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Israel: Rogue State Land of Inequality

Written by Subject: Israel
Israel: Rogue State Land of Inequality - by Stephen Lendman

Growing millions worldwide understand Israel's decades-long project to colonize Palestine, dispossess its people, steal their land, and terrorize them into submission. They also know it hasn't worked nor will it.

Too few, however, know how growing social and economic inequality affects most Israelis. Since at least the mid-1980s, state policies have disproportionately favored the rich, causing wealth disparities, unemployment, poverty, hunger, homelessness and gradual loss of social benefits.

A race to the bottom followed, notably since mass privatizations in the 1990s, placing profits about human needs as in America where only corporate and elitist interests matter.

As a result, recent studies show 1.77 million Israelis are poor in a population of 7.7 million (including Jews, Arabs and members of other faiths). About 850,000 children live in poverty. About 69% of them lack nutritional security. Around 75% of them miss meals, and 83% of them lack proper dental care. Some, in fact, beg for money or steal to eat.

Executive Director Eran Weintraub of the Tel-Aviv-based Latet humanitarian organization said poverty increased significantly in the last decade because of macroeconomic neoliberal policies. It shows up noticeably in housing because of sharply rising prices, making it unaffordable for many.

According to Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics, average Tel-Aviv apartment prices doubled from 2007 - 2010. In Jerusalem, they increased by 60%. Rents also rose steeply, creating an intolerable burden for growing numbers of Israelis being priced out of a place to live.

No wonder they finally reacted, protesting for affordable housing for over two weeks in cities across Israel. What began as a Tel Aviv middle class protest mushroomed after being joined by the National Union of University Students and then others, turning small protests into huge ones.

On July 30, six Haaretz writers headlined, "More than 150,000 take to streets across Israel in largest housing protest yet," saying:

"Marches and rallies took place in eleven cities, (the) largest ones in Tel-Aviv, Jerusalem, Be'er Sheva and Haifa." Protesters chanted:

"The people demand social justice." "We want justice, not charity." "Proper housing, legitimate prices." "The power is with the citizen," and "This generation demands housing."

Thousands also held signs saying "Game over - Bibi go home." They demanded government intervene to reduce prices, introduce rent controls, and require affordable housing be built.

Some observers compare visceral anger to uprisings in Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan, Tunisia, and other Arab countries, so far with no violence.

Tent cities were erected in protest - for some, a tent city revolution. On Tel Aviv's Rothschild Blvd., Israel's Park Avenue, they sprung up amid crowded cafes and ficus trees. In cities across the country, they're blocking roads. Some activists practically besieged the Knesset.

In response, Netanyahu cancelled a Poland trip, and the interior minister called for the Knesset to cancel its summer recess. In response, Speaker Reuven Rivlin chaired a meeting that decided it will be taken as planned, Rivlin saying:

"The government is tasked with solving (the crisis), not the Knesset." (However, if) during the recess the Israeli government takes economic or social steps that require the Knesset's approval, I will convene it immediately."

The crisis, in fact, is serious given poll results, showing 87% of Israelis support the protests. According to Bar-Ilan University Professor Sam Lehman-Wilzig:

"What is very troubling for Netanyahu is that this is not a left wing versus right wing protest. It's one of the few issues that cuts across all political spectrums." As a result, he's "definitely nervous, and he should be nervous."

"Whereas the street has been relatively quiet in the last 20 years, it's beginning to wake up and demand part of the national wealth that does not seem to be trickling down as much as it should. It's not a call to return to Israel's socialist past, but to a more collective feeling of society as a whole."

Indeed, the protests cut across Israeli society, including secular and religious groups, Jews and Arabs, men and women, youths and elderly, newly marrieds, veterans, Bedouins, and Israel's growing numbers of homeless. As a result, Netanyahu's leadership and governing coalition hang in the balance.

In fact, calls are increasing for him to resign, including from Haaretz writer Akiva Eldar, headlining an August 1 op-ed: "Netanyahu's time is up," saying:

Middle class Israelis "crumpled under the burdens of the high cost of health, housing, education, food and gasoline" for years. Moreover, their taxes are too high and wages too low.

Under Netanyahu, grievances are now boiling over for good reasons. He failed most Israelis and should go. By resigning as Israel's Finance Ministry director general, Haim Shani perhaps agrees. Reports suggest he disapproves of spending billions of dollars addressing the problem Israel doesn't have.

Like other politicians, Netanyahu made promises, but didn't deliver for everyone, leaving out Israel's middle class, workers and most needy. According to activist Yigal Rambam:

"Every section in Israel society suffers from the housing problem and there isn't a general solution here. Any real solution must deal with rental prices, the prices of buying land, public housing and housing assistance."

