PM: Self-immolation a 'great personal tragedy'

Netanyahu promises to look into situation of TA protester; Yechimovich says suicide mustn't be a symbol of social protest.

July 15, 2012 11:10
2 minute read.
Moshe Silman, who set hemself afire in Tel Aviv.

Self-immolator Tel Aviv fire protester Moshe Silman 390. (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday called the social protester Moshe Silman's self-immolation a great personal tragedy, and promised to look into the circumstances surrounding the event.

Speaking at the Likud Ministers meeting, Netanyahu said, "We are speaking of a great personal tragedy. I wish Moshe a full recovery. I have asked the Welfare Minister and the Housing Minister to look into the matter."

Silman, 46, set himself on fire on Tel Aviv's Kaplan Street on Saturday night during a social justice protest, and remains in near-fatal condition with burns covering 94% of his body. Paramedics rushed him to the Ichilov Medical Center, but he was moved early to Sheba Medical Center early on Sunday to receive special treatment available there.

Opposition Leader Shelly Yechimovich on Sunday spoke out against the use of self-immolation as a symbol of social protest.

"We all pray for [Silman's] peace, yet alongside the sorrow and turmoil we must remember that suicide is an extreme and awful act," Yechimovich said. "It cannot be used as an example or inspiration for youth or adults, and it certainly must not be seen as a symbol of the social protest."

Yechimovich added that the "cruel hardening of the conditions for obtaining public housing and the absence of a social safety net have brought many like Moshe Silman to despair."

Former Kadima leader Tzipi Livni on Sunday linked Silman's plight to economic difficulties facing the nation.

"Moshe Silman got to the highest level of despair and lit himself on fire - awful. He is not the only one in this condition," Livni wrote on her Facebook page. "I hope that others will not follow in his footsteps and hurt themselves. We need soul-searching and systemic change now, as the economic situation stands to worsen and affect the lives of many."

Protest leader Daphni Leef visited Silman while he was still at Ichilov, and said that while she did not support his actions, there were many people falling apart under the burden that the state puts on them without a sufficient safety net.

Before setting himself on fire Saturday, Silman handed out copies of a letter in which he blamed Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz for his major economic hardships.

Describing them as villains, the Haifa resident said he received no assistance in rent despite suffering a recent stroke and was no longer able to work at all.

He went on to name officials at the Housing Ministry and Social Insurance department who he says made his life impossible. Eventually, the letter said, he received NIS 2,300 a month in disability benefits, from which he must pay health insurance and buy medicines.

"I have no money for medicine or rent... I served in the army, and until the age of 46 I served in the reserves," the letter said. "I will not be homeless, that's why I'm protesting against all the injustices done to me and those like me by the state."

Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.

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