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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Recently I received a letter from an old friend, Dr. Yigal Bin-Nun, a social activist who was a representative of the original Shinui party in the Histadrut Labor Federation. He was responding to comments of mine expressing apprehension over the future of the State of Israel.
He took issue with my pessimism: "I have been in Paris for eight years and I teach in the university. The more I look at Israel from afar, the more amazed I am at the relative paradise in which Israelis live, in numerous areas, including some that might be considered a little bizarre, such as that of personal security, for example.
"Let me give you just one example from here. When you speak to a young French person, you feel less joie de vivre, less hope, fewer expectations for a better future than you do when you speak with a young Israeli man or woman, despite all the dangers threatening them.
"Israeli society, in my opinion, is one of the most promising societies in the world. I am of course aware of the corruption and vulgarity, but everything is relative, and as a society Israelis tend to be extremely critical of themselves, something I don't always encounter here.
"In many ways we are far more advanced than French society."
I ALSO RECENTLY had a conversion with Dr. Felix Zandman, the founder, chairman and CEO of Vishay Intertechnology. The story of his survival in the Holocaust is one of the most faith-strengthening narratives I have ever encountered and an excellent antidote to the anti-Semitic propaganda disseminated by Holocaust deniers.
Vishay has hi-tech factories in countries all over the world, and in Israel. According to Zandman, Vishay's investment in Israel is profitable for three main reasons: "First, the Israeli worker is efficient and devoted and his output is very high; second, in Israel the danger of industrial espionage and stealing of professional secrets is almost nonexistent; and third, the governmental and regulatory systems are clean of corruption.
"Sure, there are other problems: overly frequent changes in government and lack of consistency in policy - but not corruption. I have never encountered even one case in which there was a shadow of a shadow of a demand for a bribe."
NOW FOR the less encouraging: A disheartening viewpoint was encapsulated in a recent op-ed headlined "Stop the witch-hunt against Israel's leadership." It challenged the view "that all our government leaders are unprincipled, unworthy failures."
The piece went on to ask: "Are we really that much worse than everyone else? Is our government really rotten from head to toe, especially the head?
"It is clear that at least some of the accusations are justified. At the same time, it is obvious that we are witnessing a witch hunt, something reminiscent of the atmosphere in the United States during the McCarthy era, when no civil servant or public personality knew when his head would roll...
"Israel's top leadership has been taken over by an atmosphere of fear - personal fear (who will attack me and when), media fear (when will some reporter decide that it's time to destroy me), fear of making decisions (they may accuse me of something), fear of mudslinging (if I fire someone, she may accuse me of touching her), fear of making slight slips (someone gave me a bottle of wine), fear of accepting invitations (I may have to pay), fear of social gatherings (who knows who will be there) and fear of fear itself (as Roosevelt put it).
"We once witnessed a similar scenario, when a large number of mayors and local council heads were suspected of various crimes and indicted. Only after some of them were acquitted did the prosecution lower its level of suspicion, giving the mayors a little more breathing room."
THESE WORDS appeared in The Jerusalem Post , written by none other than former justice minister Yosef (Tommy) Lapid, who was known for his spirited defense of Israel's legal system. Now if Lapid is writing such things, the system really is in need of urgent improvement.
Plainly, the exaggerated number of criminal investigations and indictments is the enemy of any true war on lawbreaking and corruption.
Is anyone in the police, State Prosecution, State Comptroller's bureau or Attorney-General's Office listening to what the former justice minister has to say? Is there anyone out there who understands what the situation has come to? Is there anyone who knows that it is wrong to cry "Wolf!" unless there really is a wolf? That war on corruption must be waged via convictions in court and not via media spin? That a police interrogation lasting eight hours or more when the media are banging down the door is a major violation of the rule of law?
Hello, is there anyone out there listening to all this?
The writer is president of the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya