Who is Behind Israeli Apartheid Week?

Who is Behind Israeli Apartheid Week?

Every year around this time, college students are berated with Anti-Israel rhetoric, lies and propaganda from the event “Israeli Apartheid Week”. Israeli Apartheid Week is held on over 65 campuses across the world.

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An introduction to international affairs

An introduction to international affairs

One of my favorite morning rituals is waking up, sipping at a cup of tea and reading what’s going on in the world. This is experience is only made better by one potential piece of news: no news, regarding Israel, is good news.

Of course this depends on the news source you choose. Stumbling across the Canadian National Post or Globe and Mail, the NYtimes, or maybe even skimming the Jerusalem Post or Al Jazeera, I find myself relieved by the lack of information available on Israel’s contribution to civilian and military unrest. The escalating violence and ever-growing death tolls in the Middle East, the nuclear issues in North Korea or the melting of the glaciers and icecaps is finally no longer recognized as Israel’s fault, for the most part. Yes, for those of you who may be wondering, I have read articles claiming the above blood libels are true.

This morning I came across a different kind of article discussing the new educational and gender segregation reforms that Hamas, the Islamic terrorist group that rules over the Gaza strip, has recently passed.

Aside from the outright Islamic slant of these new laws, and regardless of the religion you happen to practice while living in Gaza, segregation of the sexes is supposed to help build the national character. I’m not sure what loving where you’re from has anything to do with gender segregation, but hey, if you think it might, why not give it a try? Oh right, because after you’ve lifted the quota of women who have the right to vote about six years ago, it would be awkward to sit next to one of “them” in a class room full of 9 year old children. Is segregation of Mosque and State still really at question?

Just as discouraging to personal freedoms, however, is the new decree that any educational institution receiving aid meant to encourage normalization of ties with Israel will face a fine of a approximately $28,200, or if you happen to be an individual perpetrator, a 10-year prison term.

I was under the impression that governments were supposed to try and promote tolerance between its people and their neighbours, not to mention representing the needs of its citizens. I must be thinking of a flawed democracy as apposed to an authoritarian regime, my mistake. Please take note of the point here, sarcasm aside: this new law is completely perpendicular to any peace process that may arise as part of Obama’s latest attempts to foster discussions between Israel and her many potential but unlikely Arab partners, Jordan’s King Abdullah II, included. So what is to be done? I say we all sit back and watch this one play out like we’ve done in the past…or the passion of a few can become the pull of the many. It’s up to you I guess.

Image by by danchitnis / flickr

A Lost Opportunity: Israeli Investment in North Korea and the alleviation of Middle East missile proliferation.

After monitoring shady Syrian and North Korean dealings with regard to nuclear materials, the Israelis carried out an air strike called Operation Orchard. This strike against a facility in the Syrian desert was the culmination of several years of North Korean nuclear and missile dealings and negotiations with Southeast Asian (Iran and Pakistan), Middle Eastern (Iraq and Syria) and North African (Libya under Gaddafi) regimes. Only a few years before, in December 2003, a non-proliferation victory was declared when Colonel Gaddafi surrendered his stockpile of weapons of mass destruction. Such weapons had been acquired from North Korea through the Pakistani AQ Khan network.

Of course, this is all standard elementary knowledge. What is of interest to me is how we got to where we are now, namely the missile proliferation and shady nuclear dealings between the aforementioned regimes and the ruling regime in Pyongyang. There was one instance in 1993 when the Israeli government seemingly showed signs of making an overture to North Korea by investing in that pariah state’s floundering economy in turn for its cessation of providing states like Iran with missiles.

The Israeli deal seemed to hint at investing some $1 billion into the North Korean economy. One assumes that such investment would have probably taken the form of hard capital along with much-needed agricultural methods and supplies.

As we know, due to the opposition of the United States, the deal was never introduced and never put into fruition. North Korean and US tensions increased in 1994 as a result of the former’s attempt to withdraw from the non-proliferation treaty and pursue the construction of a bomb. Not long after that the ‘Great Leader’ Kim il Sung passed away, his son succeeded him and the country as a whole became more militant as it became more impoverished. The economy went to hell and a famine in the late 1990’s saw to 2 million North Koreans dying from starvation. The new regime of Kim Jong il would also see to the North Korean state building a handful of nuclear weapons, as well as several missiles — which were supplied to both Iran and Pakistan.

