Ehud Barak
Photo by Eran Wolkowski
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What is actually the main difference between the so-called crime families or the crime organizations, and what is called Israeli politics? And who actually learned from whom the rules of proper mafioso behavior - was it the so-called criminals, whose names are Shirazi, Domrani or Abutbul, who learned from the so-called politicians, whose names are Barak, Ben-Eliezer and Simhon? Or did the so-called politicians learn from the so-called criminals?

According to the rules that have always been followed in the crime families, one doesn't volunteer an iota of information about the internal rivalries between Family X and Family Y. On the contrary: Both of the families that plan to eliminate one another must present a unified facade in public. That's how it is in the underworld. You don't wash your dirty laundry in public.

Therefore, when early in the week, the police arrested one of the members of the Shirazi family (which is now in a coalition with the Domrani family and with Izzat Hamed of Jaffa, against Francois Abutbul ) and Channel 2 police correspondent Moshe Nussbaum asked him: "Did you try to assassinate Francois Abutbul?" the subject assumed an innocent expression and said with a good-natured smile: What are you talking about? I have nothing against Francois Abutbul. And Abutbul for his part said: What are you talking about? I have nothing against Shirazi! On the contrary, I love him.

On Sunday, the meeting between the outgoing ministers of the Labor gang and the incoming ministers of the new gang, Atzmaut, which just split from the Labor gang, took place using the same method, and was captured by the cameras on the same news broadcast. Shalom Simhon, the former minister of agriculture who is now minister of industry, trade and labor, in the place of outgoing minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, said: "Honorable minister: This may surprise many people, but I love you."

And with the same hypocritical gaiety, Ben-Eliezer told Ehud Barak - the head of the gang that is carrying out the "hit," the gang to which Minister Simhon switched, thus winning a promotion: "Don't worry, I'm leaving."

The main thing one sees here is that under the influence of films and television series such as "The Godfather," "The Sopranos" and the new series "Empire of Crime: A Century of the New York Mob," slowly but surely the gestures of respect and the aggressive and unconscionable modes of behavior of the criminal world have become an object of imitation and admiration in the so-called respectable world. And that includes the world of politicians.

Looking like mafiosi is what ensures that politicians become popular as quickly as possible. And it's working, at least in part, in the case of Ehud Barak, a person lacking any natural charisma, who is suddenly surrounded by the aura of a sly and aggressive hero for engaging in a political act that everyone agrees was contemptible: resigning from Labor. In one shot, he succeeded in entering the Mafia heroes' hall of fame, which celebrates people whose behavior is ostensibly negative and so lacking in scruples that it arouses secret admiration.

True, no innocent passersby are killed by the friction among the political mafiosi, as they are at times during the wars between the crime families. But the difference is only imaginary. Because the opposite is true: The number of those killed due to rivalries within the crime families can be counted by any child - as opposed to all those soldiers, as well as civilians, who fall victim to the amateurism of the gangs of politicians. Gangs capable of embarking on a hopeless war just to prove that they are men's men (as seen in the government of Ehud Barak and Amir Peretz, for example, in the case of the Second Lebanon War ), and to demonstrate that they are no less heroic than the rival gang of politicos. And then a new gang arises, and in order to prove that it is in control it embarks on a military operation that causes new victims to fall.

I'm convinced that any referendum conducted today will prove that the so-called crime families are seen by the public as being completely nice and decent people and, in any case, far less dangerous than the politicians. Moreover, some of them wear skullcaps and kiss the mezuzah at the entrance to the courtroom, and as a rule behave like people of honor.

What also contributes to the enhanced reputation of the crime families in the eyes of the public is the general disdain and disgust aroused by the police. There is almost nobody who isn't secretly happy when the police are caught with their pants down - or when the police don't prepare their evidentiary material properly and criminals are set free.

Paradoxically, the police invest increasingly greater efforts in improving their image in order to seem what they aren't - namely, effective. But to the credit, or the detriment, of the police, it should be said that they are incapable even of lying properly, and that they could stand a few extra lessons in that profession from the crime families or the politicians.

For example, Police Commissioner David Cohen declared openly on Tuesday, at the annual police conference in Ganei Tikva, that the crime organizations are "a cancer that is infiltrating society," and that the police intend to fight them. It's not nice to speak slanderously, Commissioner Cohen! And besides, a real man is somebody who doesn't show his cards, but smiles at the person he wants to eliminate and declares "I love you." And then a shot is heard, and the head of the gang who has been eliminated smiles with the last of his strength, and says (see the case of "Fuad" Ben-Eliezer ): "Don't worry, I'm leaving."