Who Hijacked Our Country

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Inside Israel: Oligarchs vs. The People

Every time Israel makes the American news media, it seems to be either a Palestinian suicide attack, the Israeli prime minister sulking because Obama didn’t get smarmy and kiss-ass enough and didn’t genuflect deeply enough, or gangs of Jewish settlers trampling over a few thousand more Palestinian peons so they can build build build build build.

Who knew that Israel is “a country founded on strict socialist and egalitarian principles.” At least I didn’t know; but it makes perfect sense. After all, Israel’s famous kibbutz’ are basically communes. Working communes, that is; not the “bunch of stoned hippies” stereotype that the word “commune” conjures up in this country.

Lately Israel has been getting more tightly controlled by a few oligarchs. And the public doesn’t like it.

This article says:

“Reading the Israeli business press can be a monotonous affair, dominated by a roster of names familiar to everyone in the country. From banking to real estate, energy to industrials, few stories appear that do not include a Dankner, a Tshuva, a Leviev or one of the 20-odd other families that control Israel Inc.”

An economics professor from Hebrew University in Jerusalem says:

“There is a lot of emotion right now. The general public asks: How come that 20 families control the economy? Israelis want these families to have less power.”

Roughly half of Israel’s market share is controlled by these twenty-odd families. Another economics professor — also from Hebrew University — says that with too much concentration of power, “the drawbacks are clear, and range from influence peddling to mistreatment of minority shareholders and the weakening of competition…If you have the same families facing one another in five different markets, this can facilitate collusion.”

This whole “oligarchs versus the rest of us” issue is heating up among Israelis. And the controversy is bringing out one striking difference between Israel’s oligarchs and their American counterparts:

“Some of Israel’s leading business families have already concluded that it is better to jump than to be pushed.” Some of these controlling families are voluntarily selling off some of their assets.

And presumably — since the article doesn’t mention anything about it — the Israeli oligarchs don’t have thousands of gullible dupes yelling and screaming about “Freedom!” “Liberty!” and “Government Takeover!”

And this brings to mind a question: Do Israel’s rabid American supporters know about any of this? What would Wall Street CEOs and the Glenn Becks and Grover Norquists think? Populist resentment — Class Warfare! — against the oligarchs who control the country — “We thought Israel was our friend.”

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Blogger Lew Scannon said...

Whatever Israel does, it does so with impunity from the right wing Amen corner in America. But I'm sure Pat Buchanan would have something to say about it.

May 16, 2010 at 6:55 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Lew: Buchanan is one of the few rightwads who doesn't worship Israel and doesn't want the U.S. to police the world. I hate it when I agree with him, since he's a total Neanderthal on domestic issues.

May 16, 2010 at 7:16 PM  
Blogger Dave Dubya said...

Nothing would please our authoritarian Reich Wingers like an authoritarian oligarchy in Israel too. The less democracy, the better for them.

May 17, 2010 at 9:51 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Dave: Damn right, democracy is such a pain. It's a nice-sounding word, but an oligarchy is so much more convenient.

May 17, 2010 at 11:29 AM  

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