Indonesia’s quiet revolution bodes well for the relationship

Indonesia’s quiet revolution bodes well for the relationship

Our next door neighbour is booming politically and economically.

  

THIS year, most of the world’s economic growth will take place in China. Much of the rest will be in India. But the third biggest source of global growth will be right next door: Indonesia.

We don’t think of Indonesia as a rising economic power. Its output ranks only 15th in the world (a bit bigger than ours). Its market ranks 18th (a bit smaller than ours). But Indonesia is changing.

Yes, there was a terrorist attack in Jakarta last month, but that was the first in four years. It has just held free elections for president and legislature that gave an emphatic mandate to its modernising moderate leader, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, for a second five-year term. The army no longer rules. The economy is no longer broken. Indonesia, for so long under the heel of dictators, is now what one analyst calls ”the best functioning democracy in South-East Asia”.

A decade ago president B. J. Habibie unexpectedly ended the dictatorship to allow free speech, a free press, independent courts and free elections. While China, Singapore and Malaysia remain in the grip of ruling elites that won’t let power out of their grasp, Indonesia has become a country where people can say what they like without having to check who’s listening.

And as the global financial crisis has flattened most countries, Indonesia has flourished. In this decade, its economy has grown by almost two-thirds. More Indonesians now live in cities than on farms. Per capita incomes have risen almost 25 per cent in five years, almost 50 per cent in a decade. Even on the IMF’s forecasts – seen in Jakarta as unrealistically low – its economy would grow 15 per cent over the three years of this global recession. Only China and India will do better.

Indonesia has no lack of problems. But a month travelling the country has left me with a strong sense that it is moving ahead, that the roots of democracy have grown deep in its decade of freedom, and that its potential importance to us and the world will grow if Yudhoyono’s 10 years as President becomes the bridge between the chaos of old and its emergence as a new world power.

Indonesia never will be a giant on the scale of China and India. Indonesia has 230 million people; they each have well over a billion. But it is moving along very different lines from China. Last year, analysts Andrew MacIntyre and Douglas Ramage published an essay for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute titled provocatively Seeing Indonesia as a normal country. Their thesis was that Indonesia is developing into a middle-income, stable democracy that poses no threat to its neighbours, and solves issues by peaceful, democratic means. At the time I thought their title provocative; a year and two elections later, it looks prescient.

China is much bigger, much mightier. But China is not a normal country. As we have been reminded starkly, it is an authoritarian dictatorship that tries to solve problems by bullying and force: arresting Rio Tinto’s chief in China, trying to bully the Melbourne film festival, and now, according to The Canberra Times, engaging in ”cyber espionage”, with China suspected of having sent Australian diplomats fake emails, designed to give the sender access to DFAT’s computer network.

Indonesia is different. For all the mistaken fears of Australians past and present, it is not a threat to us. In a wise paper for the Lowy Institute, Australia and Indonesia: current problems, future prospects, Professor Jamie Mackie tells how in the turmoil of the 1960s, when the British embassy was burnt to ashes, president Sukarno summoned Australian ambassador Mick Shann to explain why his embassy remained intact. ”You [Australia] are part of our region, and we both have to learn how to live alongside each other.”

And we have. At government level, the relationship is in excellent shape. Indonesia and Australia are working closely on issues from climate change to people smuggling. Indonesia is now the largest destination for Australia’s development aid, receiving almost $500 million a year to build schools, roads and health centres. There are 17 Australian Government departments and agencies with staff working in the Indonesian Government, helping them make government work. (One big success has been the Australian Tax Office helping its Indonesian counterpart make Indonesia’s big companies and rich people pay their taxes.)

People-to-people relationships are improving, if underdeveloped. There are now 15,000 Indonesians studying in Australia. In the year to June, a record 436,000 Australian tourists went to Indonesia, despite the official warning urging them to reconsider.

The commercial relationship, however, could be much bigger. Indonesia still has a widespread hostility to foreign investment, which Yudhoyono’s reforms have not challenged. Yet Australian companies in Indonesia – such as the ANZ, Toll and Thiess – are doing well, and there is the potential for Australia to help modernise Indonesian business as it is helping to modernise government.

Indonesia’s democratic revolution has put down deep roots. Its economic revolution is starting to do the same. Much depends on Yudhoyono’s second term, and how it tackles corruption and reforms to the bureaucracy, the labour market, infrastructure and investment. What will be good for Indonesia will be good for us.

