Some of you are old enough to remember the famous NY Daily News headline from the day in 1975 when Pres. Gerald Ford refused to help New York City as it teetered on the brink of bankruptcy. “Ford to City: Drop Dead” was the memorable line.
Today, I’m dusting it off for a similar kiss-off that Bibi offered to the J14 social justice protesters. Offering a sharp slap in the face to the hundreds of thousands of Israelis who came out in force during the summer to demonstrate for social and economic justice, and in contradiction to the recommendation of his own commission established to implement the goals of this movement, Bibi Netanyahu has decided to increase the Israeli defense budget by $700-million:
“We are going to add three million shekels to the defense budget,” Netanyahu said at a news conference.
Agence France Presse (which reported the story) can’t count as he clearly said 3 BILLION shekels, not MILLION. This is confirmed by a Hebrew language report on Kol Yisrael. But what’s a billion or million among friends?
This enormous increase in the defense budget comes as a bribe or payback to Bibi’s pal, Ehud Barak, the current defense minister. Barak, who faces political oblivion in the next election unless he can prove himself politically relevant (an unlikely proposition), needs a life-raft. That’s what Bibi gave him. $700 million goes a helluva long way to cement loyalties, keep people in line, and prove you’ve got muscle when your political future is in jeopardy.
The AFP story continues:
Netanyahu had in October supported the recommendations of a report he commissioned, by respected economist Manuel Trajtenberg, which were intended to address rising frustrations about the cost of living and income disparity in the Jewish state that triggered mass protests last year.
One of the Trajtenberg report’s proposals was to cut a defense budget that amounts to around $14 billion, of which $3 billion comes in annual U.S. military aid, to finance a series of social initiatives without increasing the deficit.
Around the region, nations are in revolt against authoritarian regimes rooted in corruption and official brutality. The people are saying No to military regimes backed by brute force and secret police. So what does the Israeli government do? It, of course, does everything in its power to make itself out to be precisely the sort of regime that is in the midst of being toppled in other parts of the region. Instead of butter, it chooses guns. Instead of the 99%, it chooses the 1%. Instead of youth and the future, it chooses to remain mired in the disputes of the past:
“I have reflected on this question, but in view of what has happened in the region, I have reached the conclusion that cutting the defense budget would be a mistake, even a big mistake,” Netanyahu said.
“Any sensible person can see what is happening around us. … All these changes have strategic implications for the national security of the state of Israel, for our ability to face the new challenges and instability,” he told a weekly cabinet meeting, according to a statement from his office.
The Israeli army “is the shield of the country, which is why we must increase its means,” he added.
Israel is bolstering its military when the Egyptian armed forces are on the verge of playing a far reduced role in that society. While the Syrian democratic opposition masses in defiance of Syrian military repression, the Israeli army brutalizes its own citizens in peaceful protests in the West Bank and elsewhere. While Syrians demand free speech, Israel suppresses it with countless new laws designed to stifle the 99% at the expense of the 1%.
Today, Israeli activists have come out in force (Hebrew) to protest passage of the “Infiltrators Law,” which punishes migratory workers and those fleeing African genocide for seeking asylum in Israel. Under the law, illegals can be jailed for up to three years without any legal process whatsoever. And yes, they do call such poor souls “infiltrators” as if they mean nothing but harm to Israel just by the fact that they have the chutzpah to enter it. The original 1954 Infiltrators Law was designed to prevent those Israeli Palestinians who’d been exiled by the Nakba from returning. Interesting how such laws can be used historically to dispossess undesirable pre-State (non-Jewish) Israelis and contemporary (non-Jewish) undesirables.
The Israeli protesters have pitched tents in the poorest neighborhoods of Tel Aviv where many of the migrants live. They also blocked a major intersection in the heart of the city, causing the police to respond forcefully in ejecting them. Of the hundreds of demonstrators, at least five were arrested and more were wounded. After the police left, the activists reblocked the roads that had just been cleared.
One among the signs held aloft at the protest harkened back to 20th Jewish history: “No concentration camp for refugees.” As one commenter in Didi Remez’ Facebook thread noted:
Punishing those who are fleeing genocide…who would’ve thought it possible [in Israel].
And in a related development, Daphni Leef, who founded the J14 movement after she was evicted from her own Tel Aviv apartment, has been evicted yet again. She tweeted that while Bibi has three homes of his own, she’s on her third eviction. “Maybe I’ll just have to erect a tent somewhere,” she tweets (in reference to the J14 tent movement that began in Tel Aviv last summer and spread rapidly throughout the country).