At today’s Tel Aviv J14 social justice protest, one of the demonstrators, Moshe Silman, immolated himself to protest injustices done to him by the State. He is now in serious condition in a local hospital. With the help of Dena Shunra, I’ve put together some of the tragic circumstances that led the 52 year-old man to try to take his life to protest the brutality and inhumanity of the current Israeli government.
Silman ran a trucking-delivery service and had a number of vehicles and employees working for him. He got into arrears with the Israeli agency that provides social security and insurance benefits (Bituach L’umi). They claimed that he owed them $1,000. In order to collect, they put a lien on all of the property of his company, selling trucks for half their value ($7,000 instead of $15,000). They liquidated his entire company, whose value was far more than the $1,000 he owed. As a result, he could not meet contract obligations and his clients stopped paying and ordering, leading to the disintegration of his business.
Correspondence to him was sent by the government agency to the wrong address. He ended up totally penniless, eking out a living as a cab driver.
Finally, after getting no recourse from the social security agency, and being about to lose his borrowed flat (a friend gave him a year rent-free, which was about to run out) – he was entirely unable to find a place to live. He wrote about his predicament in this comment (Hebrew). Along the way he had a stroke and was designated 100% disabled and unable to work.
Activists tried to help him, but failed. So he decided to self-immolate at the J14 demonstration. Throughout his protest, he has insisted in every communication that he did his military service, was a good solider, and that the state was not living up to its side of the bargain.
The question is what will happen now regarding Israel’s version of Occupy Wall Street. How will the protest’s leaders react? How will the government react? If Israel was a normal country this would ignite a roiling wave of protest that might topple the government. But of course Israel isn’t. It’s a country at war with enemies without and within. It suffers from a morality and empathy deficit. But the fact that a “average” Israeli Jew has been driven to killing himself by the current economic crisis might just be what it takes to move the communal national conscience.
One of my Twitter followers aptly noted the similarity to Mohamed Bouazizi, the poor street vendor whose beatings and insults meted out by local officials caused him to set himself on fire in protest. This in turn led to the first uprising of the Arab Spring in Tunisia. Will this light the same “fire” in Israel?
Here is an example of the depravity of certain elements within Israel. Prof. Amir Hetsroni, a noted far-right faculty member at Ariel College suggested(Hebrew) that the immolation might not be a bad thing because it will have gotten rid of a “social parasite:”
I don’t know if there’s any truth in the guy’s claims. The immolation itself doesn’t make much impression on me. It’s even possible to see this as ridding ourselves of a noxious parasite. I of course wish him a good health.
Pyromaniacs have ceased making any impression on me since Lag B’Omer [a Jewish holiday celebrated with bonfires].
This is Friedmanism on steroids. Or Bibism taken to its logical conclusion.
You’ll recall that Netanyahu clawed his way to the prime ministership on the backs of Israel’s poor, sick and unemployed by slashing national social welfare benefits and turning Israel into a neoliberal laboratory in which the underclass were the rats, while the oligarchal elite reaped the rewards.
The Israeli media has published a censored version of Silman’s suicide note. I feature the uncensored version here.
There are, now, very strict laws in Israel about debt – people can have their passport confiscated, etc., as if to have a debt is a criminal rather than a civil offense. As in this reported case, the creditor does not even have to prove their claim – they can start seizing assets.
Daniel F says
You are quite right, cases of dubious dealings and seizing of assets are abundant.
Judicial corruption is rampant and it can be dangerous to investigate and report.
We all know that something has gone wrong in Israel but the public is strangely apathetic.
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” (Edmund Burke)
What future for Israel if corruption is so tolerated.
Hetzroni is from Ariel – no one will now doubt why this esteemed “university” was denied official university status. If this is the like of its teachers what sort of education could they produce there?
It’s clear to everyone following Ariel’s academic saga that its ascent into full universityship has little to do with the quality, or otherwise, of its academic staff and plenty to do with settlers’ politics.
RE: “Amir Herstroni, a noted far-right faculty member at Ariel College suggested that the immolation might not be a bad thing because it will have gotten rid of a ‘social parasite'” ~ R.S.
MY COMMENT: It is not at all surprising that Herstroni is a professor at Ariel* College (soon to be University, if the settlers get their way) in a West Bank settlement that has been heavily funded by John Hagee**. As SNL’s “Church Lady” was wont to say: “Well isn’t that special!”
Perhaps Hagee will establish an endowed chair for Herstroni at Ariel. They can call it the “John Hagee Professor of Compassion”!
* SEE: “Recruiting Brecht to Whitewash Occupation” – https://www.richardsilverstein.com/2010/08/26/recruiting-brecht-to-whitewash-occupation/
** SEE: “Hagee’s Gifts to Pro-Settler Groups” [Ariel (settlement), $500,000] –https://www.richardsilverstein.com/2010/02/12/hagees-gifts-to-pro-settler-groups/
Why aren’t these “social parasites” radicalized and up in arms???? I just don’t get it: A political party comes along promising to bleed middle and working types dry and then throw them into debtor prisons where they will not have to worry about “terrorists” and Israelis eat it up! Yeah, sure, take everything, steal land, take bribes, get rich on inside deals,, close down the foolishness of “justice” but do keep me safe from those bad Palestinians! It is mind boggling, as we used to say once upon a time.
Southerner's Truth says
Is that an actual photo of the incident?
Richard Silverstein says
Israel is basically communist and many other extremist Zionist influenced governments are slowly featuring centralized, inhumane bureaucracies.
The act of setting oneself on fire is about as potent as protest can get. The morally depraved responses are unsurprising. The beacon of democracy continues to show its fangs.
Deïr Yassin says
“Israel is basically communist and many other extremist influenced governments are slowly featuring centralized, inhumane bureaucracies”.
