Gideon Levy / A case of futile rage
The media's righteous indignation about Ehud Barak's trip to Paris is a case of futile rage. It is meant to cover up other misdeeds, of which no one speaks.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak should have resigned. There are countries in which a report as harsh as the one commissioned by the state comptroller would have left him no choice but to step down. There are also countries whose government ministers comport themselves differently. But the furious commotion in light of the revelations of the corrupt, wasteful spending spree in Paris can only occur in a country where real scandals are swept under the rug - including the rug on the floor of the InterContinental Paris Le Grand. Only a country with so much to hide is capable of fixating on such trifling matters. Only such a country goes to great lengths to demonstrate its morality and integrity. Only such a country strives to prove how vigilant both its public opinion and "fighting" press can be, two entities that tackle the easy issues as much as the difficult ones. Except here, only the former is dealt with, not the latter.
The state ombudsman did his job regarding the Paris Air Show affair, and the defense minister was immediately assailed in a vicious manner. A different ombudsman, the world ombudsman, also did his job. Yet who was criticized in this case, and with the same viciousness? The answer, of course, is the ombudsman himself, Richard Goldstone, and not the objects of his criticism. A foreigner visiting this country for the weekend might have believed that our defense minister was suspected of murder, large-scale embezzlement or brutal rape. What hasn't been said about Barak? Even the publisher of a business newspaper was summoned to a television studio, where he issued a harsh rebuke. This wave of righteous indignation is a case of futile rage. It is meant to cover up other misdeeds, of which no one speaks.
What is the issue at hand? Simply a small waste of money, even if the incident is outrageous and infuriating. Immediately, though, we have another scandal to join the long list of bouts of fury over nothing: Brig. Gen. Moshe (Chico) Tamir, who let his son behind the wheel of an IDF-issued all-terrain vehicle; Brig. Gen. Imad Fares, who let his wife drive his army-issued car, another career-killing event; the former prime minister upgraded his airplane tickets; the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet published scurrilous claims; Turkish television broadcast a series filled with distortions of the truth; Barak sold his high-rise apartment in Akirov Towers. All of these issues are worthy of public discussion, but as in the French village of Clochemerle, the country's rage exceeded all proportion. This is the same Clochemerle that continues to remain silent.
Here is what is so nice and convenient about attacking Barak over his luxurious suite: It is so within the consensus, so populist. There is no public or political price to be paid for such a deluxe protest, much like calling for a boycott of resorts in Turkey. For who would not join such a chorus? Who doesn't think 2,500 euros per night at a hotel is scandalous? Who could remain silent in the face of an entourage that includes two house photographers? But at the same time, where are all those shrill protesters, those pursuers of justice, those law-abiding citizens when the issue being discussed is malfeasance on a much larger scale - like that written about by Goldstone? In those instances, why is it that their mouths are locked shut? Why is it that they wrap themselves in silence and cowardice?
What, do they really think Israel did not commit war crimes in Gaza? Do they really think that if someone receives a phone call in the dead of night, warning him to flee his home and evade death - at a time and place where he does not have anywhere to flee to - that this mitigates the responsibility borne by whoever bombs the home and the children living inside it?
What, they don't think it's a scandal that a person bleeding to death from stab wounds in front of an Israeli hospital is denied entry for treatment simply because he is Arab? The siege on Gaza is not a mega-scandal? The occupation is not a disgrace of historic proportions? The gargantuan sums of money, the truly corrupt money that is wasted here - is it not the same cash that is futilely poured into the settlement enterprise? Are the ministers' perks the only outrageous wastefulness? Is it outrageous that Barak traveled to the Paris Air Show on behalf of the world's fourth largest arms exporter, a country that sells its wares to every dark regime, a country whose test laboratories for those weapons are at times crueler than can be conceived? They know the answer to all these questions, yet they remain silent. The self-righteous one - "the sons of light," as a few of them humbly refer to themselves.
The deed of the devil: The man now suspected of looting the budget and staying in luxury accommodations just so happens, by chance and strictly by chance, to be the man who over many years has been responsible for many of the scandals and crimes listed above. We will not remain silent nor will we forgive him for his nights of indulgence in Paris. Yet we will hail and applaud him, our eternal Mr. Security, for the nights of terror in Gaza. Because that is who we are. We are angrily stirred by trifling, trivial matters. We are apathetic to real scandals. Barak should have been ousted long ago. The bloodletting described in the Goldstone report - not the spending spree cited by the Lindenstrauss report - should have resulted in his dismissal.