 

Tim Colebatch is economics editor.

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What is “Neo-Liberalism” ?

(http://www.geocitie s.com/CapitolHil l/Lobby/8731/ neolib.html)

“Neo-liberalism” is a set of economic policies that have become widespread during the last 25 years or so. Although the word is  rarely heard in the United States, you can clearly see the effects of  neo-liberalism here as the rich grow richer and the poor grow poorer.

“Liberalism” can refer to political, economic, or even religious  ideas. In the U.S. political liberalism has been a strategy to  prevent social conflict. It is presented to poor and working people  as progressive compared to conservative or Rightwing. Economic  liberalism is different. Conservative politicians who say they hate
“liberals” — meaning the political type — have no real problem with  economic liberalism, including neo- liberalism.

“Neo” means we are talking about a new kind of liberalism. So what was the old kind? The liberal school of economics became famous in Europe when Adam Smith, an English economist, published a book in
1776 called THE WEALTH OF NATIONS. He and others advocated the abolition of government intervention in economic matters. No restrictions on manufacturing, no barriers to commerce, no tariffs, he said; free trade was the best way for a nation’s  economy to develop. Such ideas were “liberal” in the sense of no
controls. This application of individualism encouraged “free”  enterprise,” “free” competition — which came to mean, free for the  capitalists to make huge profits as they wished.

Economic liberalism prevailed in the United States through the 1800s and early 1900s. Then the Great Depression of the 1930s led an economist named John Maynard Keynes to a theory that challenged
liberalism as the best policy for capitalists. He said, in essence,  that full employment is necessary for capitalism to grow and it can  be achieved only if governments and central banks intervene to  increase employment. These ideas had much influence on President  Roosevelt’s New Deal — which did improve life for many people. The  belief that government should advance the common good became widely accepted.

But the capitalist crisis over the last 25 years, with its shrinking  profit rates, inspired the corporate elite to revive economic  liberalism. That’s what makes it “neo” or new. Now, with the rapid  globalization of the capitalist economy, we are seeing neo-liberalism  on a global scale.

A memorable definition of this process came from Subcomandante Marcos  at the Zapatista-sponsored
<http://spin. com.mx/%7Ehvelar de/Mexico/ EZLN/encuentro- neoliberalism. html>Encuentro  Intercontinental por la Humanidad y contra el Neo-liberalismo  (Inter-continental Encounter for Humanity and Against Neo-liberalism)  of August 1996 in Chiapas when he said: “what the Right offers is to
turn the world into one big mall where they can buy Indians here,  women there ….” and he might have added, children, immigrants, workers or even a whole country like Mexico.”

The main points of neo-liberalism include:

1) THE RULE OF THE MARKET. Liberating “free” enterprise or private enterprise from any bonds imposed by the government (the state) no  matter how much social damage this causes. Greater openness to
international trade and investment, as in NAFTA. Reduce wages by  de-unionizing workers and eliminating workers’ rights that had been  won over many years of struggle. No more price controls. All in all,
total freedom of movement for capital, goods and services. To  convince us this is good for us, they say “an unregulated market is  the best way to increase economic growth, which will ultimately benefit
everyone.” It’s like Reagan’s “supply-side” and “trickle-down” economics — but somehow the wealth didn’t trickle down very much.

2) CUTTING PUBLIC EXPENDITURE FOR SOCIAL SERVICES like education and  health care. REDUCING THE SAFETY-NET FOR THE POOR, and even  maintenance of roads, bridges, water supply — again in the name of
reducing government’s role. Of course, they don’t oppose government subsidies and tax benefits for business.

3) DEREGULATION. Reduce government regulation of everything that  could diminsh profits, including protecting the environmentand safety on the job.

4) PRIVATIZATION. Sell state-owned enterprises, goods and services to  private investors. This includes banks, key industries, railroads,  toll highways, electricity, schools, hospitals and even fresh water.
Although usually done in the name of greater efficiency, which is often needed, privatization has mainly had the effect of  concentrating wealth even more in a few hands and making the public pay even more for its needs.

5) ELIMINATING THE CONCEPT OF “THE PUBLIC GOOD” or “COMMUNITY” and replacing it with “individual responsibility. ” Pressuring the poorest  people in a society to find solutions to their lack of health care,
education and social security all by themselves — then blaming them,  if they fail, as “lazy.”

