What do Benjamin Netanyahu’s lies, the police brutality at the Balfour Street protests and the awful gang rape in Eilat have in common? Nothing, except for the attitude: “What are you going to do about it?”
In other words, I can do what I please, and you’ll just have to eat it. Donald Trump illustrated this approach well when he said he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and get away with it.
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The biblical story of the concubine at Gibeah has its own reason for the “eat it” phenomenon: “And it came to pass in those days, when there was no king in Israel,” and everyone did as he pleased. The Bible describes a gang rape, but the story isn’t just a report on local corruption; it describes an atmosphere of moral corruption in a place that has no king and no rule of law.
Netanyahu rejects any link between “law” and “king.” He started to believe that he really was King Bibi, threw equality before the law into the trash and launched a new era where everyone does as he pleases.
Since then there have been no restraints. He lies without thinking and violates agreements wholesale. This rule has trickled down to the natives, who feel no guilt whatsoever when they pay under the table.
Moral corruption is always accompanied by whining; the corrupt person seeks to justify his corruption by blaming the victim. Netanyahu blames the prosecution for his legal troubles, and Niso Guetta of the Jerusalem police blames foul language for putting down protests.
As Golda Meir complained: It will be hard to forgive the Arabs “for having forced us to kill their sons.” Netanyahu is angry at the “persecution” that’s forcing him to lie to us, and at the Finance Ministry employees who are pushing him to bribe us. And the Eilat rapists? They’ll never forgive life for turning them into monsters, to their great regret.
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It is not a crime to lie. We’ve gotten used to a prime minister who lies. He knows that we know he’s lying and says: So what are you going to do about it? I may be a liar but I’m not a criminal.
Fine, let the courts decide that. But what about fraud as a character trait, or what about Liar as a title? Like Rabbi. Imagine a news broadcast that opened: “Liar Netanyahu signed a historic peace agreement today,” or “The liar promised a grant to the self-employed.”
What would happen then? Nothing. Fraud by politicians no longer upsets us. During all those times we chose him at the ballot box we would say, true, he has weaknesses, but who doesn’t?
Now he also wants to appoint a state prosecutor and a police commissioner who will lie for him. He won’t waste time on excuses. There are agreements? Those are just pieces of paper. A democracy has laws? He’ll give us laws that make us regret we ever asked for them. He promises to work on our behalf 24/7 just to get rid of the protesters, the prosecutors and the judges.
Once they’re off his back, he’ll pass laws that obviate the need for laws. He’ll call them innocent-sounding names. The Enabling Act they once called that type of law in Germany. Here they call it the “override clause” to override the Supreme Court.
The names are different but the meaning is the same – a tyrant doesn’t need oversight. He can do everything by himself; he’ll wipe out the coronavirus and defeat unemployment. He’ll do as he pleases.
Dictators want to prove they’re upholding law and order – their law and their order. The 400 million shekels ($118 million) transferred to the yeshivas wasn’t given to them by masked men in the dead of night but openly and legally. That is, United Torah Judaism legislator Moshe Gafni said to Netanyahu, look, are you giving us the 400 million or not? Decide already!
And did he transfer it? Of course. Just like in Sicily.
But not everyone has a Gafni to extort for them. Everyone has a wimpy Knesset and a terrified court. Those who have no representation take to the streets because it’s their only way to express opposition or criticism. The media is bought. Biased journalists have turned the demonstrations against Netanyahu into demonstrations against the police. That’s good for Netanyahu and bad for us.
When people take to the streets against a corrupt government, they succeed; when people squabble among themselves, they fail. This isn’t Belarus. Here you can always find someone who has suffered a greater injustice than you. You don’t want to attend my demonstration? I won’t attend yours.
Instead of a demonstration by the entire nation against corruption, part of the nation will protest the other part. That won’t work for us.
Around 40 years ago poet Dahlia Ravikovitch wrote, in this translation by Chana Bloch and Chana Kronfeld: “No point in hiding it any longer / We’re an experiment that went awry / A plan that misfired.”