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Class Inequality In Israel

August 3, 2018



Israel has third highest gap between rich and poor in the world

21 percent of Israelis live below the poverty line, making Israel the country with the highest percentage in the west.



[The following is Chapter 11 from the book The Israeli Ruling Class Exposed: It Oppresses Ordinary Jews as Well as Palestinians, by John Spritzler]

It Is No Favor To Jews To Support Israel. Zionism Is About Making Sure The Movement Of Ordinary Jews For Economic Equality Fails

When, in earlier times, Albert Einstein and Judah Magnes opposed the idea of a Jewish state, they were absolutely right. But their views did not have the backing of wealthy and powerful people who saw the Zionist project of a Jewish state and heightened Jewish nationalism as valuable instruments of social control in the oil-rich Middle East. It was Zionist leaders who were welcomed at the White House in the United States, it was Zionist leaders who were "successful" at fund raising from America's wealthiest people, it was Zionist leaders who wrote the articles about Israel that mass circulation magazines and newspapers selectively published, and with these kinds of connections and backing it was, not surprisingly, Zionist leaders who secured the most influential positions in organized Jewry—the large charity organizations and the synagogues—where they equated Judaism with Zionism; and these Zionist leaders did not care how many innocent Jewish and non-Jewish lives would be sacrificed or ruined in the ensuing decades of an ethnic war in Israel/Palestine that they were so intent on fomenting. Jewish leaders like Einstein and Magnes, who had the welfare of ordinary Jews as their concern and who believed in the universal values of equality among all human beings, were marginalized. That the Zionist project is bad for Jews as well as for non-Jews is an idea that, for many decades, has been suppressed. It is time good people—of all faiths—rediscovered it.

Except for the small number of Jews who want to protect their status as an exceptionally powerful elite in a "state of their own," most Jews in Israel and elsewhere who support a Jewish state and who think a Jewish majority needs to be preserved no matter what the cost to non-Jews, do so because of a combination of racism and fear, which of course feed each other, and are deliberately promoted by Zionist leaders' manipulation of events and racist interpretations of them. 

Americans, exposed only to the Zionist framework in virtually all of their newspapers, radio and TV stations and virtually never exposed to the unifying point of view in this book—not even in magazines on the left or right that are critical of Israel—have been convinced that it is anti-Semitic to oppose a Jewish state. They need to understand that a Jewish state not only violates the most fundamental human rights of its non-Jewish victims, it also is not good for Jews—no matter what many Jews may think.

A Jewish state makes ordinary Jews the pawns in a game for power played by American, Israeli and Arab elites. A Jewish state is making life for most Jews in Israel a living nightmare, one in which they never know when they'll be blown up on a bus or in a restaurant or hit by a rocket. A Jewish state must mimic ancient Sparta, forcing its citizens to live in a militarized society requiring almost all Jews to be soldiers and to view non-Jews as an enemy just because they are not Jewish. A Jewish state is one which tries to turn its young men and women into people like Israeli Defense Force (IDF) Captain "R," who—after listening to his watchtower guard radio him about "a girl of about 10, she's behind the embankment, scared to death" running away from IDF soldiers towards her refugee camp in Gaza—emptied his gun's magazine into her body and then declared, "Anything moving in the zone, even a three-year-old, needs to be killed." A Jewish state produces a Major General Dan Harel, the officer responsible for the Gaza Strip, who concluded that the captain had "not acted unethically." Americans who support their government's pro-Israel foreign policy are not doing Jews a favor, not at all, even if Jews who sincerely believe the pro-Zionist framework defend Israel passionately.

A “state of the Jewish people” or a state of the Jewish billionaires?

Zionist leaders will never offer Jewish people the possibility of peace and friendship with their non-Jewish neighbors. What the Zionist leaders offer ordinary Jews in Israel is an economic down escalator leading to increasing impoverishment and class inequality. This down escalator could not work were it not for the Zionist strategy of making sure that ordinary Jews fear “Arabs” more than their Zionist ruling class.

The French Le Monde diplomatique in 2003 wrote an article titled, “Israel’s age of austerity” reporting the following:

There is another campsite of the unemployed and homeless in Tel Aviv. It was set up in August 2002 in one of the richest districts on Kikar Medina (State Square), which the protesters call Kikar HaLehem (Bread Square). Dozens live there, with their children, in old buses or tents. So far, all attempts by the local authority and property owners to have them removed have failed.