If the United States hadn’t opposed the deal, one could speculate about how things could have turned out differently. For one, had Israel invested in 1993 and agreed to recognize the regime in Pyongyang, they could have had a formal deal to end North Korea’s nuclear weapons program before it properly got off the ground. This may have lessened, to the point of elimination, the tensions between the US and North Korea the year after. On top of all that, the introduction of an agricultural system – one of Israel’s specialties – may have saved a great deal of North Koreans from the harsh famine years. It’s important to note that the stunted brainwashed people of North Korea were reportedly more hostile towards the west during said famine years, as they blamed the west for the famine rather than their aggressive regime.

This lost opportunity was unfortunate, however it does aptly demonstrate Israel’s potential to, in a positive manner, influence and, shape situations on the grounds of countries far from its borders.

The Social Protest Risks Self-Destruction

The social protest movement has been making a come-back over the past few weeks, after capturing the imagination of the citizens of Israel during their summer demonstrations in 2011.  Having decided that the progress made by the government over the past 12 months has not been sufficient to satisfy the demands made a year ago, the protest movement has taken to the streets once again.  But things are very different now than they were a year ago, and this summer’s protest can never be the same as the one that was held last year.  This creates a risk for the protestors that they will not be able to continue to carry the support of the general public with them.

The biggest difference this year when compared to last year, is that the government and the authorities are ready for the protest.  This means that they will not allow the establishment of the tent cities that sprang up in towns and cities across Israel in the summer of 2011.  These served as constant reminders to the general public of the ongoing protest.  This act, more than anything else, captured the hearts and minds of Israelis and succeeded in gaining the vital support of the press pack.  In order to keep the protest in the public eye this year, more ingenuity will be required to replace the constant reminder that the tent cities represented.  The protestors will also have to continuously outfox the authorities, who are determined to avoid having the constant irritation that the government was forced to endure last year.

The first clashes have already taken place, and have not necessarily helped the protest movement in the eye of the general public.  A small group of protestors took to the streets of Tel Aviv on a busy Friday morning.  Police were quickly on the scene to force the demonstrators off the streets.  Some protestors who refused to cooperate were arrested, and the press was filled with pictures depicting aggressive police arresting peaceful demonstrators.   These scenes mobilised other protestors to take to the streets of Tel Aviv on Saturday evening.  This time, the demonstrations were not only focused against the government’s economic policies, they also vented anger against treatment received by the protestors at the hands of police and officials of the city of Tel Aviv.  Illegal demonstrations turned into sit-down protests in various locations in Tel Aviv, disrupting traffic and causing general chaos.  Once again, police and city officials removed protestors by force.  Some protestors also vented their rage at banks in the street near to the protest location, and rocks were hurled into bank windows causing damage to property.  The stand-off between the parties escalated further when sympathisers of the protest movement decided to disrupt activities in Tel Aviv’s “White Night” annual street party.  These attempts were only partially successful, with “White Night” proving to be a success albeit with a few less activities than were originally planned.  By this stage, however, the press started losing their positive spin on this story and the general public were displaying less sympathy for the cause.  It seems as though the protestors may have scored an own-goal through their actions, by losing the support of their greatest group of supporters.

Around the time that these events were taking place, the Minister of Finance announced that the government decided to increase the budget deficit in 2013 from the previous target of 1.5% of GDP to 3%.  This is in addition to tax increases that are anticipated next year.  The extra money is required to fund some of the concessions that have been granted in response to the social protests.  Bank of Israel Governor, Stanley Fisher, came out immediately in opposition to these steps.  It is predicted that the increase in the budget deficit will cause interest rates to rise and will weaken the Shekel even further.  The general public is not enthusiastic at all about these measures, and has realised that the social concessions do not come without cost.  These measures will hit the average person in the pocket in no uncertain terms.  Suddenly the social protest movement is having to bear responsibility for this cost, causing it to look increasingly isolated.

One of the greatest successes of the social protests in the summer of 2012, was the extent to which the general public supported their action.  Demands for cheaper housing, tax and welfare improvements and cheaper prices for consumer goods seemed to strike a chord with all members of the public.  This was true as long as the price of these concessions was not yet been factored into the public’s considerations.  Now that there is a realisation that there is a price to pay, the public is regarding the concessions with much less enthusiasm and the social protestors are carrying the responsibility for the costs involved.