This is simply BS ! First of all, where on earth do you see anything ‘communist’ in Israel ? It might have had a ‘socialist’ leaning back in the past, the kibbutzim, moshavim, Histadrout etc, (a collective ideal on stolen land, isn’t that a beautiful idea ? and still, with Arabs around to do the dirty work) but that was a long time ago. I rather have the impression that this poor guy was a victim of the survival-of-the-fittest-syndrom, a sign of savage capitalism.
And honestly, blaming Zionism for “centralized, inhumane bureaucracies” elsewhere is just as ridiculous. On another blog someone claimed that Zionism were responsible for drug dealing and prostitution world-wide.
What are you guys sniffing ? Maybe you should just stick to the facts, they are more than sufficient.
Richard Silverstein says
Amen to that.
Piotr Berman says
This is a bit confusing. The same word is used as “marvelous”, or “collects taxes and provides some social services, which is very, very bad thing to do” and many others. Israel seems to be “communist” in the second sense of the word, like Obama is a wannabe communist.
But “beacon showing its fangs” is a really cute metaphor. I see it as R2D2 from Star Wars, a little robot with a lamp on top and clawed appendages.
It’s a mixed metaphor. The beacon has to emanate from a living thing such that “fangs” is appropriate. Perhaps the beacon should emanate from the eye of the beast — now THIS is a great image. A Zionists beast grasping land, rights, and lucre and stepping on humble Arabs and their homes, and the black “light unto the nations” radiating from its one ferocious gleaming eye. Ah, well, got errands to run….
It would be better not to put those symbols on the notes you plan to espouse your world plan. You know, currency, the vehicle used historically by governments to illustrate important symbols and images of a nation? Of course, Andrew Jackson who routed the snakes had his face planted on the $20 in response. Funny how the act of vengeance against him and everything he stood for came generations later. That would indicate continuity.
Metaphors are nice, reality is more esoteric.
We are sticking to the facts, you just choose to panic and jump the gun. Communism in theory is the abolition of private property. In practice, it is a bureaucratic gimmick to steal from people to benefit a few who have exempted themselves from this abolition. Bolshevism’s links to the Federal Reserve crew (see 1913) are historical. It’s too bad you believe them to be anti-Semitic. Perhaps, then, anti-Semitism is another term for whistle blowing? Ahh, now it makes sense! Another symptom of communism is a centralized, inhumane bureaucracy. However, Zionism preceded Bolshevism. And while this blog treats Zionism as a “Richard-nuanced” term, the majority of the globe treats Zionism as a fundamentalist political movement that is willing to do things like create fake threats and kill 1400 Palestinians on a whim in present day (and much worse when the world wasn’t as connected and watching in the past probably).
What does that have to do with Judaism, Deir Yassen and Richard Silverstein?
Israel was once fairly socialist (not communist), but in recent years it has moved so far to the right that progressive Israelis often describe the current situation as bordering on Fascism.
Regardless of whether it borders on Facism (or “Corporatism” as Mussolini preferred to call it) or not, Israel has clearly become a very authoritarian plutocracy/oligarchy (much like the United States).
Deïr Yassin says
It takes a lot for my antisemitism-detector to ring, but OperationRedPill’s comment made it vibrate a lot.
I read his comment as a recycling of the old Jew-Communist-Bolshevik libel and his claming that Israel – instead of the “Cosmopolitical Jew” – has imposed “communist” aka bolshevik bureaucracy on the US through Zionism as just an updated version.
Am I totally wrong on this one ?
PS. And I’m not an anti-communist. I was in fact a communist for at least two months when I was a teenager….then I realized it was too authoritarian for me, but I still stand up when I hear “International” 🙂
Did AIPAC, Chertoff and Lieberman push the Patriot Act or was that just our imagination? Don’t worry, the libel extends also to the Bush faction.
You know what else is a nice theory? Cognitive dissonance. Look into it, Deir. 😉
Deïr Yassin says
Stupid me !
How come I wasn’t aware that “Communist Israel” pushed for the Patriot Act ?
How come I didn’t associate patriotism with communism in the first place ? How come I’ve always thought Internationalism, not patriotism, collective ownership of the means of production and a world without borders were central ideas in communist ideology.
Fortunately an American – even with “Red” in his pen name – taught me otherwise. Guess Marx would have voted the Patriot Act….
Taliking about cognitive dissonance.
I do realize that things are often not what they seem, but this is wholesale reinvention of reality and history.
Are you kidding, Deir?
Patriot Act is the epitome of seizure of rights by a centralized bureaucracy.
You are just a staunch defender of your utopian ideal, which doesn’t exist and was only intended to exist in order to delude you.
The color red existed before Communism attempted to appropriate it. This lexicon you utilize is for the ocean.
PS – not endorsing anything you have categorized there through assumption. You are generalizing. We can name names.
You then realized it was too authoritarian ? Authoritarianism is the antithesis of liberty and those who are willing to compromise some are worthy of none.
Not that it matters much for this discussion, but for accuracy’s sake, the man’s ID number is inconsistent with an age of 52. Israeli media give his age as 57.
Let’s wait and hear the government’s side of the story. In the meantime, I hope the gentleman recovers from his injuries.
Richard Silverstein says
With 94% burns, it’s unlikely. The government has had 3 days to respond & make things right. What has it done? Will it take burning down Bituch Leumi offices in every city in the country for them to do the right thing?
Linda J says
Yo Mama So Zionist she would have a similar reaction to Prof. Herstroni.
Yo Mama So Zionist | #YoMommaSoZionist
Jacob Reimer says
This man just died.
Richard Silverstein says
Thanks for posting the link about Silman’s death. I hope Bibi pays a price.