“The choice of place is no accident,” says Israel Twito, 38, a divorcee who is bringing up three daughters alone. “The contrast between our miserable campsite and the neighbourhood’s luxury shops and apartment blocks symbolises the ever-widening abyss between rich and poor.”

On 28 August the popular Hebrew daily Yediot Aharonot ran the front-page headline “A million Israelis are hungry”.


Earlier this year researchers at the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s Brookdale Institute, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, reported that 400,000 Israeli families - 22% of the total - were suffering from “nutritional insecurity”, since they could not provide their children regularly with the food they need for proper growth.

Some ate smaller portions, others skipped meals. In the worst cases, they ate nothing all day. Meals were monotonous and poor in meat, dairy products, fruit and vegetables. Four out of five of these families said things have worsened in the past two years and their economic situation is more precarious: 5% admitted seeking food aid from soup kitchens or charities. According to another poll published by the humanitarian charity Latet (Giving), the number of Israelis applying for food aid jumped by 46% in a year. The main applicants are single-parent and large families.

Public opinion was shocked by the simultaneous announcement of the huge profits made by Israel’s banks. The largest, Bank Hapoalim, announced net profits of 335m shekels ($75m) for the second quarter of 2003, an increase of 59%. Israel Discount Bank’s profit rose to 116m shekels ($26m) for the same period, 36.5% more than in 2002. The combined profits of the five largest banks (Hapoalim, Leumi, Discount, Hamizrahi and BenLeumi) for the first half of 2003 are 1,400m shekels ($314m), 130% higher than the first half of 2002.

Sh’ma, A Journal of Jewish Ideas in 2003 wrote in an article titled, “Penury and Hunger in Israel,” how:

"[V]ociferous segments of the public are demanding that governmental resources be channeled to welfare and other domestic resources, rather than to strengthening settlements beyond the green line." 

Challenge magazine in 2005 wrote :

"Recent measures taken by Israel’s government to undermine the welfare state have harmed women first of all, both Arab and Jewish. Of the Jewish, many who in the past had gained a foothold in the middle class find themselves shunted to the margins of society. The income supplements they depended on have been whisked out from under them. The same cuts have worsened the plight of Arab women. Despite the fact that both groups, indeed the lower classes in general on both the Arab and Jewish sides, suffer from an erosion in living-standards – and often for identical reasons – there is an utter lack of dialogue between them." 

In the February 13, 2006 edition of Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, an article by Ora Corwen and Lilach Weissman had the headline, “18 wealthiest families earn 32% of Israel's revenues.” The article went on to report:

The income of the 18 wealthiest families in Israel is equivalent to 77 percent of Israel's national budget, which is NIS 256 billion a year, and constitutes 32 percent of the country's revenues, according to a survey conducted by the Business Data Israel company published Monday…

The Labor party responded to the statistics, saying they were proof Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu, both former finance ministers, parcelled the state off to cronies during their pushes for privatization.

"It's no coincidence that of the 18 families, at least seven [including Dankner] are considered Olmert's close friends," the party said in a statement.

"The connection between wealth and power makes it hard to have equal opportunities, and threatens Israeli society," Labor representatives said.

The most powerful families include the Dankners; Sami and Yuli Ofer; Shari Arison; Izzy and Dedi Borovich; Zadik Bino; Yair Hamburger; Avi Wertheim; Stef Wertheimer; Zohar, Yehuda and Roy Zisapel; Lev Leviev; Mickey Federmann; Eliezer Fishman; Jacob Shachar; Israel Kass; Ofra Strauss; Reuven Shmeltzer; and Yitzhak Tshuv.

The Jewish Daily Forward in 2006 reported :

"Israel’s growing population of retirees has been reduced to a state of profound economic insecurity in recent years, as self-styled economic reformers have hollowed out the Jewish state’s time-honored system of care for the elderly. Pensions have been frozen. Social security payments, known in Israel as national insurance, have been relentlessly whittled away — cut by 35% in a single decade. Health care and prescription drug coverage have been slashed, along with funds for senior housing and assisted living. It’s part of a deliberate move by Jerusalem policy-makers to modernize Israel’s economy, by which they mean to remodel it along American lines. Determined to bury the socialist ethos of Israel’s founders, successive governments since the mid-1980s have slashed income supports and welfare payments even as they’ve privatized and deregulated industries, opened capital markets to international competition and reduced workers’ job security (they call it “liberalizing labor laws”). Over the past three years, under the economic leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu, the reforms have been ramped up to a revolution."

