A Light Unto Us

Angel Gurria, secretary-general of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, who visited Israel last week, is an enigma. Either he has absolutely no idea what's going on here, or he's simply a courteous man being amiable to his hosts.

The latest changes he demanded that Israel make before joining the OECD are not minor tweaks. They are huge.

There is no way Israel could meet these terms in the space of a year, even if it wanted to, and there's no certainty that it does. It's hard to believe that in a year, or 10 years, we'll step onto the runway in Paris after a starvation diet that rids us of the flab of the occupied territories. The OECD expects to advance a slimmed-down Israel, not an Israel clothed in extra-large size.

Who's the genius who thought of joining this organization, that has so far opened its doors to just 30 nations? We have hardly the economic or social qualifications to join this lofty, exclusive club.

If its 30 members are striding in one direction, Israel is striding in the opposite one, and there's no real sign of any change in course.

Let's start with the environment and climate, which the OECD ranks very highly.

Maybe Gurria doesn't realize that Israel never undertook to reduce its emissions, as the EU and other nations have. It's true that Shimon Peres' address at Copenhagen was pretty opaque, but even through the fog it could be seen that less is actually more. Meaning, first we add to the smog, then we reduce it - "20% below the original scenario."

The OECD is calling on Israel to increase taxes, while the prime minister and finance minister have vowed to cut them. It's stitched onto on their flags. Are they likely to refurl them and stow them away?

The OECD is a responsible organization that knows a thing or two about economics. If it calls for a tax hike, evidently the scarecrow of Israeli tax isn't that scary after all. We don't have to quake every time it's hauled out and displayed in the neo-liberal garden around government headquarters.

The OECD calls on Israel to improve enforcement of labor laws, such as the minimum wage, and to relax the rules governing unemployment benefits.That must make Benjamin Netanyahu and Yuval Steinitz laugh. How can one possibly enforce the minimum wage law when even the nation's leader is breaking it and underpaying his housekeeper?

The report also calls for higher investment in education in the Arab sector, which it says should also be compensated for past and present neglect. This demand reeks of sermonizing.

Who has the right to preach to the most enlightened nation in the world? We don't want equality, not even among children. If we did, we'd long ago have started behaving differently.

We wouldn't have waited for the sages of the OECD to open our eyes to the reality of our lives, and lead us to the light.

Most important, and irritating, is the demand that we reduce the incidence of poverty and inequality. Our rate of poverty, the report reminds, is higher than that of any of the 30 member nations. Thus the Zionist dream has been realized. It is the dream and the dream has been shattered.How ugly the shards are.

Does our salvation lie in the OECD? Can only international pressure make us mend our ways? Will we stop, for instance, as they demand, using bribes to seal arms deals in the dark, behind closed doors?

With no drive of our own for change, a greater power will come from the outside, forcibly restoring to us the dignity of man and state. Perhaps the gentiles will be a light unto us.

Until all this happens - our acceptance, and improvement - Israel has many days of anguish ahead.

The OECD brims with reports. Day in and day out we'll be reading about ourselves, how a nation at the bottom of the ladder looks from on high. We shall read and we shall be saddened, while at the same time we shall itch to take a match to the whole woodpile and burn it down.

What do we need this heartbreak and frustration for? It will just make us feel worse. Maybe we'd better give up the whole idea for now, remain on our lonesome as always, and when we feel a little better, we can reapply for acceptance to the OECD.