The combination of the violent protests and the economic measures introduced by the government has certainly caused damage to the protest movement.  The press is not nearly as supportive of their efforts as they were last year, and the general public is scrutinising the protests with a much keener eye.  Further damage to the protest movement’s cause was done when it became obvious that many of the demonstrators were not quite sure what they were protesting against.  When asked for details of the cause and its objectives, some of the demonstrators seemed to be participating for reasons not remotely linked to the main social cause.  They were made to look more like rent-a-crowd than a unified group of people with a common objective.

Israel’s economy is sending out mixed messages.  Things seem to be very stable at a macro-economic level.  The banking system has held up well while the banks in countries all around have collapsed or required public funding to stay afloat.  Israel is the only country to have its credit rating raised (to A+) by S&P in the past year.  Germany is the only western country which has a lower budget deficit than Israel.  For individuals within the economy, however, things don’t look so rosy.  Approximately half of the citizens of Israel live on or below the bread line.  Despite the fact that employment is currently at one of its highest levels in recent years (meaning that whoever wishes to work has a job), families are still not managing to cover their ever-increasing costs.  This is almost worse than people not being able to make a living because they are out of work.  It is clear that attention is required to correct this situation.

The social protest movement has done a good job of bringing the issue of social justice to the top of the public agenda.  Now, the protest leaders will have a tough path to navigate in encouraging the government to implement the changes without losing the public’s support.  In addition, the protest movement will need to continue to take the moral high ground, and not allow its organisation to be hijacked by those with unrelated causes, and those intent on causing chaos, disruption and damage.  Indications are that they are not succeeding.

Image by Sasha Y. Kimel

The African Migrant Problem Needs to be Solved Quickly

Israel has become inundated with African migrants, and this has raised some very difficult questions for the government about how to deal with them.  The problem started out as a humanitarian one.  Individuals and groups of people began turning up along Israel’s southern border with Egypt.  They were filled with horrifying stories about the countries that they had run away from, and the murder and destruction that was taking place there as part of the series of ongoing civil wars that are plaguing the African continent.  The experiences that these individuals were forced to endure along their route to Israel was equally as horrendous.  Marauding groups of thugs in the deserts and soldiers from national armies, most notably the Egyptian army, stripped these poor people of the few belongings that they had, and raped and murdered many of those with them.

The Israeli authorities remembered too well the experiences that Jews were forced to endure during the Holocaust, when few nations were prepared to accept Jewish refugees who had nowhere to go to escape the evil Nazi extermination camps.  The African migrants were admitted across the border, given food shelter and basic medical treatment.  They were also allowed to seek out employment despite their exact status being unsure.  Children were sent to local schools, and policies regarding how to deal with this new phenomenon were being established on the fly.  It is astonishing how quickly the desert telephone works.  Word soon got back to Sudan and to Eritrea that the pot at the end of the rainbow is buried somewhere between Eilat and Tel Aviv.  Within no time at all, thousands of migrants were clambering across the border in search of the pot of gold.  Although they were running from horrendous situations in their home countries, these people could be classified more as economic migrants than as asylum seekers.

Fast-forward a few years to the current time, and the situation is extremely complicated.  In some areas like Southern Sudan, the civil war is over, a new country has been established and Israel was one of the first to move to recognise the new country.  Despite this fact, the citizens of Southern Sudan seem to have no intention of leaving Israel and returning to their newly established homeland.  Instead, more and more seem to be arriving at the borders.  They have established communities of their own in towns and cities around Israel.  They are working in hotels, running coffee shops, Internet cafes, bars, restaurants and market stalls and their children are attending Israeli schools.  Their presence is becoming increasingly permanent in spite of the fact that the government has still yet to determine their legal status.  Suddenly, the African migrant community numbers 60,000 people and is beginning to make its presence felt in Israeli society in every possible way.

An undercurrent of dissatisfaction has been building below the surface about the newest of Israel’s immigrant communities.  Economic times are tough, and there is a feeling amongst the weaker members of Israeli society that the African migrant community is receiving resources that should be channelled towards Israeli citizens instead.  Many charities have decided to route their efforts to help African migrants, often at the expense of Israeli citizens.  Cheap housing units are occupied by African migrants and often lead to price rises, making it difficult for others around.  There are accusations that school places that should be available to Israeli children, are being occupied by African children.  The character of some of Tel Aviv’s oldest neighbourhoods is reported to have changed dramatically to reflect the increasing number of Africans living there.

