." This nation will not be destroyed by external enemy forces. It will rot from the inside.

Who did not dance before Rosenstein? The first to dance were athletes, particularly soccer players, including members of Israel's national all-star team. An athlete who did not serve in the IDF may not be invited to join the all-star team. An athlete besmirched by contact with Israel's prime organized crime suspects will be the one to lead our choicest team to its most glorious defeats. Television stars join the dance, followed by singers, models and, yes, also politicians (who will remain anonymous).

There is almost no television program that failed to offer Rosenstein its services. All were willing to forgo the standards that they never had, as long as he would agree to grant them an interview instead of appearing on another program. Later, the media, press and television stations will dedicate further coverage to the "state of the educational system." They will run roughshod over teachers, roll their eyes heavenward, and look in every direction but at themselves. The Israeli media is ill.

Politicians have ways to explain this. The first explanation: Rosenstein and those who resemble him are innocent until proven guilty. The police defined Rosenstein as their "No. 1" target; seven attempts were made on his life in public; and innocents were killed in his presence only because they were unlucky. But cabinet ministers, MKs and mayors, like those infamous monkeys, did not see, did not hear and continue to protect Rosenstein's civil rights.

The second explanation provided by politicians to their doubting audience maintains that there are former criminals, like Shlomi Oz and Benny Alperon, who have already, "paid their debt to society." This explanation, applied most vigorously to former criminals who are, coincidentally, current members of the Likud Central Committee, is also baseless: OK, they served their sentence, and now they are free to move on. But why the hell do they have to be the best friends of Omri Sharon? Why does a man of his father's stature have to phone these "former criminals" to thank them personally for their support of the disengagement plan, and their defiance of Bibi - who is also given to telephoning these same numbers, which appear in little black books belonging to Silvan, and Tzachi, and Dan? The Israeli political system is ill.

There is, apparently, some sort of murky, attractive charm shared by criminals who are always "nice" and "gracious," and blessed with "charisma" and "street smarts." Moreover, their pockets are bulging with dollars in cash. One can certainly enjoy life by relying on their generosity. Even if it does not come in the form of real money, a little favor for a bribe doesn't hurt. If the bribe has no financial worth, it may provide one with connections in the right places and the mafia-style power of persuasion defined as "an offer you can't refuse." Crime usually takes root in brothels and casinos, and therefore, feels quite at home in the political-media-celebrity milieu.

If this milieu does not ostracize these criminals, perhaps the time has come for fairminded people to ostracize the friends of these criminals. Perhaps even the media will agree, just this once, to relieve them of its shield. Let it try. As long as criminals, former and present, are considered to be pleasant, desirable folks, there is no chance of containing crime. As long as the red carpet is rolled out for criminals, a lot of blood will be spilled.