Political corruption in Israel is endemic. It is not an occasional occurrence pertaining to the slip-ups of a few individuals, but rather the status quo in a country that never ceases to masquerade as the healthiest and the most transparent of all democracies.
What is particularly baffling — but not entirely surprising — about media coverage of the corruption investigations of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is the painstaking efforts by corporate western media to present Netanyahu’s years-long corruption as isolated cases.
Nothing is further from the truth. It is quite telling that the first police recommendation to charge Netanyahu with corruption was back in March 2000 but went unheeded.
Instead, the then-attorney general ordered the case shut and Netanyahu returned a few years later to the helm of Israeli politics to serve as the prime minister of Israel for three more terms.
His corruption in the last decade was never doubted, yet he still managed to secure Israeli votes. In fact, if elections take place today, Netanyahu’s rightwing Likud Party will win a few more seats, despite all that has been divulged about him.
Netanyahu’s enablers are in fact a small army of corrupt officials, businessmen, media moguls and the likes. Their perverted apparatus is like an octopus whose outreach can be felt in every aspect of life, from shady business dealings, to government nepotism and media manipulations to fancy cigars and pink champagne.
Yet, again, there is little to dispute how this massive corruption racket is, in fact, a microcosm of the larger phenomenon that has afflicted Israel as a whole.
Columnist Brant Roberts articulated this reality best in a recent article.
“That he is being charged is far from surprising,” he wrote. “What is surprising is that his tenure has included indiscriminate bombing raids and a decade-long blockade of Gaza, violations of international law, massive deportations of African refugees, imprisonment of Palestinian children and countless human rights violations against Palestinians.”
“Israel is the only country in the world that continues to practice Apartheid, many years after it was disbanded in South Africa.”Share on facebookTweet this
Yet, that is not the work of Netanyahu alone, but the by-product of the collective moral corruption of a highly militarised society held unaccountable for its own destructive ideas about racial and religious supremacy.
But only a few are making this obvious connection. Worse, some journalists are erecting pseudo-journalistic smokescreens to divert from the discussion altogether.
In an article published in Al Monitor, Israeli journalist, Shlomi Eldar, went to unprecedented lengths to divert attention from the corruption in his country.
He spoke of Palestinian journalists — all speaking on condition of anonymity — who ‘applauded’ and ‘admired’ Israeli media coverage of Netanyahu’s corruption scandals.
This same ‘admired’ Israeli media has largely supported Netanyahu’s devastating wars on Gaza, relentlessly defend the illegal occupation of Palestine and serve as a shield for Israel’s stained reputation on the international stage.
This is hardly praiseworthy even if it arguably provides decent coverage for the Netanyahu investigations.
For an Israeli journalist to handpick a few Palestinians who purportedly praised the war-crimes apologist, Israeli media can certainly not be satisfactorily addressed in anonymity.
But Eldar’s journalism aside, one would think that seeking Palestinian admiration for Israeli media should be the least urgent question to address at this time.
What Israelis are trying to tell us is that, despite all of its problems, Israel is an admirable, transparent, law-abiding and democratic society. This is precisely the motivation behind Eldar’s article. The outcome was a familiar act of intellectual hubris that we have grown familiar with.
Eldar even cites a supposedly former Palestinian prisoner who told Al Monitor that, while in prison, “we learned how the democratic election process works in Israel. The prisoners adopted the system in order to elect their leadership in a totally democratic fashion, while ensuring freedom of choice.”
Others cited their favourite Israeli journalist, some of whom have served and continue to serve as mouthpieces for official Israeli hasbara (propaganda).
Many of Israel’s friends in western governments and corporate media have also contributed to this opportunistic style of journalism; they come to the rescue during trying times to find ways to praise Israel and chastise Palestinians and Arabs, even if the latter are completely irrelevant to the discussion.
If Israeli media was truly honest in its depiction of Netanyahu’s corruption, it would have made a point of highlighting the extent to which corruption extends well beyond the prime minister, his wife and a few close confidantes, but this would pierce through the entire legal, political and business establishment rendering the system itself as rotten and corrupt.
Instead, the heart of the discussion is relocated somewhere else entirely. In Eldar’s article, for example, he quotes the anonymous Palestinian who speaks about how Palestinians prisoners “rejected the political systems of Arab states and opted for the one they had absorbed from the ‘Israeli enemy’.”
This Israeli obsession of diverting from the discussion is an old tactic as Israel fashions an Arab enemy to beat down, chastise and blame whenever it is in the dock for whatever problem.
In the final analysis, Israel somehow maintains the upper hand and self-granted moral ascendancy.
For this reason, Israelis refer to their country as “the only democracy in the Middle East”— a defence mechanism used to divert from the fact that apartheid, racially-structured political systems, are inherently undemocratic.
When Israel facilitated and helped carry out the Sabra and Shatila Massacre in Lebanon in September 1982, it used the same logic to defend itself against media outrage.
The then Israeli prime minister, Menachem Begin, was quoted as saying “the goyim kill goyim, and they blame the Jews.” By ‘they’ he meant the media.
The bottom line is always this: Israel is blameless despite the hideousness of the act; it is superior and more civilised, and, according to Eldar’s selective reporting, even Palestinians know this.
But where is the outrage by Eldar and his Israeli media champions when millions of besieged and subjugated Palestinians continue to live a bitter existence under an inhumane military occupation?
In some strange way, corruption is one of few things that is truly normal about Israel, for it is a shared quality with every country in the world.
What is not normal, and should never be normalised, is that Israel is the only country in the world that continues to practice apartheid, many years after it was disbanded in South Africa.
Israeli media would rather delay that discussion indefinitely, a cowardly act that is neither admirable nor praiseworthy.
Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His latest book is ‘The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story’ (Pluto Press, London, 2018). Baroud has a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter and is a Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, University of California Santa Barbara. His website is www.ramzybaroud.net.