Israel Needs a New Social Order

We must put together a different social order here, one that will combine economic prosperity with mutual responsibility. But to do this, the strong and the assertive must wake up from the moral coma into which they sank a generation ago.

Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit

We had a covenant. It was never defined as one, but it went more or less like this. This place is a place of life and death. We are a people of life and death. So we are committed to mutual responsibility. For better and for worse, we are responsible for one another. No one here will be without a roof over his head. No one here will be without a job. No one here will be without an education, health care and financial security.

We will not implement Soviet-style communism here. We will not even establish idyllic Scandinavian socialism here. But we will not let Israel be an American Sodom of every man for himself and every man to his own fate. In this promised land, basic social justice will be upheld. In this quarrelsome and polarized land, the gap between rich and poor will be acceptable. The state's resources will be everyone's. The state's systems will serve everyone. In a state where the individual is required to risk himself for the collective, the collective will be obligated to the individual. The Jewish national home will not be the house of injustice. It will not oppress the poor and not trample on the despondent. It will not allow the powerful to devour the weak.

A quarter century ago the Israeli covenant was broken. The top thousandth percentile of Israeli society heard that communism had fallen and socialism had failed, and the international fashion was privatization. So it swooped down on the public sector and emptied it out. It swooped down on the public resources and took possession of many of them. Without a vision, planning or deep thought, it dismantled Israel's social democracy without replacing it with a genuine free market.

The new economic and social regime it established was based on two supreme principles: maximum competition below, minimum competition on top. Low wages for the worker, high profits for the mogul. No loans for the salaried worker, astronomical loans for the tycoon. A war to the death with the unions. Empowerment of the cartels. Duopolies and monopolies. Thus, the state soon became a robber state. The new Israeli capitalism was not popular capitalism or liberal capitalism, but swinish capitalism. It tyrannized the working class, annihilated the middle class and denied young people hope.

What is happening this summer on Rothschild Boulevard, in the outlying towns and on the social networks is not just a cottage cheese protest or a housing protest, but a counterrevolution. After the top one-thousandth of the population broke its covenant with the other 999 thousandths, the 999 thousandths are rising up. In a certain sense, this phenomenon is dangerous. It is tainted with populism, harsh words and hatred. It does not distinguish between impressive wealth and stinking wealth. It ignores the basic laws of the modern economy.

But in another sense the phenomenon is justified and welcome. For the first time in a quarter century a real threat to swinish capitalism is developing. For the first time since the fall of socialism, capitalism is being required to give a true accounting. At long last the magnates of the land are sweating, too. And at long last they realize that there is a limit to their power and a price to their arrogance. The centralized and thievish regime that has governed us for such a long time is beginning to crack. The hour is fraught and sensitive. It requires caution, maturity, fairness and good judgment.

But we mustn't forget that the Israeli economy is a magnificent economy. We mustn't forget that in recent years this country has seen a real economic miracle. We mustn't slander the entrepreneurs and industrialists who have done amazing work here and have led Israel to extraordinary achievements. At the same time, it's impossible to ignore any longer the voice of protest arising from the squares, the streets and the social networks. It's impossible to accept any longer the extortionate prices, the widening of the gaps and the abandonment of the weak. It's impossible to accept the crushing of the public sector, the undermining of justice and the loss of solidarity.

We must put together a different social order here, one that will combine economic prosperity with mutual responsibility. But to do this, the strong and the assertive must wake up from the moral coma into which they sank a generation ago. That same top thousandth that broke the Israeli covenant is the same thousandth that must now renew it.



Automatic approval of subscriber comments.

Subscribe today and save 40%

Already signed up? LOG IN


Election ad featuring Yair Lapid in Rahat, the largest Arab city in Israel's Negev region.

This Bedouin City Could Decide Who Is Israel's Next Prime Minister

Dr. Claris Harbon in the neighborhood where she grew up in Ashdod.

A Women's Rights Lawyer Felt She Didn't Belong in Israel. So She Moved to Morocco

Mohammed 'Moha' Alshawamreh.

'It Was Real Shock to Move From a Little Muslim Village, to a Big Open World'

From the cover of 'Shmutz.'

'There Are Similarities Between the Hasidic Community and Pornography’

A scene from Netflix's "RRR."

‘RRR’: If Cocaine Were a Movie, It Would Look Like This

Prime Minister Yair Lapid.

Yair Lapid's Journey: From Late-night Host to Israel's Prime Minister