Barry Topf

How did disaster happen so quickly?

The speed and force of the coalition’s assault on Israel’s democracy has stunned many  liberal Israelis. It has revealed how fragile the social fabric of the country is and what deep divisions exist.  It also forces us to ask why we were so surprised, so unprepared, by the fury and intensity of the upheaval.  How did the enemies of a democratic and decent Israel grab so much power so fast and with such apparent ease?

As Thomas Sowell, American social theorist and economist wrote,  “One of the common failings among honorable people is a failure to appreciate how thoroughly dishonorable some other people can be, and how dangerous it is to trust them.”

We did not see the real goals of the coalition – the naked grab for power, the greed, the desire for “revenge” for perceived wrongs.  We greatly underestimated the lengths to which it would go to achieve its goals, its total lack of boundaries, the “ends justify the means”  justifications , and for some, the messianic  drive that ignores reality. We did not see the avarice, the hunger for power, the venality, the tolerance of corruption, the disregard for others.

We enthusiastically repeated the mantra that we are all one people, despite all evidence to the contrary. We are a divided people – people who endorse Zionist and democratic values and who carry the burdens of the state of Israel; another group that disparages and rejects the values of others,  and yet another group that live off the labor of others and regards the state as a mere tool to support their own goals and separatist community.

We truly thought “we are all brothers” was shared by all. The most disheartening aspect of this upheaval has been to realize we were wrong. There are sham “brothers “- politicians who only want to obtain plum jobs, budgets, power, and personal status and exploit voters who want to redress real or perceived grievances; and join hands with other politicians who are concerned only with their own follower’s well-being, with what they can take from  the state of Israel.

Brothers do not disregard  their brothers’ concerns and worries.

Brothers do not deny their brothers a hearing when fateful decisions that will affect us all are being made.

Brothers do not incite ethnic and religious divisions for electoral gains.

Brothers do not endanger the economy of the nation to pursue their narrow political interests.

Brothers do not imperil the very security and existence of the Jewish state to pursue their self-serving political obsessions.

Brothers do not let others serve, fight, and die while avoiding their share of the burden.

Brothers do not call those who serve “ pus, residue of weaklings”, or tell them to go to hell.

Brothers do not stay in power almost continuously for over four decades but blame their “brothers”  for their own incompetence and failures.

Brothers do not call those who work and serve in uniform evaders and shirkers, while they make an ideology of shirking and evading.

Brothers do not let their brothers bear all the burden of defending, protecting, and supporting the state.

Brothers do not let others fight and die in their stead.

Rather than brothers, we are more like abused spouses, refusing to acknowledge that the relationship is one-way.  Which only encourages the abusers to increase their manipulation and exploitation.

We thought they would seek the common good and recognize and resist the common dangers. We thought we could trust them to  counter the threats from Iran and elsewhere, to improve personal security, to strengthen the economy, to improve the health care system, the educational system, to solve housing and transport problems. Instead, they leave those unaddressed, selfishly and single mindedly pursuing their own narrow goals – power, sinecures, budgets for their sectoral interests, eliminating checks and balances, evading justice, safeguarding evasion , and  shifting the burden of maintaining the state onto others.

I hope that one day we truly will be brothers. But now we can no longer evade the truth.

About the Author
Barry Topf was a member of the Bank of Israel’s senior Management from 2001 until 2013. He was a member of the Monetary Policy Committee in 2011-2013. As a consultant for multinational organizations, he has advised more than 25 countries on macroeconomic and monetary policy.
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