Israel's swinish Zionism ought to be stopped
Israel tycoons have woken up to the new reality; they're beginning to
pay the price for their behavior - their capitalism has been defined
By Gideon Levy
There's a remarkable resemblance in Israel between Zionism and wealth:
Both have not known when to stop. These days we're talking about
"swinish capitalism," a term coined by President Shimon Peres back
when he was an MK; he was referring in particular to Benjamin
Netanyahu, who was finance minister at the time and is now prime
minister. It's worth remembering that there is also swinish Zionism.
Swine are insatiable, it is thought. They eat everything that comes
their way and gorge themselves until they die. So do capitalism and
Zionism. A broad (and encouraging ) public now agrees about the
swinishness of Israeli capitalism; the perception of Zionism as
swinish is still the province of a tiny minority in Israel, though not
around the world. Zionism and capitalism started differently.
Zionism began as a national movement that aspired to establish a
national home for the Jews. Although along the way it caused grave
injustice to the previous inhabitants of the land, it had internal
justice. It began modestly: stockade and tower, dunam after dunam -
some of them legally purchased - forms of agricultural settlement that
became an international model, and a relatively egalitarian society.
This movement established an inspiring and nearly wonderful state,
whose amazing achievements in many areas are unparalleled in modern
Until 1967 it seemed this movement was satisfied. But with the eating
(the victory in the Six-Day War ) came the appetite, and since then
the movement has developed characteristics that can only be defined as
swinish. The settlement project in the territories was impelled from
its inception by unbridled territorial lust, the occupation regime
became cruel and totalitarian, and Israel's security policy became
immoral. Had Zionism known when to stop, had it reined in its lust and
greed, atoned for the original injustices in 1948 and changed
direction, it would have become an admired movement. But it did not
stop in time, it did not rein in its greed and now Israel is only
begining to pay the price.
A great many of this country's wealthy people also started out well.
One family established a salt industry, another a modest dairy, this
one founded a shipping company, that one started out as a building
contractor and a third began as an importer of mobile telephones. They
helped develop the economy, building the land and its prosperity.
But here too with the eating came the insatiable appetite, and some of
them did not know when to stop their greed. They shower huge salaries
on their executives, celebrate their family events lavishly, lead an
ostentatious life and treat the public's money as if it were their
own, leveraging money that does not belong to them.
Now the time of reckoning has come. The public is calling them to
account. The word "tycoon" has become a curse and "wealthy" has nearly
become despicable. Had our wealthy people stopped their greed in time,
they would have continued to celebrate on top of the world, or on top
of this country at least, if also with relative modesty.
The public's attitude to these two kinds of swinishness is remarkably
similar. At first society bowed down to its wealthy, in the same way
it bowed down to its settlers in the territories, its "new pioneers."
It looked away and hid its face both from the way the tycoons were
making their money and the way the settlers were putting down their
stakes. The state treated them that way too; it encouraged both
groups. To the wealthy and the settlers it offered everything good -
incentives and protection, grants and loans. It sold natural resources
and companies to the tycoons at bargain prices and gave the lands of
the occupation to the settlers for free.
The state was protective of both these groups. It still is, with a
committee for the tycoons and the continuation of its pro-settler
The tycoons have woken up to the new reality. In the summer of 2011
it's not so pleasant to be Yitzhak Tshuva, Nochi Dankner, Ilan Ben-Dov
or Idan Ofer. They're beginning to pay the price for their behavior -
their capitalism has been defined as swinish. This isn't the case
regarding the new Zionism, the Zionism of occupation and settlement in
the territories. To call it swinish is still considered heretical. But
when the time for the reckoning comes we'll ask: Why didn't we stop
this swinishness in time?
Gideon Levy is a Haaretz columnist and a member of the newspaper's
Levy joined Haaretz in 1982, and spent four years as the newspaper's
deputy editor. He is the author of the weekly Twilight Zone feature,
which covers the Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza over the
last 25 years, as well as the writer of political editorials for the
Levy was the recipient of the Euro-Med Journalist Prize for 2008; the
Leipzig Freedom Prize in 2001; the Israeli Journalists' Union Prize in
1997; and The Association of Human Rights in Israel Award for 1996.
His new book, The Punishment of Gaza, has just been published by Verso
Publishing House in London and New York.