For those who are home, and for those who are on the way. For those who support the historic and just return of the land of Israel to its people, forever loyal to their inheritance, and its restoration.
Monday, July 16, 2012
Seeking a tragedy, creating a symbol. All in a day's work for a social justice activist.
Dr. Haim Shine..
16 July '12..
The social protest of 2012 is changing direction. Last summer's protests belonged to the middle class, which felt it was carrying too heavy a weight on its shoulders. This summer, the protests became the province of a small group of people in Israeli society, the socio-economically weak, whose members have reached a dead end and now feel they have nothing to lose.
In Israel, the social justice activist has been cast in a new mold. It is a new profession that aims to fan the flames of social dissent, getting people into the streets and pitting protesters against the legitimate, elected government.
The chosen time is always the summer, because that's when protesters have free time. The social activists are more interested in the act of protesting than in the actual people doing the protesting, because after all, organizing protests is their area of expertise . In fact, the same social activists who led last summer's protests are organizing them again this time around.
I don’t know any of the organizers personally. However, I don't get the impression that they have a track record of helping those desperate and hungry people who have now filled the ranks of the renewed protests, following the collapse of the previous protests.
Last summer's protests, which received a strong tailwind from the media, failed. They failed because there are very smart people in Israel, who understood very quickly that the protest organizers had a political agenda. Once it became apparent that behind the seemingly grass-roots gatherings stood professors with communist world views, anarchists, foreign money, manipulative media and fledgling politicians, the protests' base dissipated. You can't fool the Israeli public twice.
Revolution, in many cases, needs symbols. These symbols fuel passionate urges, arouse feelings of sympathy and play on society's collective subconscious sensitivities. Unarmed people willing to attack soldiers, to commit suicide in front of an entire nation or set themselves on fire, have always been the heart's desire of revolutionaries. It is always others who pay with their own flesh to fulfill the objectives of these righteous people.
Moshe Silman, the man who set himself on fire during the protest Saturday night, belonged to the downtrodden. For years he hung on to life by his bare nails, until he had enough. It is a horrible tragedy; I am certain that his privacy will be violated by the media, which will provide us with much information about his life and his family. There are more than a few people in Israel who have lost everything and who need help, but it's a long road from there to public self-immolation.
Now, the revolutionaries will adopt the horrific images of a burning Moshe Silman and place them at the heart of their protest. The gasoline he poured on himself will soon become the much-needed fuel the protest leaders will use to inject life into their revolution. This is the cynical exploitation of one person's tragedy, a man who could no longer bear the loneliness of his struggle.
The social protest organizers and the media will play up his allegedly heroic act for their own purposes. They will present his suicide attempt as an impressive achievement of the revolution. I only hope that others, who are also in dire straits, won't be tempted to serve this false revolution and give their lives as fuel to be used by others.
The state authorities are obliged to deal with those desperate individuals who require much-needed assistance. However, a much greater obligation lies with families, neighbors and friends to identify and help those close to them who are distressed. If the social activists focused less on politics and more on social activism, it would be possible to prevent future acts of desperation and self-destruction.
I visited Hevron in November 2000 after the outbreak of the Rosh Hashanah War to see what could be done to assist in the face of the growing daily attacks on the community. After returning to work for the community in the summer of 2001, a bond and a love was forged that grows to this day. My wife Melody and I merited to be married at Ma'arat HaMachpela and now host visitors from throughout the world every Shabbat as well as during the week. Our goal, "Time to come Home!"