Around the world, neo-liberalism has been imposed by powerful financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF),  the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank. It is raging all over Latin America. The first clear example of neo-liberalism at  work came in Chile (with thanks to University of Chicago economist  Milton Friedman), after the CIA-supported coup against the popularly elected Allende regime in 1973. Other countries followed, with some of the worst effects in Mexico where wages declined 40 to 50% in the  first year of NAFTA while the cost of living rose by 80%. Over 20,000  small and medium businesses have failed and more than 1,000 state- owned enterprises have been privatized in Mexico. As one scholar  said, “Neoliberalism means the neo-colonization of Latin America.”

In the United States neo-liberalism is destroying welfare programs; attacking the rights of labor (including all immigrant workers); and  cutbacking social programs. The Republican “Contract” on America is
pure neo-liberalism. Its supporters are working hard to deny  protection to children, youth, women, the planet itself — and trying to trick us into acceptance by saying this will “get government off  my back.” The beneficiaries of neo-liberalism are a minority of the world’s people. For the vast majority it brings even more suffering than before: suffering without the small, hard-won gains of the last  60 years, suffering without end.  <http://www.latino. com/opinion/ spec0324. html>

Elizabeth Martinez is a  longtime civil rights activist and author of several books, including “500 Years of Chicano History in Photographs. ”

Arnoldo Garcia is a member of the Oakland-based Comite Emiliano Zapata, affiliated to the National Commission for Democracy in Mexico.

Both writers attended the Intercontinental Encounter for Humanity and  against Neoliberalism, held July 27 -August 3,1996, in La Realidad, Chiapas.

Truth links directory for those seeking more information.

I hope this site will helpfull for anyone to seek truth information. I got it from mailinglist worldcitizen.

Truth links directory for those seeking more information.

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Discussion Boards:

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Suharto, the Model Killer, and His Friends in High Places

Suharto, the Model Killer, and His Friends in High Places

by John Pilger

In my film Death of a Nation, there is a sequence filmed on board an Australian aircraft flying over the island of Timor. A party is in progress, and two men in suits are toasting each other in champagne. “This is an historically unique moment,” says one of them, “that is truly uniquely historical.” This is Gareth Evans, Australia’s foreign minister. The other man is Ali Alatas, principal mouthpiece of the Indonesian dictator, Gen. Suharto. It is 1989, and the two are making a grotesquely symbolic flight to celebrate the signing of a treaty that allowed Australia and the international oil and gas companies to exploit the seabed off East Timor, then illegally and viciously occupied by Suharto. The prize, according to Evans, was “zillions of dollars.”

Beneath them lay a land of crosses: great black crosses etched against the sky, crosses on peaks, crosses in tiers on the hillsides. Filming clandestinely in East Timor, I would walk into the scrub and there were the crosses. They littered the earth and crowded the eye. In 1993, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Australian Parliament reported that “at least 200,000” had died under Indonesia’s occupation: almost a third of the population. And yet East Timor’s horror, which was foretold and nurtured by the U.S., Britain, and Australia, was actually a sequel. “No single American action in the period after 1945,” wrote the historian Gabriel Kolko, “was as bloodthirsty as its role in Indonesia, for it tried to initiate the massacre.” He was referring to Suharto’s seizure of power in 1965-1966, which caused the violent deaths of up to a million people.

To understand the significance of Suharto, who died on Sunday, is to look beneath the surface of the current world order: the so-called global economy and the ruthless cynicism of those who run it. Suharto was our model mass murderer – “our” is used here advisedly. “One of our very best and most valuable friends,” Thatcher called him, speaking for the West. For three decades, the Australian, U.S., and British governments worked tirelessly to minimize the crimes of Suharto’s Gestapo, known as Kopassus, who were trained by the Australian SAS and the British army and who gunned down people with British-supplied Heckler and Koch machine guns from British-supplied Tactica “riot control” vehicles. Prevented by Congress from supplying arms directly, U.S. administrations from Gerald Ford to Bill Clinton provided logistic support through the back door and commercial preferences. In one year, the British Department of Trade provided almost a billion pounds worth of so-called soft loans, which allowed Suharto to buy Hawk fighter-bombers. The British taxpayer paid the bill for aircraft that dive-bombed East Timorese villages, and the arms industry reaped the profits. However, the Australians distinguished themselves as the most obsequious. In an infamous cable to Canberra, Richard Woolcott, Australia’s ambassador to Jakarta, who had been forewarned about Suharto’s invasion of East Timor, wrote: “What Indonesia now looks to from Australia … is some understanding of their attitude and possible action to assist public understanding in Australia….” Covering up Suharto’s crimes became a career for those like Woolcott, while “understanding” the mass murderer came in buckets. This left an indelible stain on the reformist government of Gough Whitlam following the cold-blooded killing of two Australian TV crews by Suharto’s troops during the invasion of East Timor. “We know your people love you,” Bob Hawke told the dictator. His successor, Paul Keating, famously regarded the tyrant as a father figure. When Indonesian troops slaughtered at least 200 people in the Santa Cruz cemetery in Dili, East Timor, and Australian mourners planted crosses outside the Indonesian embassy in Canberra, foreign minister Gareth Evans ordered them destroyed. To Evans, ever-effusive in his support for the regime, the massacre was merely an “aberration. ” This was the view of much of the Australian press, especially that controlled by Rupert Murdoch, whose local retainer, Paul Kelly, led a group of leading newspaper editors to Jakarta, fawn before the dictator.

