Ukraine is here

The Israeli people must internalize the lessons of the Ukrainian revolution. We must take to the streets and fight for the right to control our own lives.

Kiev, Ukraine, February 22, 2014 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Kiev, Ukraine, February 22, 2014
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Last week, a “democratic coup d’état” took place in Ukraine during which president Viktor Yanukovich was ousted by parliament and stripped of his authority.
This revolution did not come out of nowhere, but has been building up for many months now. Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian citizens have taken to the streets in protest of government actions that are in stark contrast with the will of the people and the interests of the country. The last straw was the president’s decision not to sign the association agreement with the European Union, and instead to remain loyal to Mother Russia.
It was clear to the enlightened and active Ukrainian people that it was economically preferable to align themselves with the EU. President Yanukovich, however, was apparently more focused on the benefits he personally receives from Russia, and so decided that Ukraine would instead continue to rely on Russia. Yanukovich was not looking out for the best interests of the people or his nation.
What occurred this past week in Ukraine proves that there is no limit to the power of a nation to carry out regime change. The actions of the Ukrainian citizens prove that their country is a true democracy – the will of the people has prevailed. The people will decide who rules their country and manages its affairs.
Over the past few months, a similar process has been taking place in Thailand, where the Thai people have taken to the streets in protest against governmental corruption. Similar types of democratic revolutions have taken place over the years in Georgia, Serbia and South Korea.
So what do Ukraine and Israel have in common? Technically, Israel is not a dictatorship, our government is elected freely, and we hold democratic elections every few years. Theoretically, political parties choose their leaders democratically and Israel is a free country with a thriving hi-tech industry, but it is not a true democracy, since the people do not really get to voice their opinions.
Most Israelis just sit at home and watch reality cooking TV shows that are designed to make you forget your everyday problems and not feel like going to the polls. It’s called indifference.
And yet, so many people in Israel are suffering. They are drowning under the tax burden that is among the heaviest in the world and many middle-class Israelis cannot buy apartments.
And because the majority of the people are apathetic, a small group of individuals end up deciding who will lead the political parties.
Ashdod Port crane operators who make millions of shekels are deciding who the next chairman of the Labor Party will be. Israel Aircraft Industries, Israel Airports Authority and El Al employees decide who leads the Likud Party, and in the current situation, also who will be prime minister. The union leaders bus tens of thousands of workers to voting stations so they can vote for whoever promised them higher salaries. Union leaders are promised greater benefits, larger compensation packages, and improved working conditions for their members. They are awarded funds by the political parties and candidates, who often are willing to pay NIS 5,000 per vote.
And yet, everyone remains silent. The workers and the unions keep quiet because speaking out would exact too high a price. The Histadrut labor federation keeps silent because it is busy mediating between the elected officials and the unions, a conflict it benefits from. Government officials keep silent because they rely on these politicians for their own political advancement. And the courts remain silent because not one single person has dared to submit a petition or lodge a complaint.
But what I don’t understand is why Israeli citizens remain silent.
What can they possibly gain by remaining silent? Nothing.
They sit in their armchairs in front of the TV and complain about what they see and hear on the evening news. They cry about the corrupt government and unions, about high taxes, expensive food, lack of transportation infrastructure, poor education and lack of personal security on the streets. And yet they remain passive, since this way they can criticize the government without having to make the effort to take to the streets and participate in changing the status quo. But when no one makes any effort to change the status quo, the situation deteriorates.
The Israeli people must internalize the lessons of the Ukrainian revolution. We must take to the streets and fight for the right to control our own lives. We deserve to live free of the terror poured down upon us by union leaders, despotic rabbis and organized crime ringleaders. What we need here in Israel is a social revolution.
And we don’t even have a Mother Russia to be afraid of.
The writer is a former brigadier-general who served as a division head in the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).
Translated by Hannah Hochner.