The Forward explains the "meteoric rise of the Pensioners' Party" in the April, 2006 election this way: 

"And then there was the simple, glaring fact of poverty. Too many Israelis had reached the point where their own personal security seemed more precarious than their country’s." 

In June of 2015 titled an article, “​Israel’s poor getting poorer, income gap among largest in developed world – study” that reported :

Israel remains among the poorest performing countries in terms of economic equality, while poverty depth, that is how poor the poor are, has worsened, a new study says. A big cutback in government social welfare programs is one of the causes.

The study of Israel’s economic life, “A Picture of the Nation 2015,” was published Thursday by the Jerusalem-based Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel. The study compared Israeli numbers to those of other 33 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

In terms of inequality, Israel remains among the worst in the OECD, the report said. It is on par with the US and bests only Mexico in this regard. The Taub Center’s researchers blame demographic differences, large income gaps in the labor market, and the low effectiveness of the governmental social programs for the situation.

The income gap was pushed wider by how Israelis own real estate and pay rent, with the wealthier segments of society getting most of the rental income. The richest 20 percent receive twice as much from rent as the 80 percent does.

In May of 2017 titled an article, “Israel’s economy heading for disaster, experts warn” which said:

A report released by the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel shows the country has the highest poverty rates among OECD countries and faces “worrisome trends” that could have disastrous effects on its growing population…

The country ranks 22nd out of 34 of the OECD (The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) regarding GDP and takes the 24th spot within the market income poverty rate. Among developed countries, Israel has the highest percentage of its population living below the poverty line.

Israel claims to be a “state of the Jewish people” and uses this claim as the rationale for ethnic cleansing of non-Jews from Israel. But Israel is, in reality, no more a “state of the Jewish people” than the United States—run by American billionaires—is a “state of the American people.” These are dictatorships of the rich. The Israeli ruling class’s reason for wanting to keep Israel at least 80% Jewish has nothing to do with concern for the welfare of ordinary Jews; it is for the purpose of justifying its social control strategy: use ethnic cleansing “in the name of the Jewish people” to make Palestinians angry at (and sometimes violent against) Israel and make ordinary Jews think this anger is anti-Semitic hatred of Jews; then control the Jewish population by claiming to protect it from their real enemy—“the Arabs.” The American ruling class does the same thing to control ordinary Americans with its War on Terror, which also requires Israel’s ethnic cleansing to produce a credible bogeyman enemy: “Arab/Muslim Anti-Semitic terrorists.”

Although they treat ordinary Jews like dirt, the Zionist leaders do offer many Jewish people a bribe: Israeli Jews enjoy a better standard of living than the Arabs who live in greater poverty; some Jewish settlers (especially favored by the Israeli government), for example, get water for their lawns and swimming pools while the Arabs go without sufficient drinking water. Jews in the United States who are loyal to Israel receive praise and admiration from America's rulers who love their remarkably useful Israeli ally, which, behind-the-scenes, does much of the U.S. dirty work, such as selling arms to Iran during President Reagan's administration, and providing arms and counter-insurgency technology to anti-democratic regimes in Central and South America as well as apartheid South Africa before its fall. Surely, however, Americans who understand what is really going on will not consider it a favor to Jews to support those who bribe some Jews for such cynical ends.

Americans have been led to believe that the choice is a Jewish state or seeing Jews "driven into the sea." This is nonsense. As wrong as Hamas is in insisting that Islam be sovereign in all of Palestine, it does not come even close to wanting to “drive the Jews into the sea.” The Hamas Covenant of 1988 says in Article 31:

“The Islamic Resistance Movement is a humanistic movement. It takes care of human rights and is guided by Islamic tolerance when dealing with the followers of other religions. It does not antagonize anyone of them except if it is antagonized by it or stands in its way to hamper its moves and waste its efforts.

“Under the wing of Islam, it is possible for the followers of the three religions - Islam, Christianity and Judaism - to coexist in peace and quiet with each other. Peace and quiet would not be possible except under the wing of Islam. Past and present history are the best witness to that.

