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by Sol SchindlerFormer Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel was sentenced Tuesday, May 13th, to six years imprisonment for taking bribes by Judge David Rosen of the Tel Aviv District Court. Public reaction was mixed, as to be expected except in one interesting part of the world. In Israel itself the reaction is one of mild embarrassment but quiet satisfaction. Criminals are being punished; loot is being returned to the rightful owners or confiscated by the government; the law appears to be working. Daniel Dorom, however, a free market economist who has done noteworthy work for the Israeli treasury, writes a heated article in The Middle East Forum in which he calls this instance of corruption the tip of a plague enveloping the country. He claims that politics is too involved with the country’s economics. He does not refer to Zionism’s early land policy in which community cooperatives, because of security reasons, were the preferred format for land settlement, and in cooperatives one gets more laws than otherwise which may on occasion temper or abridge free enterprise endeavor.

Whatever the history, currently Transparency International, an organization that attempts to measure corruption in various countries gives Israel a commendable rating, contrary to Doron’s assessment. In our own country the media have been quite straightforward reporting the facts of the story but refraining from moral judgment. The Los Angeles Times gave the story a remarkable number of column inches but no judgment calls. It would be nice if the media could handle our own scandals in the same dispassionate manner but these are too close to home.The reaction in Muslim countries is certainly the most interesting. The Gatestone Institute has published an article by Khaled Abu Teamen who has collected and translated the remarks of a number of leading Arab figures, both religious and political. The following are a few from that collection.

Ali Al- Kadi: “We salute Judge David Rosen. We wish the Arabs had 22 judges like David Rosen. (al-Quds Al-Aeabi)

Mohammed Akash: O Muslims look at the fairness of this judge and where you are. You must learn from our enemy Israel. Long live the fair Israeli justice system.” (Al-quds Al-Arabi)

Manji Dalali: “This is one of the secrets behind Israel’s victory over the Arabs. We must learn from our Jewish Zionist enemy the principles of fair justice. (Al-Quds Al-Arabi)

Hassan Jamal: “I wish Arab countries do the same for their corrupt leaders. I wish the Arab people will do the same for their countries and get rid of corrupt officials including presidents and kings.” (Al Quds)

Mohammed: Of course Islam is the best religion. But the regimes that claim to endorse Islam are practicing repression and corruption. Meanwhile, Israel is among the democratic countries and is better than all the Arab and Islamic countries when it comes to respecting the people and combatting theft of resources.” (Al-Wasat News)

Adel: “This is the secret to Israel’s success. It has become a symbol of justice because it has made justice one of its major bases of power. We, on the other hand are doing the opposite. We continue to cover up cases of corruption and do not do anything about them.” (Echorouk Online)

Abu Zeid: “I live in Israel and am familiar with its laws. In this state no one is above the law.” Al-Arabiya)

Sami Dirani: ”Israel is the enemy of the Arabs but practices democracy – something the Arabs do not know. That is why Israel is stronger and more advanced than the Arabs who are busy slaughtering each other, Some (Arabs) are dying of starvation while others are swimming in pools of dollars.” (Al-Hayat)

While many of us expected cackles of derision from Israel’s enemies repeating Daniel Doron’s charge that this is just the tip of a wide-spread sheet of corruption we are shown instead a surprising maturity of judgment far removed from the past levels of exaggeration and blatant falsehood. Possibly because these Arab commentators have become so accustomed to the corruption that surrounds them they feel it hardly worthy of comment when it appears in other countries. It is only when something is actually done about it — a rarity in Arab countries — that it becomes newsworthy.

Some years back Hamas assumed control over Gaza. Reams of paper were then consumed discussing Hamas’s appeals to antI-Israel-violence while the questions of nepotism, bribery, and endemic corruption, all issues in the election, were ignored. In Afghanistan the Taliban were known as the anti-corruption party to everyone but our commentators. In much of the developing world corruption is a problem and in our own technologically advanced society it seems to be growing. If we can form collegial groups to engender methods to combat corruption it is conceivable that they would be more constructive than massive financial aid programs, and certainly popular among the common wage earners. That is not the normal way to earn a Nobel Peace Prize but it is worth trying.bluestar

American Diplomacy is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to American Diplomacy.


Author Sol Schindler is a retired Foreign Service Officer.


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