“The State of Israel stole from me and robbed me. It left me helpless,” wrote Moshe Silman in a letter he left yesterday, July 14, 2012, on Kaplan Street, a main Tel Aviv venue passing near the Ministry of Defense's needle-shaped tower. Then, he made sure his sweaty cotton clothes had thoroughly absorbed the gasoline he had poured on himself, and lit a match. 94% of his body was badly burned before other participants in the protest managed to extinguish the rapid fire that swallowed the 57-year old man. An ambulance rushed him to the nearby Ichilov Hospital; he is not expected to survive. In the letter, Silman wrote that he blames the State of Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, “for the humiliation that weakened citizens go through every day, taking from the poor and giving to the rich.” The other protesters didn’t need to read the letter to know that. They gathered at the hospital entrance, holding signs condemning the Israeli leadership. Policemen openly filmed them, probably expecting to obtain harassment permits against the civilians from a complacent court. This dramatic event took place among major protests in four cities—Haifa, Be'er Sheva, Jerusalem, and Afula—marking the anniversary of last summer’s social protests. Despite Israeli formal statistics claiming everything is rosy, Israeli society is standing on a cliff watching a burning hell just below it. Like Moshe Silman, many understand they will be forced to walk the plank into hell, while their government plays pirates with them.
Walking the Plank
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lives in a very different reality. The next day—a piece of cake still in his mouth—he said during a meeting of Likud ministers that the self-immolation was “a great and personal tragedy.” This was strange; after all he didn’t know the man until yesterday and his policies show that he doesn’t care about people’s wellbeing. He added “I wish Moshe a complete recovery. I asked the Welfare and Social Services Minister and the Housing Minister to look into the issue.” He finished swallowing the sweet cake and returned to the financial reports. Everything was rosy. Yet, it seems that lesser humans know better than this mighty leader. Last month, on June 27, a Knesset Member finally acknowledged the seriousness of the unending social protests in Israel. Miriam Regev—who was the IDF Spokesperson before joining the Likud party—said “the far left activists want to transform Rabin Square into Tahrir Square, and to throw out the government” (see Rabin Square, Tahrir Square).
The Unbearable Easiness of Rigged Statistics
On paper, the economy of Israel looks rock-solid. It ranks 50th in the world, with a GDP of over $235 billion and an annual growth of about 5%. Its credit ranking is better than several European economies. In 2010, Israel ranked 17th—in the category of “Very Highly Developed”—among 187 world nations on the UN’s Human Development Index. I could continue the list of impressive numbers, including the rapidly developing energy market, but they mean little. The production numbers and market analyses would fail to show the 20% unemployment. They would fail to show the sharp contrast between the comfy situation in major Jewish cities and in towns populated by minorities (see for example Explosion in Sinai on the awful situation of Bedouins in Israel). They would fail to convey the stench of the sewage running open on the streets of Druze towns.
Protests in Tel Aviv Sign against Minister of Finance
Diamond Exchange District | Gush Dan Metropolitan Area
The fact is that social science related statistics can be easily manipulated. The American government does that regularly, mainly through the adoption of a biased measurement system based on misleading monetary judgments (see On the US Government Biased Statistics and DARPA). Israel openly did the same while presenting statistics on the success rate of its Iron Dome anti-missile system (see Israeli Iron Dome Threatens North Korea). It was easy to see the manipulation by following the hit reports on the Hebrew media. The IDF claimed with its carefully manipulated statistics that the Iron Dome showed only 75% accuracy. Why “carefully manipulated statistics?” This is because the IDF deployed the Iron Dome only in sites far enough from Gaza to provide the system a good chance of success. This error is easy to explain with an example from a different field. Arik—one of the dark stars in The Cross of Bethlehem—told me years ago “Israelis enjoy a very long lifespan. Imagine how much longer it would be if those killed in wars were not used for the statistics.” Then he begun explaining that those who didn’t live their complete life—those killed in car accidents, for example—shouldn’t be counted in the statistical analysis. Of course, this is a scientific atrocity. You can’t tamper with the population of an event in order to get nice numbers; yet, this is the favorite trick of bad administrators.
Such a nice trick was unlikely to be applied only by part of the administration. In Israel: End of a Dream, I analyzed the rapidly changing demographics of Israel. More than once, Israel’s demographic data proved inaccurate. Until the mid 1980s, Israel systematically reported wrong statistics regarding the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza. At a certain stage the lie was so obvious, that the Israeli administration was forced to update the numbers upwards overnight. Palestinians probably are the only people in the world to have doubled their numbers overnight. In contrast to Israeli demographic claims, the realtors’ data showed in January 2012 that the Jewish real estate market is suffering a severe recession, while the Palestinian market is flourishing. The term “severe recession” doesn’t correctly reflect the size of the calamity for the Zionist Dream. Some of the data hints that the game is over for Mr. Theodore Hertzl. Similar to these examples, the economic data presented by Israel is rigged. “Average salary” means nothing when the statistical variance of the data is among the largest in the world. The same applies to all the rest of the impressive numbers presented by Israel; they apply only to specific sectors and persons who drive the averages upwards.
Moshe Silman after Self Immolation
The social protests that began last year by Israel’s Jewish population were unprecedented. They were triggered by a minor event related to cottage cheese—a basic food there—and soon afterwards extended to housing, the most critical problem for most Israelis. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was openly blamed during the protests of “using the nation as a springboard” and “living at our expense.” “The time has come for you to admit your mistakes and understand that your time is running out,” was also said openly and published by local media. Even a guillotine was placed on Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard. Netanyahu didn’t understand. The protests—including a tent city erected near Tel Aviv’s municipality—were efficiently dismantled, as predicted here. Since then, sporadic protests erupt, like the one yesterday. Yet, the people’s despair has not disappeared. Yesterday, it erupted dramatically in a self-immolation act. Not for the first time in this sad and violent sequence of events, is one forced to use the word “unprecedented.” International politics matter little while analyzing Israel; it doesn’t matter what will happen with the badly wobbling Syrian regime, or with the newly achieved Islamic pride of Egypt. The future of Israel depends on its capability to create a just society. For as long as the Rothschild’s, Netanyahu’s, and Parsky’s continue to enrich themselves at the expense of the people, that can’t happen. Instead of quietly walking the plank, Moshe Silman valiantly chose to make a significant social statement.