The situation came to a head in the past few weeks with a number of incidents of violence having been blamed on African migrants.  A few rape accusations have been made against Africans, while reports have surfaced from areas where they live accusing them of burglary and other violent crimes.  While none of these accusations have yet been proven, it has allowed the undercurrent of dissatisfaction amongst some Israelis to boil over into full-blown rage.  Protests have taken place across Israel to demonstrate against the continued presence of African migrants, and the government is now being forced to take a stand.  Unfortunately, the protests have turned violent showing a really ugly side to Israeli society.  African migrants and their businesses and homes have been attacked as part of these protests, some of which were also attended by members of Knesset and other politicians.

In the first instance, the violence against others living in Israel should not be tolerated.  It is right that the police have arrested some of the perpetrators of this violence, and that they should be prosecuted under the law.  In the second place, it is right that the government should be held to account for the lack of policy on the migrants.  While the migrants had no alternative safe haven, it was acceptable and desirable for Israel to give them shelter.  Now, however, they have place to return to, and Israel should insist that they do so.  No visitor to Israel should be allowed to outstay their welcome, particularly if they will be utilising scarce resources that should be made available to the weakest in Israeli society.  The fact that the economic and social conditions in Southern Sudan or Eritrea are not quite up to the same level in the State of Israel is not the consideration.  If they are able to return in a manner that does not risk their personal safety, this should be enough to justify their repatriation.

Over the years, Israel has been forced to deal with a number of migrant communities.  There are thousands of Filipinos working to look after the elderly and the weak who require close care.  There are also thousands of Chinese workings employed in agriculture and construction.  Once these people have lived and worked here for a few years, and even had families here, the decision to deport them becomes much more difficult.

I feel really proud that Israel was willing and able to open its doors to people in desperate need, and in immense physical danger.  This reflects our empathy as a nation for the homeless and the weak in the world.  Now that the job has been done and the charity administered, the migrants should return home to allow Israel to put her own house in order.  After all, we wish to be there again should the need arise in the future.  By sending the migrants to their places of origin, it will mean that Israelis will be able and willing to help again if required.  By allowing them to remain indefinitely, it puts this help at grave risk, and risks a great deal in our own society.

The Secrets of “Ivan the Terrible” Go to the Grave

It was announced on Saturday that John Demjanjuk, the man variously accused as being “Ivan the Terrible” and an evil guard at the Sobibor concentration camp, died at the ripe old age of 91 years old.  He died a free man at a nursing home in southern Germany, awaiting the appeal of his recent conviction of being accessory to the murder of 27,900 Jews at the Sobibor death camp in Poland.  His death has brought to an end a most extraordinary sequence of events which has raised significant doubts about the value of hunting down Nazi murderers and their collaborators.

It is almost certain that Demjanjuk was involved in the murder of Jews during the Holocaust.  He admitted that the scar under his armpit was an SS tattoo which he removed after the war.  There continue to be accusations that he was, in fact, the feared “Ivan the Terrible” who operated the diesel engines of the gas chambers at the Treblinka death camp, and who tortured and tormented prisoners in his spare time.  A special tribunal at the Jerusalem District Court found Demjanjuk guilty of this charge in 1988, and sentenced him to death as a result (the death sentence is available in Israel only for those found guilty of Nazi war crimes).  It was the Israeli Supreme Court that overturned this conviction in July 1993 on the basis that there was reasonable doubt as to whether the person on trial had been correctly identified as Ivan the Terrible.  The judges agreed that Demjanjuk was probably a Nazi guard at Sobibor, Majdanek and Flossenbürg camps.  But this was not the charge that the court had been called upon to adjudicate, and the judges were forced to set him free on the grounds of reasonable doubt on the charge of being Ivan the Terrible.

Demjanjuk returned to his adopted home in Cleveland, Ohio.  The American government, that had previously withdrawn his US citizenship, was forced to reinstate him as a citizen.  Demjanjuk was tried again earlier this year in Munich, accused of being a guard at Sobibor extermination camp.  A total of 27,900 charges of being an accessory to murder were brought against him, one for each man, woman and child who were brutally murdered at the camp.  The trial was something of a spectacle, with the accused being brought into the courtroom each day in a wheelchair and refusing to take any part in the trial.  He was eventually found guilty, and sentenced to 5 years in prison!  He was, however, immediately released having spent two years in prison awaiting trial, and many more years in prison during his trial in Israel.  His defense team had appealed the conviction, and the appeal was in the process of being prepared when he died.