Here lies a clue as to why Suharto, unlike Saddam Hussein, died not on the gallows but surrounded by the finest medical team his secret billions could buy. Ralph McGehee, a senior CIA operations officer in the 1960s, describes the terror of Suharto’s takeover of Indonesia as “the model operation” for the American-backed coup that got rid of Salvador Allende in Chile seven years later. “The CIA forged a document purporting to reveal a leftist plot to murder Chilean military leaders,” he wrote, “[just like] what happened in Indonesia in 1965.” The U.S. embassy in Jakarta supplied Suharto with a “zap list” of Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) members and crossed off the names when they were killed or captured. Roland Challis, the BBC’s south east Asia correspondent at the time, told me how the British government was secretly involved in this slaughter. “British warships escorted a ship full of Indonesian troops down the Malacca Straits so they could take part in the terrible holocaust,” he said. “I and other correspondents were unaware of this at the time…. There was a deal, you see.”

The deal was that Indonesia under Suharto would offer up what Richard Nixon had called “the richest hoard of natural resources, the greatest prize in southeast Asia.” In November 1967, the greatest prize was handed out at a remarkable three-day conference sponsored by the Time-Life Corporation in Geneva. Led by David Rockefeller, all the corporate giants were represented: the major oil companies and banks, General Motors, Imperial Chemical Industries, British American Tobacco, Siemens, U.S. Steel, and many others. Across the table sat Suharto’s U.S.-trained economists who agreed to the corporate takeover of their country, sector by sector. The Freeport company got a mountain of copper in West Papua. A U.S./ European consortium got the nickel. The giant Alcoa company got the biggest slice of Indonesia’s bauxite. America, Japanese, and French companies got the tropical forests of Sumatra. When the plunder was complete, President Lyndon Johnson sent his congratulations on “a magnificent story of opportunity seen and promise awakened.” Thirty years later, with the genocide in East Timor also complete, the World Bank described the Suharto dictatorship as a “model pupil.”

Shortly before he died, I interviewed Alan Clark, who under Thatcher was Britain’s minister responsible for supplying Suharto with most of his weapons. I asked him, “Did it bother you personally that you were causing such mayhem and human suffering?”

“No, not in the slightest,” he replied. “It never entered my head.”

“I ask the question because I read you are a vegetarian and are seriously concerned with the way animals are killed.”

“Yeah?”

“Doesn’t that concern extend to humans?”

“Curiously not.”

Source: http://www.antiwar. com/pilger/ ?articleid= 12279 January 28, 2008

Australians advised to stop seeing Indonesia as “abnormal country”

05/27/08 21:05

Australians advised to stop seeing Indonesia as “abnormal country”


Brisbane (ANTARA News) – The Canberra-based Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) on Tuesday launched its latest research report urging the Australian public and policymakers to see democratic Indonesia as “a normal country”.

The report titled “Seeing Indonesia as a normal country: Implications for Australia ” contained the findings of research conducted by two noted Indonesian affairs analysts, Professor Andrew MacIntyre and Dr Douglas E Ramage.

MacIntyre and E.Ramage said Australia needs to understand the new stable landscape of Indonesia as a result of positive changes that it has made as a more democratic and pluralistic country.

“Thinking of Indonesia as a `normal` country allows us to see it through new eyes. It`s a useful analytical lens that lets us see some new opportunities and imperatives, ” they said.

