Fw: "From Utopia to Sodom"

Paul Flewers hatchet.job at SPAMvirgin.net
Sun May 21 04:24:32 MDT 2000

 I just received this from Moshe Machover   Paul F  
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++  The following is downloaded from today's (21 May
00) e-issue of the English language version of Ha'artez, Israel's leading daily.
Descending from utopia to Sodom
                    By Gideon Levy
Here's the story: in the beginning, we really believed we were a virtuous,
chosen people.  With all our talk about purity of arms on the battlefield,
brotherhood and equality in civilian life, we were saying that the world
could learn something from our moral diligence.  Maybe, for a moment, the
world believed this was serious; maybe not.  Nobody heard a murmur about
injustices during the 1948 Independence War; nobody got agitated about the
spraying of new immigrants with DDT; the kibbutz was perceived as an
exemplary social paradigm; and Israeli assistance to African nations warmed
hearts.  We really thought at the time that we were do-gooders, and perhaps
there was some justification for this self-image.Then came the 1967
military conquest, one which we believed was forced upon us.  We marveled
at our enlightened conquest.  The increase in the number of tractors to be
found in the territories, and subsequently the rise in the number of
universities on the West Bank, were self-serving proofs of our enlightened
ways, and the progress we were bringing to the Palestinians.  We thought
that the conquest was good for us, and good for them, and therefore it
should continue forever.
And then came the cursed Intifada, and tarnished our immaculate self-image. 
The pictures of soldiers beating Palestinians, and testimony furnished by
tortured Palestinians, couldn't be ignored; and the image of the
enlightened conqueror was blemished, irreparably.
Nonetheless, in its own eyes, Israel remained attractively moral.  The
prevailing wisdom was that Israel was an exemplary democracy within the
Green Line borders, one whose norms of equality and justice were without
parallel, while out in the backyard, separated on the other side of the
border in the areas of the military conquest, matters might a bit less
perfect.  Such imperfection, everyone knows, is an inevitable fact of
military conquest; and the conquest had been forced upon us, as a kind of
inexorable necessity.
The Supreme Court furnished legal and moral sanction for this state of
affairs; and its judgments were supplemented by a set of emergency orders
issued for circumstances which no longer could plausibly be defined as dire
emergencies, and by secret reports formulated by parts of the security
establishment, some of which were factually unfounded.  An endless sequence
of court verdicts ratified and whitewashed innumerable misdeeds in the
territories; the court would never have sanctioned such wrongs, had they
occurred within the borders of the state of Israel.  But in conquered areas
virtually everything is permitted, even by the Supreme Court, which gave an
assenting nod to this dubious double standard - the theory being that a
state can be a democratic upholder of human rights exclusively within its
own borders.
Masses of Palestinians were arrested without being put on trial; thousands
were tortured in interrogations; hundreds of houses were demolished; dozens
were banished arbitrarily; innumerable Palestinians suffered humiliations,
and were victimized by cruel, unjust daily policies.  In this period,
Israel's self-image was one of a democracy in its own, grade A, areas, and
a military conqueror by necessity in grade B regions.  This might have been
unpleasant, but it was not too awful.
Recent years have unraveled the last threads of such tawdry
self-satisfaction.  Suddenly, it turned out that ill winds were blowing at
home as well.  Suddenly, it was disclosed that Arabs in Israel suffer
discrimination and racism in virtually every walk of life, that Bedouins
live in the Negev in insufferable conditions, that social clubs in our
cities have exclusive entrance policies barring Ashkenazi or Sephardic
customers, that new immigrants from Ethiopia are treated worse than
newcomers from Russia, and that women routinely suffer sexual abuse.
True, Israel has in some spheres experienced genuine social
transformations, as in the case of rights accorded to homosexuals and
lesbians, but an overall gloomy social picture, one ridden with injustice
and inequality, has taken shape within the borders of the state of Israel.
The disadvantaged have a harder time in Israel than in several countries
animated by far less self-flattering moral images.  Last week supplied two
more proofs of these woebegone realities.  An Amnesty International report
revealed that trafficking in women prostitutes has reached a scale in
Israel that is unmatched by most other countries; and the Bank of Israel
disclosed that Israel is now the world leader, in terms of the proportion
of foreign workers in the country.
It's impossible to say now that the problem is the conquest.  The woes are
here.  This is a society which exploits the weak within its own borders,
sometimes displaying fearful levels of wanton cruelty while doing so - the
prostitutes and foreign workers being cases in point.  The establishment
which sanctions such exploitation can be characterized as being sick.
Why exactly us, of all nations in the world?  Though it's hard to analyze
all the sources of this corruption, it doesn't follow that those
responsible for the ills must escape identification.  Responsibility starts
with the state.  Just as the state stands behind most of the wrongdoing in
the territories, so too has the exploitation of foreign workers and
trafficking in women occurred within Israeli for years, without the state
raising a finger to try to stop it.  The state imprisons and deports
exploited foreign workers, while exculpating their exploiters.  The state
detains and punishes enslaved women, while letting their enslavers off the
hook.  As always, the state authorities side with the advantaged and the
strong - the contractor, the moshav farmer, even the pimp.  They continue
their misdoings unabated; it's only the victims who change from time to
Our local Sodom badly needs some undoing.  The change can only come from up
above.  One should expect two morally sensitive ministers with authority in
relevant areas, Justice Minister Yossi Beilin and Public Security Minister
Shlomo Ben-Ami, to do something to stop this downward slide.  Should they
be determined and diligent, they are empowered with tools needed to enforce
laws, and legislate new ones, before the slide from utopia to Sodom becomes
a fait accompli.
© copyright 2000 Ha'aretz.  All Rights Reserved

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