Yair Lapid
Photo: Yoni Hamenachem

Israel’s slave rebellion

Op-ed: Israel’s middle class members slave to mortgages, inflated prices, while rich get richer

My brothers, the slaves, allow me to start by telling you that despite what you heard, and despite of everything you will be hearing – you are right.


In the coming days you will be mocked, you will be told that you are not focused and that your true motives are political. They will tell you that your protest is childish and spoiled, and you will be swamped with a slew of facts and decisions and numbers that are only aimed at disguising the fact that there is no way around it – you are still right.


You are right, because you turned into slaves.


The cuffs around your arms are transparent, the chains around your legs are invisible, yet they still harm you. You are slaves to the mortgage, slaves to the rent, slaves to the food prices, and slaves to the fuel prices.


You are slaves to the bureaucracy that subjugates you and to the officials who are indifferent to your fate. You are slaves to the tycoons who hand over billions of shekels to each other, a large part of which has been taken from your pension funds, without bothering to ask you or to give you a full report.


You are slaves to a government that has turned into a private members club where the same people are forever trading places at the same posts, finalizing deals with a wink, and knowing that they will never be asked to pay the price of failure.


You are slaves because slavery is a situation whereby you work yet someone else gains. If cottage cheese costs more, fuel costs more, rent costs more, healthcare payments cost more, yet you earn the same or less – then someone else is gaining. Someone well-connected, who had the rules of the game written for him.


If the overwhelming majority of staples is much more expensive than in Europe or in America, while at the same time you earn much less than in Europe or in America, this is modern-day slavery.


Nobody whips us in cotton fields, but there is no need to do it; we are no less chained to this land.


We are not socialist, my brothers the slaves, yet we know how to identify injustice when we see it. Israel’s middle class is paying for those below it, and that’s fine, but also for those who are above it, and that’s very wrong.


Shut up and pay

The middle class is paying for the poor and its taxes are caring for one child in Bnei Brak and another child in Umm al-Fahm, and we have no qualms about that. Every human society must care for its weak. But why is the middle class also paying for those above it? How can money that was supposed to enable the new slaves to make ends meet go to more powerful interest groups?


In recent days, many accusatory fingers at the protest tents were directed at the outside. They were directed at the tycoons, at the settlements, at the large unions, at the haredim, and at public sector workers. As far as the slaves are concerned, it’s all true. Because when you’re a slave, everyone becomes your master.


Everyone, including the Electric Company clerk who earns six times the salary of a clerk doing the same job at the hospital’s oncological ward, including the settler who got a road to his home, including the people who spend millions of shekels on their wedding while asking for special debt arrangements from the large institutions. Who are these large institutions? That’s me and you, via our pension funds. Some people borrowed nearly $50 billion from us and now they don’t feel like paying it back.


So why is the regime allowing all these people to clobber us? Because it knows we’ll remain silent. Slaves are always silent after all. If they start to get mad and yell, the regime only needs to wait. Something will come around. The next war, the next outpost evacuation, or next September. After all, something shall always happen to allow the government to pull out the flag of patriotism and wave it to the slaves to make them shut up.


Shut up and perform their reserve service, shut up and pay for tutoring for their children because the education system is not good enough, grow quiet when facing their own parents and asking for help with the rent, shut up and get stuck in traffic, hours upon hours, while sweat drips from their nape and horrifically expensive fuel drips from their cars, waiting above the planned route of the subway, which the government decided to build back in the 1970s but never did.


This is the slaves’ most prominent trait – they’re invisible. Our regime, while it trades secret handshakes under the table with representatives of the tycoons and of various interest groups, doesn’t remember that the slaves exist most of the time.


For more than a year now, Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Steinitz are telling us that Israel’s economy is a success story, yet they fail to understand how infuriating that is. After all, the economy is not an objective, but rather, it’s a means aimed at improving the lives of the citizens. The economy is not a success story if salaries don’t rise, if prices are still expensive, and if the slaves’ standard of living keeps on declining.


And the economy cannot be considered a success story if nobody pays for the failures. Did anyone pay for the train that never arrived? For the death of the old lady who nobody removed from the hallway at the hospital? For the young intern who left the hospital in helpless fury because he can no longer continue?


Of course not, because slaves don’t die; they are merely replaced by other slaves.



פרסום ראשון: 07.20.11, 12:05
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