We, the Sheeple of Israel

The Israeli passivity disappears only when the possibility of a mob beating arises. Give the herd a weak enemy and the sheep becomes a biting dog.

Yaron Kaminsky

During a conversation between two Israeli professors, the possibility arose that their university chooses to pay millions of shekels in fines to the state rather than reduce its student-teacher ratio: It costs less than it would to meet the standard. Perhaps. In any event classes are crowded, seminars are stuffed and the number of adjunct faculty is enormous. Everyone knows this, and is silent.

The fines that factories pay for polluting are less than the cost of complying with environmental standards, but dying rivers dont scream, and fish are always silent. The ever-narrower beaches are always murmuring. Students and lecturers, in contrast, can shout. After all, its more interesting for the professors to teach small seminars, and it makes more sense to have 50 students, not 150, in introductory courses. Why are they silent, and why are the students silent?

And why do people not speak out against the lengthening lines at health clinics? Why do patients lie in hospital corridors, bereft of human dignity, and none speak up? Why do Labor Party voters not shout out about the Likudization of their leaders? Why is there no peace movement, at least after the wars that cost us blood? How is it that after each war there are more supporters for the next one, and the crueler the army is, the more the rightward flight intensifies?

That last question contains a partial answer to the preceding questions. The sheep follows the shepherd, thats what it does. Sometimes it is upgraded to sheepdog. The Israeli passivity disappears only when the possibility of a mob beating arises. Give the herd a weak enemy and the sheep becomes a biting dog.

Think about the line at the clinic. Whose fault is it? The clerk who went for a pee, the doctor whos spending too much time with the patients who are ahead of you? The individuals turn into a protest movement, with a weak villain before their eyes, while fearing and adoring the real power.

The first Lebanon war was an exception. The radical lefts activity was a trigger, opposition spread and the protest reached the Labor Party; thats how Yitzhak Rabin was transformed from adviser to Ariel Sharon on the siege on Beirut into a dovish leader, and Peace Now changed from a participant in the war to demanding a commission of inquiry. It worked. Without too much puritan fuss. The nation split, and won for a moment. The price? Power shifted from the street into the relatively left part of the political map. In exchange, the dismantling of the welfare state began in 1985. The 2011 protest ended even more badly; the rebels gave themselves in to Yair Lapid.

Some history: All of the democratic states grew out of civil societies, which preceded them, and continued to exist in parallel with political society. Only the State of Israel was created by a political society. Recruiting the Jewish people to the Zionist endeavor required a multiplicity of parties, all of which took money from the Zionist movement to bring Jews to this country and rule them. Even the pioneers were always heavily dependent on the political society, which settled and provided. Each successive wave of immigration became even more dependent on the political society.

While the political society grew smaller, and as a result richer and more powerful, the citizens remained an unorganized mass without any political, mediating or protective intermediate organizations (such as youth movements or Histadrut clubs) but for the sheepdogs in the education system, the army and on television. Sheep and dogs. A handful of shepherds, who derive their power and money mainly from war. The new slogans against the old elites are nothing but the cynicism of sheepdogs who join the herd as it veers right with the final collapse of the left. The masters will no longer be replaced. Let us now grovel before them.

Anyone who pins their hopes on the protest movement against the natural-gas agreement is assuming that the activists will remain in the streets with no organization and no leadership. Burn tycoons in effigy. Better yet, burn an actual Palestinian tycoon.