There's a remarkable resemblance in Israel between Zionism and wealth: Both have not known when to stop. These days we're talking about "swinish capitalism," a term coined by President Shimon Peres back when he was an MK; he was referring in particular to Benjamin Netanyahu, who was finance minister at the time and is now prime minister. It's worth remembering that there is also swinish Zionism.
Swine are insatiable, it is thought. They eat everything that comes their way and gorge themselves until they die. So do capitalism and Zionism. A broad (and encouraging ) public now agrees about the swinishness of Israeli capitalism; the perception of Zionism as swinish is still the province of a tiny minority in Israel, though not around the world. Zionism and capitalism started differently.
Zionism began as a national movement that aspired to establish a national home for the Jews. Although along the way it caused grave injustice to the previous inhabitants of the land, it had internal justice. It began modestly: stockade and tower, dunam after dunam - some of them legally purchased - forms of agricultural settlement that became an international model, and a relatively egalitarian society. This movement established an inspiring and nearly wonderful state, whose amazing achievements in many areas are unparalleled in modern history.
Until 1967 it seemed this movement was satisfied. But with the eating (the victory in the Six-Day War ) came the appetite, and since then the movement has developed characteristics that can only be defined as swinish. The settlement project in the territories was impelled from its inception by unbridled territorial lust, the occupation regime became cruel and totalitarian, and Israel's security policy became immoral. Had Zionism known when to stop, had it reined in its lust and greed, atoned for the original injustices in 1948 and changed direction, it would have become an admired movement. But it did not stop in time, it did not rein in its greed and now Israel is only begining to pay the price.
A great many of this country's wealthy people also started out well. One family established a salt industry, another a modest dairy, this one founded a shipping company, that one started out as a building contractor and a third began as an importer of mobile telephones. They helped develop the economy, building the land and its prosperity.
But here too with the eating came the insatiable appetite, and some of them did not know when to stop their greed. They shower huge salaries on their executives, celebrate their family events lavishly, lead an ostentatious life and treat the public's money as if it were their own, leveraging money that does not belong to them.
Now the time of reckoning has come. The public is calling them to account. The word "tycoon" has become a curse and "wealthy" has nearly become despicable. Had our wealthy people stopped their greed in time, they would have continued to celebrate on top of the world, or on top of this country at least, if also with relative modesty.
The public's attitude to these two kinds of swinishness is remarkably similar. At first society bowed down to its wealthy, in the same way it bowed down to its settlers in the territories, its "new pioneers." It looked away and hid its face both from the way the tycoons were making their money and the way the settlers were putting down their stakes. The state treated them that way too; it encouraged both groups. To the wealthy and the settlers it offered everything good - incentives and protection, grants and loans. It sold natural resources and companies to the tycoons at bargain prices and gave the lands of the occupation to the settlers for free.
The state was protective of both these groups. It still is, with a committee for the tycoons and the continuation of its pro-settler policies.
The tycoons have woken up to the new reality. In the summer of 2011 it's not so pleasant to be Yitzhak Tshuva, Nochi Dankner, Ilan Ben-Dov or Idan Ofer. They're beginning to pay the price for their behavior - their capitalism has been defined as swinish. This isn't the case regarding the new Zionism, the Zionism of occupation and settlement in the territories. To call it swinish is still considered heretical. But when the time for the reckoning comes we'll ask: Why didn't we stop this swinishness in time?
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