There are many who have questioned the logic of spending years and millions of dollars prosecuting somebody who was a fairly low rung in the Nazi ladder.  It seems as though he was a lowly guard at a death camp, and not one of the key decision-makers driving the “Final Solution”.  Even though he was clearly evil and caused a great deal of suffering and torment for thousands of innocent people, is this enough to justify the enormous effort when there were much bigger fish to fry?  The prosecution of Demjanjuk cannot, for example, be compared to the Eichmann trial.  It did not come close to the spectacle and the importance of the Eichmann trial, largely due to the very senior position that Eichmann held in the Nazi death machine.  There were so many other senior Nazis, who were in the decision-making ranks, and who were never held to account for their appalling behaviour.  So why was this low-level individual pursued for so long, and at such great cost?

I think it was to do with the fact that there was such a substantial failure to bring many of the key Nazi figures to justice.  Except for the Nuremberg trials and Eichmann’s trial, there was little international justice meted out to the architects and operatives of the greatest genocide known to man.  This was despite the untiring efforts of Nazi hunters such as Simon Wiesenthal and others.  They played an important role in bring to the public’s attention how easily some of the big fish had evaded identification and justice.  When the accusation arose that Demjanjuk could have been the feared “Ivan the Terrible”, he was pursued relentlessly as something of an example to try to show some justice.  Even these attempts ultimately failed, although it did succeed in raising the issue of justice for Nazi war criminals into the public domain again.

One of the reasons that the prosecution of Nazi war criminals was not more widespread, was because the Israeli government decided not to pursue this following the execution of Eichmann.  He was the example that was used to publicly demonstrate some of the atrocities that took place, but the Israeli government chose not to pursue this avenue further.  Instead, the Israeli government decided to use its scarce resources, both financial and intelligence, in the building and the protection of the State of Israel.  In retrospect, this was probably the right decision even though we would have liked to see all war criminals brought to justice.  A choice had to be made, and I believe that the right one was made.

The death of Demjanjuk probably brings this chapter to an end.  It is difficult for me to see the possibility of finding any war criminals still alive, and who could face justice.  Even if such individuals are found, so much time has passed since the crimes were committed that the realistic prospects of a prosecution must be extremely low.  Interest groups have long called for the money that was channelled into searching for war criminals, to be redirected towards providing assistance for the survivors.  For them, this would be money better spent.

Some feel that some sort of revenge was achieved because Demjanjuk was kept on the run for the last 25 years of his life as prosecutors tried, and failed to bring justice for those who suffered by his hands.  I don’t really feel this. The fact that he was able to enjoy such a good life in America in the years following the war, and that he ultimately died a free man, is indication to me that justice was not ultimately served.  I do feel, however, that some revenge was extracted by him living long enough to see how the Jewish people have survived, grown and flourished despite his efforts and those of his collaborators.  I love the fact that he was brought to the State of Israel to stand trial, so that he could see the failure of his endeavours.  This was surely real justice.  I also feel sure that 27,900 souls were waiting for him when his time was up to extract the ultimate justice.

Image by Rob Sheridan.

A Worthwhile Strike

Israel is back on strike after an announcement last week by the main workers’ union, the Histadrut, that it has ordered its workers to stay home.  The Histadrut is an umbrella organisation for hundreds of thousands of workers across Israel, and a strike by its members has the ability to paralyse the Israeli economy.  It is estimated that this strike is costing the economy more than NIS 300 million a day, the equivalent of almost US$100m.

For the average Israeli who is not a member of the Histadrut and is trying to get on with his daily life, the strike is a gross inconvenience.  Banks, public transport, government ministries, municipal services and Ben Gurion airport are all suffering closures, disruptions and delays arising from this strike.  Prime Minister Netanyahu has called upon the Histadrut to cancel the strike, and has said that he believes that it is possible to find a responsible and just solution to the problem.  I believe that he is right that a solution is within the hands of the relevant authorities.  But who has the responsibility to take the first steps in finding the solution?  Despite the fact that many people on the streets of Israel blame the strikers for inconveniencing their lives, are the strikers the ones at fault in this case?

The strike revolves around the terms and conditions upon which temporary workers in the public sector are employed.  There are an estimated 250,000 temporary workers whose working conditions are under the spotlight in this strike, many of whom fulfil roles as cleaners and security guards at their places of employment.  It is common practise for these types of workers to be “temporary workers” on a permanent basis.  The employees are usually provided by agencies, which are hired by the government and other companies to provide appropriate staff.  Even though there is sometimes an attempt by the agencies to rotate staff between different locations, it is quite common for individuals to serve in the same job at the same location for many years – essentially acting in the capacity as a permanent member of staff.  The only difference between these individuals and permanent members of staff, is the fact that the agency staff continue to earn their money on an hourly basis for indefinite periods of time.  Not only does this affect their rights to take sick leave or to go on holiday without having go be concerned about paying their rent, it also has a substantial impact on their social benefits during the time that they are working and when they finally leave their positions.  The main beneficiary of this combination deal is the government, which saves substantial amounts of money as the largest employer of these temporary workers.

