A Gallup poll ranked Israel 18th most corrupt nation in the world (Haaretz coverage here) in the eyes of its own citizens. 85% of Israelis believed that business in their country was corrupt. Only 9% believed it was not widespread. This ranks them on a par with Sierra Leone and Greece, and the most corruptly perceived nation in the Middle East. In contrast 62% and 40% respectively of the citizens of the U.S. and Canada ranked their countries corrupt. More Israelis considered their country corrupt than the citizens of Congo, Zimbabwe and Kyrgyzstan.
To be clear, the results are not an objective indication of the level of corruption, but rather of the citizens’ perception of corruption. Of course, there may be countries that are objectively more corrupt, but whose citizens aren’t as aware of the corruption as in Israel.
For anyone surprised at the outpouring of enthusiasm and support for last summer’s J14 social justice movement, they should look no farther than this survey to understand the reasons. The overwhelming majority of Israelis understand that their economic system is run by a select elite group of oligarchical families. They control vast swaths of wealth in the country and do so with the connivance of the country’s political leadership. This crony capitalism is also indirectly linked to the moral corruption represented by Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians through its nearly 50-year Occupation.
In defense, a government official had this to say:
The source said the issue remains a problem primarily in the real estate sector, in the defense industry and among firms that do business with the government.
So there isn’t a problem except in three of the largest economic sectors of Israeli society.
Israel is no longer a true democracy (if it ever was) and it is no longer a society whose economic system is fair and reasonable. Though a select few live high off the hog and there is a class who benefits handsomely from the technology boom and related commercial development, poverty is rampant. The gap between haves and have nots is among the highest in the world. The gap between Jews and Palestinians (citizens) and between secular and religious in terms of economic development is huge. The economic injustice reflected in this poll goes hand in hand with the moral injustice of Occupation.
It remains to be seen whether the J14 movement will revive this summer and find recurring echoes among Israel’s citizens. This is its latest incarnation.