Sunday, June 1, 2008

Take A Buck, Redux

Another view of Olmert's fall, or at least of the political culture of fallen Israeli leaders, from the always provocative Uri Avnery, in his mid-eighties and still punching.

In the course of the 1948 flight and expulsion, some 100 to 150 thousand Arab families abandoned their homes. Many of them lived in simple dwellings, but not a few were living in elegant houses in Jaffa, Jerusalem and Haifa. What happened to the interior of these homes? To the tens of thousands of expensive carpets, fauteuils, refrigerators, wardrobes, pianos? Where did the inventories of shops and stores go?

The theft in broad daylight of the property abandoned by individuals already violated the ethos that was accepted before the foundation of the state. The denial and suppression made it worse. But the large-scale corruption, whose bitter fruit we see now in all its ugliness, started indeed with the occupation in 1967.

The occupation is corrupt, and it corrupts by its very nature. It denies all human rights, including the right to property. It fills the occupied territories with an atmosphere of general lawlessness. It enriches the occupier and everybody connected with him. It creates a climate of wanton cynicism, an environment of "anything goes". Such an atmosphere does not stop at the Green Line. It permeates the state of the conqueror.

I do not believe that Avnery is right about the occupation enriching Israel. I think (and have told him so) that the opportunity cost of the occupation is 2-3% growth per year. But his column gets at something important that Yossi Klein Halevi, to his credit, notes, too. That the occupation has bred lawlessness, or as Klein Halevi euphemizes, puts a "strain on ethical norms."