At the same time, Israeli doctors and social workers struck for higher wages. Moreover, in June, a boycott protested high cottage cheese prices, an Israeli staple. Now mass discontent targets unaffordable housing, bringing growing numbers to Israeli streets, demanding long avoided solutions.

Performing at rallies, prominent Israeli musicians support them, including Hemi Rodner, Dan Toren, Yehuda Poliker, Barry Sakharov, Yishai Levi, Avid Geffen, and others, names less familiar in the West.

Most Israeli municipalities also expressed support by calling a one-day August 1 strike, a symbolic statement, perhaps with others coming.

Bad policy is at issue, encouraging Israelis to move to settlements, ramping up their development while neglecting construction in Israel. The result - less supply, higher prices to unaffordable levels.

Moreover, in Tel Aviv, only 3% of construction in the last decade went for public housing, and none was built from 2006 through 2009.

Finally admitting a problem, Netanyahu said government would subsidize a 50% discount for purchase and rental units on state-controlled land. He also promised public transportation costs would be reduced, and commercial property owners would get incentives to convert their buildings into affordable residences.

However, even if he delivers as pledged (what few expect), relief will take many months to arrive. Moreover, at best, it likely will fall short, leaving the major problem unaddressed because no society can undo decades of bad policies overnight.

Moreover, for years, middle class wages eroded, lower class ones even faster. Israel's rich alone amassed wealth at the expense of working households. According to Bank of Israel governor Stanley Fischer, about 20 Israeli families control banks, supermarkets, telecoms, real estate, newspapers, high tech companies, utilities, and other basic industries and services.

The central bank's 2009 annual report showed these families control 25% of Tel Aviv Stock Exchange-listed companies and 50% of total market share, one of the highest concentrations among developed countries.

According to the 2009 Merrill Lynch World Wealth Report, 5,900 Israelis have at least $1 million in liquid assets, and from 2005 to 2007, Israel produced more millionaires per capita than any other country. The net worth of its 500 richest, in fact, exceeds one-third of total GDP, an extraordinary concentration level, and with it a chokehold on the economy and government policy.

Moreover, Israel has 16 billionaires. At the same time, most workers earn low wages and eroding benefits. In fact, wages have fallen from 68% of national income in 2000 to 63% in 2010, heading south as the disparity between rich and others grows.

Israeli Arabs, of course, are worse off, an issue the above cited articles addressed.

At the same time, falling wages and social benefit cuts in healthcare, education, and other areas have widened the gap between rich and most others.

Among all developed nations, Israel, America and Britain are the most unequal, a trend getting worse, not better, showing up now on Israeli streets.

In response, the Histadrut trade union federation has done little to represent workers, its leaders protecting their own privilege and status at the expense of rank and file members they don't serve.

Though calling an August 1 general strike to address grievances, supported by the Union of Local Authorities, it's subterfuge. Chairman Ofer Eini did it, in fact, to reach accommodation with Netanyahu's government, not bring it down.

A Final Comment

What's ongoing in Israel bears watching, including whether it will inspire Palestinians to rally for their rights. Activists have been calling for a third Intifada to demand peace, equal rights, social justice, independence, and an end to Israel's occupation.

They're all longstanding unresolved grievances. Perhaps it's time now to address them throughout Palestine under popular unity standing firm until they're gotten.

In fact, doing it when fed up Israelis demand change may prove opportune and effective. It's especially true if crackdowns target them but not Jews, highlighting the gross injustice no one any longer should tolerate.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at

Also visit his blog site at and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

4 Comments in Response to

Comment by Doug Nusbaum
Entered on:

name calling: The rhetorical technique used by people who have neither facts nor logic to support their position. If they had either, they would probably not have the brains to be able to use them. But like all generalizations, there are usually exceptions. Having put up my own brief argument against Mr Lendman, and having seen much more extensive arguments below, let me offer this piece of, oh so accurate humor in the name of name calling: 

Comment by Doug Nusbaum
Entered on:

When one of the basic premises of an argument is a lie, you can bet that the rest of the argument is a lie. That third map??? That green part??? That was not palestine. That was Jordan. Completely, and in its entirety, Jordan. As to Inequality??? Find another country in the middle east that is not sitting on oil where Arabs enjoy Health care, education, and quality of life as much as they do in Israel. And even in some Oil companies, like Libya, the populace is not as well off. And if an Arab in Israel protests against the government he is unlikely to disappear or get shot. Women have way more rights than in ANY other country in the middle east. 

