Yigal Allon. Defended need to maintain this framework
Photo: Moshe Milner, GPO
Political shame needed
Our decision-makers no longer feel any shame despite their shortcomings
Our society is facing many difficult problems, both theoretically and practically. Yet now we've been told that the Zionist Federation and Jewish Agency came up with a new idea: Encouraging elderly Jews from Florida to move to Israel.


Here's a proper revelation on my part: I haven't looked into the principles of this idea and what benefit it will bring to the country or to the Jewish existence abroad. But in my view this is yet another example showing that we longer see a need to seriously address important problems.


When examining the argument that emerged in the 1950s regarding the question of whether we should be maintaining the Zionist Federation abroad even after the establishment of the State of Israel, it turns out that views on the matter were divided. Yigal Allon, for example, defended the need to maintain this framework. He asked a rhetorical question: "What's the alternative?"


When he was asked what he meant, he argued that the State bureaucracy cannot maintain the tight relationship with most of the Jewish people. He argued that encouraging aliyah, developing Zionist education, and working to realize the Zionist vision were the Jewish Agency's mission.


The problem that emerged then was of course the question of the Jewish identity upon the state's establishment. The well-known Jewish author Arthur Koestler argued that the problem of identity was done away with upon the creation of Israel. "Now we're a people just like any other," he said.


Yet it appears that not one of these problems bothers our national decision-makers. We live in the age of gimmicks. Public and government bodies see a need to hire PR consultants that come up with seemingly practical ideas and agendas even in areas that government or party institutions do not belong. They seem to think that the vacuum of inaction can be filled by coming up with an "original" idea, as long as it gives a sense of activity.


We can find numerous examples for this approach. It would suffice to mention that the country has a chronic need for a social welfare minister, yet because of political considerations this post remains unfilled. Yet there is no shame there, even though coalition considerations are more important than promises to take care of the weaker strata of society.


The prime minister's party is also unfamiliar with the term "shame." It exists as a skeleton-party. Apparently there is no time to address issues such as inception conventions, the creation of institutions, and the formulation of ideological infrastructure.


Fundraising secrets

Moreover, large and important non-profit organizations are collecting great amounts of money from donors with political and economic agendas, but we aren't told about this. Where does "Peace Now" get its funds, for example, and which sources in Europe fund non-profit groups and parties, including ones that Knesset Member Yossi Beilin is a part of?


Beilin, who heads a liberal party, saw fit to condemn in the press those who sought to find out whether Europeans grant funds to bodies he identifies with. He argued that it would be slanderous to claim that these donations would affect his and his colleagues' political positions. The public, as it turns out, doesn't have to know whether there's a connection between the donations and positions. It's not against the law not to reveal the sources of the money, but wouldn't a little shame help the public get a more detailed, to-the-point explanation?


The same is true for religious bodies and parties associated with the Right. Wouldn't it be proper for them to report to the public large donations of significant amounts?


This problem encompasses the public discourse. In the Knesset, almost every day, we can hear remarks that would have been better left unsaid, for the sake of the Knesset's and its members' dignity. The pursuit of media attention drives our legislators crazy at the expense of minimal tact.


It would have been good if we found a social mechanism that would press those responsible for leading political and social processes to feel a little shame, stop addressing the ideological wilderness through PR, and stop acting like Labor Party cronies who escape from making decisions by traveling abroad, in order to avoid the embarrassment faced by their historical party during a discussion on the date of the next primary elections.


Perhaps it's naïve to accept such change of direction in our society, but we can at least ask time and again: Where's the shame?


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