Present-day Indonesia was a stable, competitive electoral democracy which was playing a constructive role in the regional and broader international community, they said.

In the 68-page report, they made a number of specific policy recommendations to Australia , such as a new approach to engagement with the military and a geographic shift within the country of its development assistance programs.

“We now know what Indonesia is probably going to look like over the next decade. In the absence of radical disjuncture, Indonesia will be a middle‑income developing country making slow headway in lifting living standards and consolidating democratic governance,” they said.

As citizens of a lively democracy, Indonesians shared important political values with Australians, MacIntyre and E.Ramage said.

“This is good news, but it`s also very probable that neither Indonesia`s circumstances nor its bilateral relationship with Australia will become dramatically better over the next five to ten years. Although it would be better if Indonesia`s economy grew faster than we see today, and its democratic consolidation and governance reform advanced more strongly, those things are unlikely to happen.”

The current trajectory was likely to be as good as it would get over the next decade or so, they said.

With regard to Indonesian leaders, MacIntyre and E.Ramage said incumbent President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono`s record of leadership remained the best and was “unlikely to be beaten” over the next decade though his achievements were under appreciated.

Despite the need for Australia to see Indonesia through new eyes, it would also remain important to recall old insights. One of the oldest remains that the Australian policymakers should grasp was “the fundamental pluralism of Indonesia “, they said.

The fundamental pluralism of Indonesia was even a very old truth whose age was much older than the Republic of Indonesia and even the Netherlands East Indies.

” Indonesia has always been a fundamentally pluralist society; its geography and history ensure this. There have been some terrible and deadly exceptions, but pluralism remains the bedrock fact of Indonesian society,” they said.

The argument of pluralistic Indonesia needs to be re-emphasized because of two main reasons. The first reason was that Australians have lost sight of it in recent years and suspected the emergence of militancy and zealotry in the archipelago and the second was the fact that the new democratic world of `normal Indonesia , its underlying social diversity would be “the foundation of pluralistic politics”, they said.

In response to the ASPI`s research report, spokesperson of the Indonesian Embassy in Canberra, Dino Kusnadi, said it did not only raise a new hope for Australia to have a new lens in seeing Indonesia but it was also a confirmation for what Ambassador Hamzah Thayeb had consistently and repeatedly conveyed about the New Indonesia to the Australian public since he was posted in Canberra.

Prof.Andrew MacIntyre`s and Dr.Douglas E Ramage`s research findings had confirmed the truth of Ambassador Hamzah Thayeb`s consistent statements on vibrant and democratic Indonesia, he said.

Thus, in facing the New Indonesia, Australians need to update their ways and change their old yardstick, Kusnadi said.

Andrew MacIntyre is professor of political science and director of the Australian National University`s Crawford School of Economics and Government, while Dr. Douglas E Ramage is the Asia Foundation`s Country Representative in Indonesia.

ASPI is an independent, non-partisan policy institute. The Canberra-based research center was founded by the Australian government to provide fresh ideas on the country`s defense and strategic policy choices. (*)

COPYRIGHT © 2008

http://www.antara. co.id/en/ arc/2008/ 5/27/australians -advised- to-stop-seeing- indonesia- as-abnormal- country/

 

 

It’s improving, but there’s a long way to go

 

YESTERDAY’S release of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s report Seeing Indonesia as a Normal Country is timely, coming 10 years after the overthrow of the Suharto regime and just ahead of Kevin Rudd’s visit to Jakarta next month. By mapping the progress made over the past decade, the authors lay to rest some of the alarmist reporting about Indonesia as a breeding ground for Islamic fundamentalism and a nation struggling to control multiple separatist movements. But the title of the report is misleading. Though Indonesia is in no danger of becoming a failed state, it doesn’t serve anyone’s policy objectives to pretend that Indonesia should be seen as “normal” – whatever “normal” means in the context of international relations.

Indonesia has made remarkable progress towards becoming a more open, democratic and economically advanced society. The stifling uniformity of Suharto’s New Order has gone, but the same old elite still controls many levers of political and economic power. As the report acknowledges, Indonesia suffers from “globally chart-topping levels of corruption”. Judicial reform has been “often piecemeal and highly uneven”. Bowing to political pressure, courts often fail to uphold convictions of senior officials. Human rights violators often go unpunished. Rampant corruption, the weak application of the rule of law and regulatory uncertainty have been deterrents to foreign direct investment. Though inflows have picked up, Southeast Asia ‘s largest economy attracted only $US10.3billion in FDI last year. By comparison, China approved $US35billion in FDI in the first four months of this year. Half of Indonesia ‘s population lives on less than $US2 a day, with as many Indonesians living in poverty as the rest of East Asia put together, excluding China . In a country of more than 220 million people the number of taxpayers stands at a paltry 3.3 million. Despite forecasts of economic growth reaching 7 per cent this year, Indonesia still lags well behind the other tiger economies of Asia such as Vietnam , China and India . Unemployment hovers around 10 per cent. Government spending on health and education relative to GDP is lower than in most other Asian countries.