This is not the first time that the Histadrut has raised this issue.  A short-lived strike was already held during the middle of last year.  This strike was called off on the promise that the issue would be resolved.  Needless to say, no substantial progress has been made towards rectifying the status and the rights attached to these workers.  Although I am not a great supporter of all actions taken by the Histadrut in the past, it is my view that the union would not be fulfilling its obligation towards its members if it did not take a strong stand on this issue.  If the Histadrut does not act decisively where this is concerned, what is its main role in our society?

Naturally and unsurprisingly, there are ulterior motives at play which serve to partially cloud the matter.  The temporary workers are not actually members of the union.  This is one of the rights that is denied them in their capacity as temporary workers.  If the Histadrut is able to succeed in convincing the government to change the status of these employees to give them a permanent contract, the Histadrut stands to gain a substantial number of new members.  Additional members bring additional membership fees to the coffers of the union, and additional strength in the political arena.  Whereas the Histadrut is presenting its actions as entirely altruistic in the interests of the temporary workers, there is another side to their actions which needs to be considered.

Israel’s “summer of discontent” saw strikes and protests against increasing economic hardship for the average Israeli.  The cost of living continues to soar, while earnings levels fail to keep pace with these increases.  Ironically, the vast majority of protestors who camped for months in public areas across Israel came from the middle class.  The main population of lower paid workers were not well represented at all in these protests.  The reasons are clear.  Many of them are new immigrants, coming from countries where this type of social protest is unheard of, and they still feel some fear in raising their heads too far about the parapet.  More to the point, they are largely unable to take even one day off work to protest, for fear of not being able to feed their children at the end of the month.  The message from the social protest movement to the government is that Israelis of all levels are finding the already tough economic conditions increasingly unmanageable.  When unscrambling the myriad of messages that the government received from the social protests, the loudest message should relate to the weakest members of society, particularly those who could not even afford to be involved to express their hardship and suffering.  I see the latest strike as representing these people.

One of the messages of humility that I have learned since moving to Israel, has come from watching people strive to make ends meet.  Witnessing people who are accustomed to living in sprawling comfortable homes in their countries of origin choosing to adjust their lives to live in small apartments and work unbelievably long hours for little pay, shows an incredible level of commitment to this country.  Equally, seeing people who are highly educated unable to find jobs in their own professions and willing to take on menial low-paying tasks to feed children and assure their education, has been a humbling life-lesson for me.  These people, many of whom don’t even have a moment to raise their heads in order to protest for fear of foregoing an hour which can produce a little more family income, need every protection that our society can offer them.  While I support the right of everybody to have a roof over their head and food to eat, I feel the need to give greater support to those who are working two and three jobs to do this.  These are unsung heroes of modern Israel, and there numbers are greater than any of us wish to believe.  This is why I do support the strike that is currently causing enormous economic damage to our country.

Prime Minister Netanyahu should make his haughty statements about causing economic damage into a nearby mirror, for he is the one who should be taking further action to bring the strike to an end.  In so doing, he should be taking active steps to help and protect our society’s most vulnerable people who are working so hard to support themselves.  We all understand and appreciate the fact that the government is under immense pressure to reduce its spending, and that cuts need to be made across the board.  These cuts should also be felt by those interest groups who Netanyahu is trying to court in anticipation of a general election later in the year.  The message from the country is clear.  The correct solution is not to spend more, but to spend more responsibly.  Take money that is being diverted to secure victory in the next election, and help those who really need it.

If the social protest movement really believes in the message that it has been sending to the government, most Israelis will support this strike.  Although there is always a political undercurrent to social actions, this strike could bring about substantial and sorely-needed changes to those who really need it.  It is for this reason that I am willing, albeit reluctantly, to suffer the consequences of the strike.  It is my hope that others will join in this view.

Postscript:  Not long after this blog was written, the strike was called off.  No details are yet available of the deal that was agreed upon.  Despite this fact, I feel that the statements made in the blog are still worthwhile publishing.

Image by Omer Simkha