Why We Hate Tycoons

It’s said that tycoons are hated in Israel and around the world. Who among you is free of it?

I got a phone call from a woman this week. She and her children are about to be evicted from their home because she owes NIS 22,000 on her mortgage, and she was asking for help.

Some people get their enormous debts erased, while others get their lives erased. The Dankners are always “too big to fail,” while nobody is ever too small.

It’s said that tycoons are hated in Israel and around the world; these very words may even be tainted with it. Who among you is free of it? Who has never hated anyone, including this writer, for doing things that infuriated them? Since this writer, too, gets infuriated sometimes, he could well be accused of self-hatred.

We hate them — not necessarily because of their wealth, but because of their ostentation. We may be envious, but they cause envy. Recently, TheMarker took us beyond the gates of Moti Zisser’s villa. Three thousand square meters, fully decorated. It has everything: a pool, a synagogue, a bowling alley, a movie theater — they can entertain themselves and pray. Zisser has a private debt of NIS 1 billion, and his public company owes another NIS 2.5 billion.

And yet — to paraphrase the verse from Psalms (37:25) — we have never seen a tycoon abandoned or his children begging their bread. The very same banks that go after dead dogs and fleas continue to fatten sharks. For a few thousand shekels, a family will be thrown to living, biting dogs, but for a few billion, no dog shall even bark.

We hate them because our pensions are shrinking while their pockets swell. They still draw a salary of NIS 10 million per year, if not more.

We hate them because there is no connection between their profit and our loss, their personal gain and their poor performance. This is not the groundless hatred our tradition warns us against, since those who save their money and entrust it to the banks have ample grounds for it. “The country does not know how to manage,” they have told us again and again, and given its assets and resources to those who do. But when they fall only the state can save them, and we are the state.

We hate them because of the under-the-table payments that have become so open, obvious and public. For a few coins and deductions, they want a salary and a hero’s reward. And what beggar won’t take when the rich man gives? The beggar with his hand out will kiss the rich man’s hand — but what happens when the rich man goes broke?

We hate them for their “aggressive tax planning,” for the trickery that has gained them enormous profit at our expense. “It stinks, but it’s legal,” they say. Who wants to stand with them where it stinks? As for the “legal” part, it’s not legal according to the law in its pure sense. The loophole can be closed. Plutocracy is giving us enough trouble. Kleptocracy is the last thing we need.

We hate them because they are among us only conditionally. As if other countries across the sea had no poor people of their own, and as if it were possible to sell the Dead Sea from here, too. Even London is less eager to welcome the sheikhs of Saudi Arabia and the oligarchs from Russia and the Ofers from Israel. This week, it was reported that the five largest economies in Europe — Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Spain — were asking for the names of tax evaders taking shelter in their countries. The United States has already done so. Only Israel is delaying so as to claim ignorance; who is afraid of exposure?

We hate them for the bread they cast to the treasury that will come back to them in the form of a prime minister in their pockets, for disguising themselves as competitors while in fact one hand washes the other, for their “boards comprised of members of the public” whose members are mere yes-men, for their frequent visits to the courts of magicians and rabbis to give themselves a spiritual patina.

We also hate them for the mocking way they treat politicians, whose dependence and weaknesses they know and exploit and whom they ridicule. What do the Edris care if they embarrass the Netanyahus at the post-Passover Mimouna party as long as Cinema City and its trashy films with tinpot stars get good sales? These days, the phrase “Walking to Caesarea” is more reminiscent of Sara Netanyahu than of Hannah Szenes, who wrote the poem under that title.

Yair Lapid thinks he’s Moses. All right — let’s see him deal with the Korahs and their groups in the spirit of the “new politics.” The earth won’t swallow them alive as it swallowed Korah, Heaven forbid. It may just throw up.

Eran Wolkowski