Comment by TL Winslow
Entered on:

Anybody who tries to paint Israel as a land of "inequality" or a "rogue state" is beneath contempt in the light of 2K years of the history of the struggle of the Jews just to get back to their homeland that they were kicked out of by the Romans, which they found backwards and depopulated, and turned into a powerhouse of science and technology. Too bad, it was temporarily part of the Ottoman Empire, but before that it was part of the horrible Arab Muslim Ummah that got oil and now keeps coming at it with all guns blazing, including financing yellow journalism like Lendman's.

For an example of a rogue state or a land of inequality, take any of the 57 nations in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). For the best counterexample, take poor outnumbered surrounded Israel.

Here's an example of the venomous hatred the Muslims of all Muslim countries have for Jews, which passes all understanding until you realize where it came from, ISLAM:

Here's a statement only yesterday by Hezbollah's #2 man Naim Qassem: "Billions of dollars have been offered to us to rebuild the deprived south Lebanon and in return to surrender our arms and stop the work of the resistance. But we told them we're not in need [of their money] and the resistance will go on regardless of the consequences."

Catch up quick on the shape of the Muslim world including organizations and leaders with the Historyscoper's free new Muslimscope:

Comment by Bob Busch
Entered on:

There's no such thing as "Palestine"

"Palestine" is the name that the Romans gave to the land of Israel when they conquered this land 2000 years ago and Wikipedia explains (Israel) :

It was during this time that the Romans gave the name Syria Palaestina to the geographic area, in an attempt to erase Jewish ties to the land. The Mishnah and Jerusalem Talmud, two of Judaism's most important religious texts, were composed in the region during this period. The Muslims conquered the land from the Byzantine Empire in 638 CE. The area was ruled by various Muslim states (interrupted by the rule of the Crusaders) before becoming part of the Ottoman Empire in 1517.
And also the Greeks prior to the Romans:

Abba Eban wrote in his book 'My nation - The history of the nation of Israel' in page 64 that the Greek historian Herodotos used the name 'Palestina', that is 'Pleshet', for the first time as a complete name for all the land of Israel while in the past it referred only to the populated areas of the Philistines themselves.

Abba Eban added that the Philistines, who settled down in the shore area, were the first ones with whom the Greek invaders encountered thus the Greeks called all the land in the name of the Philistines.

There was never in the history of the world a "Palestinian" nation.

There was never in the history of the world a "Palestinian" state.

There was never in the history of the world a "Palestinian" kingdom.

There were never in the history of the world "Palestinian" kings.

There was never in the history of the world a "Palestinian" capital.

There was never in the history of the world a "Palestinian" essence.

There was never in the history of the world a "Palestinian" heritage.

There was never in the history of the world a "Palestinian" culture.

The "Palestinians" are ARABS who were brought to the region by the Ottoman empire as part of the Muslim occupation in the region and later on also by the British who entered masses of Arabs from the surroundings while closing Israel to its genuine owners. Arabs from countries like Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Yemen emigrated to Israel in the beginning of the 20th century to look for employment (due to the development of this land by the Judean inhabitants) while pretending to be living in Israel "for thousands of years..." These Arabs are definitely not the tribes from Crete who settled down in the 5 cities of Gaza strip after the Exodus of Israel from Egypt. These tribes were called Philistines and they weren't Arabs at all and the nowadays "Palestinians" are definitely not their descendants. The Philistines don't exist as a nation nowadays.

There's no "Palestinian" nation but an ARAB one which went out of the Arabian Peninsula and occupied dozens of lands, including the land of Israel.

According to the Israeli Wikipedia the Arabs who were living in the land of Israel started to call themselves "Palestinians" only after the establishment of Israel in 1948 and prior to it they called themselves just 'Arabs' and this is how they called their organizations ('Arab Higher Committee') and their struggles ('The Great Arab Revolt') and nicknamed the land of Israel in different names such as 'Southern Syria'.

Zuheir Mohsen is widely known for having made the following statement in a March 1977 interview with the Dutch newspaper Trouw:
"The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct "Palestinian people" to oppose Zionism.

For tactical reasons, Jordan, which is a sovereign state with defined borders, cannot raise claims to Haifa and Jaffa, while as a Palestinian, I can undoubtedly demand Haifa, Jaffa, Beer-Sheva and Jerusalem. However, the moment we reclaim our right to all of Palestine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Palestine and Jordan."
There was an Israeli state in the land of Israel 2000 years before the prophet of Islam dreamt that he's flying on a "magical horse" from Mecca to Jerusalem.

There was an Israeli nation in the land of Israel.

There was an Israeli kingdom in the land of Israel.

There were Israeli kings in the Israeli kingdom of Israel.

There was an Israeli capital in the kingdom of Israel.