The debate over whether Indonesia should be seen as a normal country masks more important policy issues for Australia . Our shared concerns for maintaining security and promoting economic prosperity require Australia to maintain a close and constructive relationship with all levels of the Indonesian Government. The Rudd Government’s foreign policy priorities, particularly the new emphasis being given to China at the expense of our traditional allies such as Japan and India , have yet to be fully understood in the region. Engaging with Indonesia requires appreciating its complexities, sensitivities and vulnerabilities. Pretending things are normal risks misreading the inner workings of our most important neighbour.

http://www.theaustr alian.news. com.au/story/ 0,25197,23769458 -25209,00. html

 

The Occupation Corrupts

June 3, 2008
The Occupation Corrupts
by Uri Avnery

I cannot say that I ever liked Ehud Olmert. But now I almost feel sorry for him.

It is not pleasant to see how they pounce on him, like jackals and hyenas fighting over a carcass.

And that also raises some questions.


Was Olmert the only fallible human being in this paradise? Not at all. The stories about the envelopes stuffed with cash, the cigars, and the luxury suites in posh hotels fire the imagination, but the hedonism of Olmert is no different from that of Benjamin Netanyahu or Ehud Barak. When Barak accuses Olmert it is like the kettle calling the pot black.

Netanyahu lived like a king in expensive hotels paid for by kind donors who, of course, ask for nothing in return, whose sole purpose in life is to allow him to revel in luxury. As for Barak, after decades of service as an army officer with a salary that did not reach the sky and some years as a cabinet minister with a similar income, he disappeared from public view for a short while and reappeared as a rich man. He bought a luxury apartment in one of the most expensive buildings in Tel Aviv, a structure that is a byword for ostentatious wealth. How does one get so rich in such a short time? Could it be by using connections acquired in the service of the state?

Olmert was a pioneer of this method. When still a very junior politician, just out of law school, he got rich through his connections with the heads of government departments which he made as a parliamentary aide.

The closer the connection between capital and power, and the more contact there is between local and foreign tycoons on the one hand and politicians and generals on the other, the more profusely corruption flowers. This is an almost automatic process.


What does that say about our politicians? Simply: that none of them is a leader.

A real leader is not just a person with an aim. A leader is a person with one aim and one aim alone.

In the best case, that is a positive aim, to which he devotes all his life. In the worst case it is power as such he craves. But in any case, a real leader is totally devoted to the aim he has adopted, and pursues no other – not money, not enjoyment, not a life of luxury.

Such a person was David Ben-Gurion, and such was Menachem Begin. They did not have to decide to live “modest lives” and dispense with luxury – they were just not interested in luxuries, money, or the easy life. For them, these things were quite unimportant. From the moment they opened their eyes in the morning until they closed them again at night, nothing interested them but their aim. One can add Yitzhak Rabin to the list.

The priorities of a mere politician are quite different: he wants power in order to enjoy the amenities it brings with it. Power as a means. The amenities of power – money, luxuries, high-class restaurants, prestigious hotels – are the aim.

According to this definition, the entire recent and current crop of politicians – Moshe Dayan, Ezer Weitzman, Shimon Peres, the two Ehuds, and Netanyahu – are all just ordinary politicians.


With Olmert the problem is specially severe, because of his personal background.

People ask themselves: What did he need it for? Did he not foresee that in the end everything would become public, that his friends and admirers would abandon him? Was it worthwhile to risk his whole future for a vacation in Italy, expensive cigars, luxury suites in hotels, and upgrading his flights?

The conditions in which he lived as a child probably had something to do with his behavior as an adult. He grew up in the ’50s in a neighborhood set up by the Herut Party for ex-Irgun members in the village of Binyamina near Haifa. It was a poor neighborhood, and the children of the old-established village, which belonged to the political mainstream, looked down upon its inhabitants. Children can be cruel. In those days the Herut Party (today’s Likud) was far from power and the national consensus, and their members were still considered “outsiders” who did not belong.

