Sunday, August 18, 2002

Last week, an Israeli crime boss
was gunned down in the alley behind his casino in Prague.

Yesterday, a friend showed me the weekend edition of the local newspaper of his hometown Netanya. He was eulogized for eight gushing pages. You’d have thought he was the Mother Theresa and not a murderous extortionist. Seven pages were given over completely to enormous mourning ads paid for mainly by Netanya restaurant, hotels and “Simcha” (happy occasions) halls.

My friend told me that on the day of his funeral, the whole of the Netanya center closed down in mourning. The funeral procession went down the main street of the town. The newspaper states that the municipality even opened the gates that keep cars from going into the square, to let the procession pass, a very rare event indeed.

Reading about this “charming” bully, and the honor paid him by those who were very likely subject to his extortion and terror tactics (and don’t think for a minute that they’re relieved to see him go, I assure you the new boss came round to collect, before the body was cold), reminded me of some bigger bullies we have to deal with in this part of the world.

It takes a lot of courage to go to the police if you’re a victim of a protection racket or any other form of extortion. You’re taking a great risk. You could be harmed, your family could be harmed, you’re very likely to lose your business to fire, or some other calamity. There is a limit to the protection the police can give you (if at all).

But if you don’t take that risk, you’re finished. The pressure will become worse and worse until you eventually find yourself standing outside of your business, built with your sweat and your tears and your hard earned money, looking in, with nothing to show for it, besides your debts and your bad heart.

Maybe this is why the less educated, more streetwise Israelis understood years ago, what many Israeli intellectuals still refuse to accept. Arafat is not in the business of being a fair partner. And neither are the other serious contenders bidding for power in the jungle of Palestinian society. We can talk to them and negotiate with them till we’re blue in the face. Extortionists and loan sharks are always happy to negotiate spreading out the payments (with compound interest, of course), but the only way to get them to give up their tactics is to show them that there’s a bigger boss in town.

That’s why Israelis voted en masse for Arik Sharon, and will do so again, even though we ultimately believe in making compromises for peace. Spectators of Israeli politics probably think that Sharon’s decreasing popularity in the polls reflects a yearning for a “political horizon”. I’d say it is just as likely to be dissatisfaction by those who would rather see tougher action.

By the way, the same goes for Saddam and Al Qaeda.



via Spleenville


Fresh off the boat
Stephen Den Beste has some interesting things to say about immigration. You have to scroll down a bit to get to the stuff about immigration.

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