Opinion |

Bring Back the Shame Bonus

Maybe it's time to give 'shame pay' to the Israeli judge who billed dirt-poor Bedouin for the cost of demolishing their homes, and the ministers who serve in Netanyahu's government

Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat
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Home demolitions in Al-Araqib, 2014.
Home demolitions in Al-Araqib, 2014.Credit: Ilan Assayag
Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat

I’d like to whisper into the ears of my good friends who ask why we don’t address the problems of the Arab community. Well, my dear friends, our generous government doesn’t even give us the time for a quick morning stretch. New day, new disaster: house demolitions, plans to transfer us out of the state and more. Really, ladies and gentlemen, how are we supposed to muck out the stables when the stables themselves are under existential threat?

But last week something happened that allowed us to criticize both the Arabs and the Jews. Back in the day, Saddam Hussein, the “leader of the Arab nation,” would, after executing a dissident, send the family a bill noting the cost of the bullets that were wasted in carrying out this patriotic act. Of course, what did you expect, that he would get rid of an enemy of the homeland and also pay for the execution?

I don’t know if Israel ever knew about this grand tradition, but the fact is that here, too, this brilliant principle was adopted. Last week, Haaretz reported that a court ordered six residents of the unrecognized Negev Bedouin village of Al-Araqib — which holds the world record for the number of times its homes have been demolished — to pay the cost of the demolition, 260,000 shekels ($72,557) plus 100,000 shekels in court costs. Indeed, justice has been done: The state destroys things that belong to Arabs and the Arabs pay! Saddam has been resurrected right here.

To be fair, it must be said immediately that they didn’t use bullets here, perish the thought, but rather bulldozers. The intention was noble: to protect the homeland from foreign invaders. These are invaders who were living on this land long before those who decided to exclusively give it to a people, some of which lives abroad, a people who, if the Negev is mentioned to them, might think it’s a piece of real estate on another planet. But don’t worry, when our brethren in the United States decide to move here out of fear of the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, it might very well not be long before they ask to expel the sons of the desert.

The truth is that the Saddam principle is very interesting, and with a little creativity it can be applied to other areas. For example, if Eldad Yaniv and Meni Naftali want to hold a demonstration, then they should pay the costs: the salaries of the police who harass the demonstrators, the fees of the lawyers who prepare the indictments, the cost of PR people and spokesmen and the cost of their meals in lockup as well. And don’t forget the precious hours of work by the minister in charge as he posts his lies.

My wise friend was enthralled by the idea, and continued my train of thought: What if, perish the thought, a police officer is injured in a riot. Why should the state pay for hospitalization? If people want to demonstrate, let them pay; democracy’s no picnic.

When I heard my learned friend’s thinking, I went pale. I had promised on Facebook to take part in some demonstration for our lost land. What about a simple demonstrator, I asked him, not an organizer. Will he have to pay too? And my friend responded: No free lunches! I went straight to my bank clerk to find out whether I could take out a second mortgage on my house, better safe than sorry. Only when I found out I could, did I go to demonstrate feeling calm.

There used to be a custom around here to pay government clerks who, in the course of carrying out their duties, were liable to be insulted by members of the public they served. This payment was called a “shame bonus.” Maybe the time has come to distribute a shame bonus also to those who charged people who are dirt-poor the cost of tearing down their home. And while we’re at it, perhaps the custom should be expanded so that the cabinet members, who without the slightest bit of shame serve under a prime minister who is surrounded on all sides by suspicions of criminal wrongdoing.

I asked my learned friend, and what if the people from Al-Araqib don’t pay up, what will the state do? Oh, that’s an easy one, he said: The state will destroy their homes again.

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