When a person with such a background ascends the political ladder, the possibilities that open up before him are liable to intoxicate him. A world of pampering and pandering is there for the taking. And when an American “exile Jew” – an utterly contemptuous term for Jews abroad – a professional schnorrer, who considers it a great honor to support him, comes and offers him all the goodies, the temptation is just too great.

There is a special angle to the Olmert story. Perhaps because of his childhood feeling of not belonging, he desperately craves Haverim. Haver is a typical Hebrew word denoting comrade, friend, pal, army buddy. (Bill Clinton famously ended his eulogy for Rabin with the Hebrew words “Shalom, Haver!”) Olmert needs many Haverim, Haverim all the time. Haverim who adore him, especially intellectuals and/or rich people, who admire and love him.

He loves to pamper his friends, to take them with him whenever he goes on journeys and vacations. He showers them with warmth and charm, slaps their shoulders, devotes time and attention to them. For him that was also one of the attractions of power.

One of these friends, the lawyer Uri Messer, is mortified. Not because Messer broke the law. Not because he violated the norms of morality and democracy. But because Messer “ratted” on Olmert to the police. (Messer himself used the word “stinker,” the Israeli equivalent of informer.) Like a schoolboy: one does not squeal to the teacher. He tortures himself. As Messer himself says, he is not a “psycho” but a self-tortured man who betrayed a Haver.


Another angle to the matter: the relationship between Olmert and Morris Talansky, who supplied him for many years with the stuffed envelopes.

Talansky treated him as a slave treats his master. After some time, Olmert started to treat him as a servant. I almost said as a colonial master treats an inferior native.

This is not unusual. Many Israelis treat the Jews of the Diaspora as if they were colonial subjects, who are obligated to serve and support the aristocrats of the “mother” country. Thinking and speaking about the American Jews, they inadvertently repeat anti-Semitic stereotypes. Talansky suits this stereotype perfectly. Olmert saw him like this, and that is how he saw himself. When Olmert came to America and honored him with his presence before his Jewish neighbors and acquaintances, it raised his status, and for this he was prepared to pay – and pay a lot.


A question presents itself: Why do these fatal scandals always break when a leader takes a step toward peace, or at least pretends to take a step toward peace?

I do not believe that there is a conspiracy. In general I don’t tend to believe in conspiracies, though there are these, too.

But we have here, I believe, a more profound phenomenon. The main thrust of the current establishment is toward occupation, expansion, and war. Therefore, when a corruption scandal concerns a leader moving in that direction, the scandal is smothered in its infancy. But when the scandal involves a leader who is making gestures in the direction of peace, the scandal reaches huge proportions.

That happened to Sharon on the eve of the dismantling of the Gaza Strip settlements. It is happening now to Olmert when he dares to speak about peace with Syria and the evacuation of the Golan settlements.


Lord Acton is famous for his dictum: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” In the same vein, we say that occupation corrupts, and total occupation corrupts totally.

Ehud Olmert is the typical product of the cynicism and lawlessness that have infected this country in the 41 years of occupation.

That does not mean that there was no corruption before. There certainly was.

In my view, the corruption was born together with the state, and not by accident. A lot has been said about the Nakba on the occasion of Israel’s 60th anniversary. But one phenomenon that accompanied the Nakba is consistently ignored: the massive theft of abandoned Arab property.

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?

They disappeared.

Some of them did reach government storerooms and were distributed to new immigrants. I have never seen a report on this. The huge majority were just stolen.

Generally, not by the combat soldiers who captured these places. They fought and moved on. But after them came the rear echelon, the transport and quartermaster troops, the cronies of people in power, who came with lorries and trucks and loaded up everything they came across.

That was no secret. We knew and talked about this at the time. For years one could see the sofas and armchairs covered with velvet draping in private living rooms and offices. But the phenomenon was never investigated, and later on was smothered and suppressed.

I have spoken about this several times in the Knesset. I mentioned the Biblical story of Achan, the son of Carmi, who during the conquest of Jericho violated God’s command not to plunder. As punishment, the Israelites were routed at the next battle. “Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff.” (Joshua 7:11) Joshua executed Achan and his whole family by stoning. He was for genocide of the Canaanites but against plundering.

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.

That’s where the rot set in.

http://www.antiwar. com/avnery/ ?articleid= 12931