The Public Keeps Quiet and Pays

Only if a culture of consumer boycotts develops in Israel will its citizens be able to become free of those who shamelessly shove hands into their pockets.

Every citizen in the country who occasionally feels exploited, or feels someone up there is making fun and treating him or her as though he or she were a sucker, ought to support the following unoriginal proposal. It has been tried elsewhere and has even proved itself effective. Its success depends solely on the public, a sort of "unilateral disengagement" from service providers.

Only if a culture of consumer boycotts develops in Israel will its citizens be able to become free of those who shamelessly shove hands into their pockets. The citizens of Israel regularly give in to these wily pickpockets, as though giving up were their one religion. In place of a consumer boycott culture, they've developed a culture of dependency on central government.

Not a day goes by in which public servants fail to receive requests "to do something," to block another harsh decree, with the citizenry tending to overstate the public servants' ability, and certainly the good will and good faith attributed to them. Here then is a sad and aggravating announcement: in most cases, your succor won't come from Jerusalem, because the central government is controled by external interests that answer to sectors and parties, and many decision makers are really just doing the bidding of the money makers.

That's the only way to explain why a bank, for example, would allow itself to strap an NIS 18.5 million "golden parachute" onto its retiring CEO. Contrary to the bill of goods we're being sold, the owners of United Mizrahi Bank are not paying Victor Medina out of their own pockets but rather the bank itself is doing so, at customers' expense. The public will find no relief or redemption in the Finance Ministry and the supervisor of banks; and the bank owners won't fulfill their duty toward the public because today they're under supervision and tomorrow they expect to be CEOs of some bank, from which they will, in due course, jump off with golden parachutes.

However, were the bank to imagine that customers would rise up and abandon it, there's no doubt it would make do with a handsome letter of appreciation for the retiring CEO. The bank, on the contrary, knows that the consumer public is a herd of sheep, that conforms to its disdainful whims. All those who use the services of Mizrahi Bank had a chance to show the owners and directors where the money comes in from and where it ought to go - and that opportunity was squandered. If the public is not determined enough in itself to sue for redress and demand its rights, why does it expect others to do so on its behalf?

A company by the name of Charlton also believes consumers can be squeezed without limit. In this case it is the consumers of sports broadcasts, whose insurmountable passion for major league soccer, and soon basketball, is exploited each year anew. Israeli soccer is usually of low quality, but that's not the only example of consumption of flawed merchandise. After having already paid for Channel 5 and Channel 5-Plus, and other accompanying sports channel included in "the package," we had to pay a surcharge last year for league games under the "pay-per-view" system.

Charlton, which saw it had a good thing going, is now also charging some NIS 30 per week for English league games. Unless a consumer boycott develops immediately, its appetite will know no bounds, and it will not be long before all sports broadcasts, excepting billiards and snooker, will charge separate fees.

Despite my penchant for English soccer, I'm not hooking up and not paying. If everyone holds out for just two to three weeks, we'll be able to overcome the evil of extortion together, and all channels will be opened to every viewer. For once, just once, let the public prove that it is serious. That it doesn't only know to bemoan its fate but also to take charge of it. Then it would see that Mizrahi Bank, and Charlton, and other voracious companies suddenly accord it the respect it deserves.

Unfortunately, it looks like not much can be expected from the limp and cantankerous Israeli public. We got those darkened screens Saturday night, during the match between France and Israel, thanks to the contempt that those holding control long had over us, the remote-control holders. If a consumer boycott does not come together here and now, then the screen will continue to give us the finger, along with a slide conveying a self-righteous apology.