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Israel's chronic impunity disorder

With so many politicians suspected or convicted of corruption, Israelis have given up on expecting public figures to have morals.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) gestures as he speaks to incoming minister Aryeh Deri, party leader of the Ultra-Orthodox Shas party, in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem May 13, 2015. Netanyahu's emerging government scraped by its first parliamentary test on Wednesday, paving the way for the new cabinet to be sworn in after two months of difficult coalition building. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun       TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY      - RTX1CSJH

In preparing to write this column, I looked up the Hebrew word that best describes the cultural-moral connotation of the English word “impunity.” I had learned the Spanish “impunidad” from an Argentinian colleague while covering the horrific terror attack on the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires in 1994. He used the word to describe his country’s social ills and predicted that the attackers would never be caught. He was, indeed, correct. The literal meaning, “exemption from punishment,” barely encompasses the indifference to social ills and criminal wrongdoing, verging on indulgence, that has taken root in Israeli society.

Thousands of words have been written and spoken about the report issued Feb. 28 by the state comptroller on the 2014 Operation Protective Edge in Gaza. Bereaved parents wept as they read the document describing how the country’s leadership sent their children to their deaths with barely a thought. Israeli residents of communities bordering Gaza discovered that Cabinet ministers dozed off during discussions of the danger that terrorists could at any moment infiltrate through tunnels from Gaza and into the homes where their babies slept.

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