The Israeli Home Front is Burning

Article Summary
Why hasn't the self-immolation of a social justice protester saddled with debt and desperation been taken as a symptom of a bigger problem by the Israeli establishment, Orly Bar Lev wonders. A war between the haves and the have-nots has been declared inside Israeli society and these are only its first casualties. 

It may have skipped your attention, but we are living in a time of war. And although it may not be readily manifest, it is a very real war. It is skillfully camouflaged by the manipulators who are in control of the public discourse. However, a week ago, on July 15, when a man set himself on fire in the midst of a social protest demonstration [marking the first anniversary of the wave of social justice protests that swept Israel last summer], it should have been the moment of truth, the moment at which the curtain of deception veiling the apparently calm, non-military reality we live in should have been torn off. Alas, so far, it has not happened.

One may wonder whether now that another desperate Israeli citizen [a disabled IDF veteran] in dire straits economically has torched himself, we will at long last realize that we are at war here. It is a war for survival. And it is not a personal war waged by individuals, but rather a national war of survival. It is far beyond "a personal tragedy" [as labeled by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with reference to the first case of self-immolation]. The State of Israel is collapsing socially, going down the slippery slope towards inevitable abyss.

It is the war of those who have against those who have not. It is the war of the rich against the poor. It is the war of those in control of the socio-economic system against the present-day slaves. It is the war of the mighty and the wealthy, who are inexorably endeavoring to preserve their power against those who are no longer willing to play the game. It is the war of governmental and systemic obtuseness fought vis-à-vis real flesh-and-blood human beings.

As for the "personal tragedy," in the past few days alone we have heard of two persons who set themselves on fire, having given up all hope in the daily struggle of survival, and of several others who tried to do the same [for the very same reasons]. Indeed, in recent days, there have been more and more reports on people threatening to take their lives as they can no longer endure their economic plight. They are desperate. And one should not forget all those who [in deep despair] quietly commit suicide, far away from the cameras and the headlines, dozens of them every year, one hopeless victim [of the war of survival] per week. It is definitely a war. However, for Netanyahu, it is merely a "personal tragedy."

The World Carries on as Usual

At a press conference held in the hospital following the demise of Moshe Silman [the first self-immolation victim, who died from the burns he suffered], Rabbi Idit Lev of the Rabbis for Human Rights organization [an Israeli non-partisan rabbinic organization active on behalf of the marginalized members of society, minorities in Israel and in the Palestinians territories] said: "If this has not awakened the State of Israel to reality, I don't know what can awaken it, but it's time you wake up!" Meanwhile, the hungry poor are losing hope, and they cannot find any consolation in the new poor who continually join their ranks, while the middle class — or what used to be the Israeli middle class —is plunging ever lower, down to the pit of poverty. Like a dying star, Israel is crashing inward into a black hole.

There is a war raging on here, and there are casualties, but no one is lowering the flag to half mast or laying a wreath at their grave in an official gesture of homage. People are jumping off roofs here and in a minute, they are going to announce the death of the Messiah [reference to a song by Shalom Hanoch about the stock exchange crash in 1985 and the broker named Messiah committing suicide]. However, no sad songs are broadcast on the radio [the way they customarily are on memorial days in Israel], no special editions are published by the newspapers [as would be expected in time of war] and no special mobile news teams are dispatched to broadcast live from the queue at the welfare bureaus.

The world carries on as usual here in Israel. No Hercules aircraft loaded with food and medications has landed in any poverty-stricken slum or brought airborne humanitarian aid to the homeless. The Home Front Command, too,is keeping silent, doing nothing. However, I cannot understand how those in charge of the home front can keep silent and do nothing when the home front is going up in flames.

The public discourse is skillfully controlled by highly sophisticated propaganda jugglers. They would go to any length to assuage us, telling us that everything is really okay. True, there are problems here and there, they cleverly concede. No doubt, matters can improve, they smartly grant, but on the whole, the situation is just fine. And if someone cries out in earth-shaking protest, the public relations magicians will hurry to deflect the fire by means of some manipulative spin in an attempt to preserve the fundamental narrative: Don't worry, it's all right. Everything is under control.

People are dying here. It is a national crisis. It is an emergency. There is a war raging on here. How come I don't hear the sirens sounding the alert?

The author is a social justice protest activist.

Found in: social just, self immolation, protest, poverty, pauperism, demonstrations, burial, moshe silman, israel, idf disabled, idf

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