There was and there is an Israeli essence.

There was and there is an Israeli heritage.

There was and there is an Israeli culture.

Israel isn't just a name of a state. It's first and for all a name of a nation (Am Yisrael). Israel is the name of the father of the nation (Jacob) and Israelis are his descendants. The real meaning of the word 'Israeli' is someone who belongs to the nation of Israel and not only "a citizen of a state called Israel". The word 'Israeli' (Yisraeli) is mentioned in the Torah and we use it in Hebrew till this day. Yisraelim in plural.

Don't say "Jews", say Judeans. Yehudi in Hebrew is Judean in English, not "Jew". "Jews" is a mockery word for Judeans. The word 'Judeans' was invented by gentiles. When the Persians, the Greeks and the Romans conquered the land of Israel they called all the Israelis in the name 'Judeans' because at those days the tribe of Judah was the biggest and the dominant tribe which survived the exile of Assyria in which 10 tribes of Israel were exiled. The tribe of Judah lived in the Judean desert thus the gentiles who occupied the land of Israel called the members of this tribe (and also the ones of Benjamin and Levi who joined it) in the name 'Judeans'.

When Israelis (Judeans) who live abroad go to synagogue they don't read about Judeans and not about "Jews" in the prayer books nor in the Torah but about 'The Nation of Israel', 'The Children of Israel', 'The House of Israel', 'Israeli', 'Shema Yisrael', etc. They are Israelis because they belong to the nation of Israel even if they aren't citizens of a state called Israel. Both of the words 'Judeans' and 'Israelis' refer to nationality, to ethnic identity and not to religion. Judeans are members of the tribe of Judah and not "people who believe in Judaism". And the nation isn't called Judah but Israel, and so does the land and in the future the 10 tribes will return to this nation.

Israelity ("Judaism") isn't a "religion" but a historical national covenant between G-d and the Israelis.

That's why Arab citizens of Israel don't define themselves as Israelis but as Arab/"Palestinian" citizens of a state CALLED Israel. They aren't members of the Israeli nation but of the Ishmaelite nation. Ishmael used to shoot arrows at Isaac (father of Israel) while saying: "I'm only playing..." That's why there's no "Israeli-Palestinian conflict" but a WAR that the Ishmaelites/Arabs opened on the Israelis. Also Muhammad murdered Israelis in Saudi Arabia who refused to accept his murderous pagan dream.

That's why we should say: End the Arab occupation in the land of Israel!

Couple of facts that the haters of Israel don't like:

Israel became a state in 1312 B.C., two millennia before Islam.

Arab refugees from Israel began calling themselves "Palestinians" in 1967, two decades after (modern) Israeli statehood in 1948.

After conquering the land in 1272 B.C., Israelis ruled it for a thousand years and maintained a continuous presence there for 3,300 years.

The only Arab rule following conquest in 633 B.C. lasted just 22 years.

For over 3,300 years, Jerusalem was the Israeli capital. It was never the capital of any Arab or Muslim entity. Even under Jordanian rule, (East) Jerusalem was not made the capital, and no Arab leader came to visit it.

Jerusalem is mentioned over 700 times in the Tanach, but not once is it mentioned in the Qur'an.

King David founded Jerusalem; Mohammed never set foot in it.

Israelis pray facing Jerusalem; Muslims face Mecca. If they are between the two cities, Muslims pray facing Mecca, with their backs to Jerusalem.

In 1948, Arab leaders urged their people to leave, promising to cleanse the land of Israeli presence. 68% of them fled without ever setting eyes on an Israeli soldier.

Virtually the entire Israeli population of Muslim countries had to flee as the result of violence and pogroms.

Some 630,000 Arabs left Israel in 1948, while close to a million Israelis were forced to leave the Muslim countries.

In spite of the vast territories at their disposal, Arab refugees were deliberately prevented from assimilating into their host countries. Of 100 million refugees following World War 2, they are the only group to have never integrated with their co-religionists. Most of the Israeli refugees from Europe and Arab lands were settled in Israel, a country no larger than New Jersey, USA.

There are 22 Muslim countries, not counting "Palestine". There is only one Israeli state.

Fatah and Hamas constitutions still call for the destruction of Israel.

During the Jordanian occupation, Israeli holy sites were vandalized and were off limits to Israelis. Under Israeli rule, all Muslim and Christian holy sites are accessible to all faiths.

The U.N. was silent when the Jordanians destroyed 58 synagogues in the old city of Jerusalem. It remained silent while Jordan systematically desecrated the ancient Israeli cemetery on the Mount of Olives, and it remained silent when Jordan enforced apartheid laws preventing Israelis from accessing the temple mount and western wall.

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