Left-wing politics from the US to Nepal, via Zimbabwe, South America and Palestine.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

From the other front - social services in Israel

From YNet today. Of course this isn't translated. Check out the (generally) insane right-wing stuff they post on their English opinion site. Yours truly providing you with what they don't want you to see: the critical opinions from inside Israel showing that their is no united rear. OK, that may be a bit over the top, but here goes anyway:

Where is the State?
By Ariana Melamed
(From Hebrew original)

In foul-smelling bomb-shelters sit huge numbers of citizens whom the state has privatized, left to the goodwill of aid bodies - and the state didn't even bother to tell anyone.

Four weeks into the war, after we got rid of the slogan "hug a northener" and the sickening sweetness of that expression, I'm hereby asking to bury "strength of the rear" too - the greatest PR lie of this nameless war.

I have no idea what antiquated memory banks this expression was pulled out from, from which war movies about productive and optimistic citizens who "contribute to the drive" far away from the fields of battle. But I know well who this false image serves: the institutions of a state that has almost completely evaporated and disappeared from the citizens' front. The state whose poor, elderly and needy have been abandoned as lame ducks without any assistance, without proper shielding, without elementary concern for the most essential basics that would enable them, at this time, to live as human beings.

In foul-smelling bomb-shelters, in noisy cities, in villages and kibbutzim along the new front line, sit thousands of citizens whom the state has privatized. It didn't bother to tell them in good time that it is ridding itself of any responsibility for their welfare. They were handed over - not in any orderly or planned way - to the goodwill of masses of other citizens and charitable bodies whose good-heartedness is much greater than their ability to act, while the establishment continues to string together empty slogans and does nothing.

No one living in the range of the katyushas is a 'rear'. They are all a type of front in the war that will be remembered - if we will have the strength to remember - as an institutional shame, as the greatest civil failure in the history of a state that once knew how to care for its citizens and later was only politely interested in their well-being, and finally stopped pretending it cares.

In the first days of the war, the ministers could have, if they had wanted to, disconnect for a moment from the wholesale manufacture of idle chatter on foreign TV networks and concentrate their intellectual efforts on checking the condition of bomb-shelters and physical protection: on thinking and planning for the coming days in the lives of a civilian population under fire. But they didn't want to. They stuck to the idiotic bureaucratic mantra that that is the job of the heads of local councils. The heads of local councils certainly could not take on that load. All the civil aid bodies cannot either, in the absence of a concentrated, calculated national program, designed specifically for situations such as these.

Shortly after the great earthquake in Turkey, I visited the exemplary village that the State of Israel knew to create overnight for the people whose houses had been destroyed, and I saw the impressive organizing ability of the establishment for a humanitarian project worthy of every praise. What happened since then to that ability? What has the state given so far to the humanitarian welfare of its [citizens] on the front line, apart from the vague promise to establish an "[investigative] commission"?

And in the meanwhile, amongst the stink of urine that is the primary, miserable smell of the civil front line in the bomb-shelters, we can remember with longing and rage how once the small and poor institutions of a state knew how to send supplies to besieged cities; and later knew how to manage entire cities of tents of new immigrants who arrived suddenly; and once there were warehouses of goods for emergencies that were intended to ensure that even during the hardest of times citizens would not be required to rely on the charitable food-donations of other citizens; and once there were teacher-soldiers who sat with children in bomb-shelters and kept them busy while their parents strained to move the wheels of routine; and once there was a state here that did not leave its citizens, strong and weak, in bomb-shelters with no electricity, without running water, without basic sanitation. I don't know where all those have gone. I have not yet heard a single wise commentator who could explain where they are hiding and why they are hiding.

In one of the flickering advertisements on TV I saw the mayor of Karmiel thanking, with emotive words, the goodness-of-heart of the 'Supersal' supermarket chain that is feeding the residents of his city. He who seeks the unpleasant truth behind these words will find a state that has turned its citizens at their time of need to beggars against their will. My motherland, beautiful destitute land, all her beggars brothers [1]? No. Very much not. Only those who need the state the most have turned to desperate beggars. The stronger know how to access the right channels. The stronger still wrap themselves in the lie of resilience. That lie continues to serve them well, since they know that when the war ends, the needy of the [civil] front will no longer have the strength to shout and to protest - nor to create change.

[1]: The expression "My motherland, beautiful destitute land, all her beggars brothers" comes from a poem by Jewish poet Leah Goldberg. It was written not about Israel, but about her homeland, Lithuania. Every Israeli knows this poem, entrenched as it is in collective national memory. It is often used to harden solidarity in hard times. This was, of course, far more applicable in the initial period of pseudo-socialist agricultural development in the 50's and 60's, when some semblance of solidarity still existed here. The previous paragraph hearkens to this period. In my opinion, that view is tinted by rose-colored glasses. That solidarity did exist, but only if you happened to be white, of European origin. Those in development towns out on the periphery were never taken care of, they were left in atrocious conditions back then too. The 'cities of tents' spoken of were desperate places, not well-supplied by the state, surrounding much wealthier towns, populated chiefly by Jews of European origin.

Having said that, Israel did once have a welfare system that actually took care of a lot of people. That has been almost entirely dismantled since the early 90's.


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Anonymous World Peace Religion said...

Peace would be good.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006 8:28:00 AM

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