Sunday, May 13, 2007

Enemy Within

An overwhelming cloud of desperation lingers over Israel in recent days. Although this nation is experienced in overcoming personal and national adversity, the current mood of the state is rooted in wholly different circumstances. The citizens of Israel could always prevail in the face of ongoing war, terrorism, economic hardships because it was possible to console ourselves that we are not responsible for creating these difficulties. An enemy always stood to blame for our difficulties – the Palestinians, the Egyptians, Arabs in general. The omnipresence of a collective enemy also facilitated our ability to unite in solidarity and defiantly march on. A public outcry of frustration has become resonant following the publication of the Winograd report, which basically labeled all levels of government (and most levels of military) incompetent in leading the nation into a doomed war. The distress following the realization of Israel fallibility is compounded by the continual unveiling of public corruption, absolute mistrust of government, the decimation of the welfare state, widening social gaps, predictions of a looming war. All this is accompanied with a general state of apathy in all sectors of society. Mired in turmoil Israelis looking for the collective enemy to bond them together will discover only a mirror, reflecting our weary society, standing before them.



This police surveillance tape recording of a motorcyclist lying in the middle of a junction, as over thirty vehicles swerve to avoid the body, seems to be emblematic of the ills of our society. It reflects the crack in our national character that has kept us united for so long. Yes, we Israelis are abrasive, impatient, verbally violent, morally flexible and lack table manners but we take comfort that an underlying sympathy of joint struggle ties us together. This explicit display of disregard serves as a gruesome warning of the path this state is wandering down. The cardinal virtue of the founding ideology of Zionism – to protect and shelter any Jew from harm – has been shunned. We have evolved into an atypical modern nation, embracing individualism and competition. Rampant privatization and de-regulation are an inevitable consequence when our primary ally (don't forget Micronesia) is the U.S. However, these very same "modernizations" of Israeli economy unwillingly dismantled our idealistic basis. In a system where capital measures the individual's ability to prosper, refuge for every Jew is impractical. It does not matter if a Jew lives in poverty in the diaspora or in Israel (as over a third does).
Conflicting virtues of individual competition and Jewish collectivism are colliding. It should not surprise us that the ramifications of this collision are greedy politicians, fortification of an oligarchy devouring profits ultimately the birth of an utterly apathetic populace. No longer can we discard our burdens as creations of external entities, the enemy lies within.

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