“It is the duty of the followers of other religions to stop disputing the sovereignty of Islam in this region, because the day these followers should take over there will be nothing but carnage, displacement and terror.”


Hamas attracts its followers with the idea of Islamic sovereignty (and perhaps even more importantly, with its reputation for being less corrupt than the PLO and its Palestine Authority), not driving the Jews into the sea.

When the apartheid state of South Africa was abolished no whites were driven into the sea. In fact, most white South Africans are relieved that apartheid is no more, and while opponents of apartheid during its reign were routinely accused of being "anti-Christian," today very few whites admit to ever having supported the noxious institution. Just as there should be no apartheid state of South Africa, there should be no Jewish state in Palestine. What there should be instead is for the Palestinian people to decide.

But I will say here what my opinion on the question is. Albert Einstein was right in opposing a Jewish state, but he should also have opposed the Jewish colonization of Palestine, which he did not. The leadership of the Zionist project had, from its beginning in the nineteenth century and continuing to the present, utter contempt for the rights and dignity of Palestinians. Einstein didn’t want this to be the case and tried to make it not the case, but he failed to realize that it was the case and that his efforts were not going to change the fact.


Because of this racist Zionist leadership, Jews settling in Palestine treated the native Palestinians like dirt. There is thus a sense in which justice would say the Jews should go back to where they came from. It would not be unreasonable if Palestinians adopted this point of view, because the invasion and colonization of their land by European Jews was an unjustified attack on them, which aimed to destroy their physical connection to the land and entirely remove traces of their culture in it.


The descendants of the original Jewish settlers, however, having been born in Israel, consider it to be their home no less than Americans of European descent consider the United States their home. Some readers of this book would understandably say that you cannot tell people who are living where they were born that they must leave that place and "go back to where they came from."  But if an extra-terrestrial alien species began colonizing the earth and displacing human beings in a manner analogous to the way Jews colonized Palestine, I think those same readers would find plenty of solid reasons for telling the aliens and their offspring to leave.

Other readers, however, might respond to the aliens by saying, "Look, you can stay, but only if you live with us as equals and not as our superiors, and only if you respect our culture. Furthermore, only those of you can stay who stand with us against the others who insist on being our superiors and on having an Alien state where humans are second class citizens." Would it be fair to dismiss these latter readers as hopelessly naive and kindhearted to a fault? Perhaps. But if so, then it is equally fair to dismiss the great majority of Palestinians as hopelessly naive and kindhearted to a fault, because they offer just this invitation to Jews now living in Palestine/Israel. (Hamas, with its “Islamic sovereignty” theme gets votes from Palestinians in spite of, not because of that theme. The PLO’s Palestine Authority is so famously corrupt and so clearly an instrument of the Israeli government that most Palestinians vote for “the other guy” no matter what.) I think the Palestinians’ offer to live with Jews as equals in Palestine is an offer that Israelis should gladly accept, and thank their lucky stars it is offered. It may not be the only way justice can be formulated, but it is one way that can create a future of peace instead of war between Jews and Palestinians, and that counts for a lot in my opinion.

Justice along these lines means that there should be a single genuinely democratic (as I discuss in my book, NO RICH AND NO POOR) state of Palestine with equal citizenship rights for everybody who lives in the territory of the original Mandate (pre-Israel) Palestine or who fled Palestine because of Zionist actions or who is a descendant of such persons. Religion or ethnicity should have no bearing on people's rights nor limit where they can live. Those who lost property without proper compensation because of the Zionist project should regain their property or be compensated fairly for it (just as were Jews who were dispossessed of property and driven out of Germany by the Nazis.) Equality, solidarity and democracy should shape society in Palestine, not elite rule and inequality. Jews (and anybody else, for that matter) who will not abide by these principles or who embrace and act on the racism of Zionism should leave of their own accord; if they do not, then they must be defeated and stripped of all their power. The time for states built upon racial discrimination and obnoxious negative stereotypes (like the one about Gentiles being innately anti-Semitic) is past. The self-serving elites who presently depend upon such things to stay in power must be thoroughly rejected and dismissed as not worthy of our respect or support. It is time to say, "Enough is enough!"


Postscript: February 11, 2019: ISRAELI 'YELLOW VESTS' SWARM KNESSET: COST OF LIVING OUT OF CONTROL: "If the price of electricity goes up one shekel, we will plan protests the likes of which haven’t been seen in the State of Israel"

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