Monday, August 04, 2008

Spotlight on the lesser evil


By Gideon Levy | Haaretz.com, Aug 3, 2008
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The Olmert affair has come and all but gone. A few more invoices here and some daggers there will be hurled at the hemorrhaging political corpse hanging in the town square, and Ehud Olmert will disappear into the sunset. A hedonistic, spendthrift prime minister, a relatively small-time, corrupt man who, like many others, did not know where to the draw the line between public and private money and who - like many of his colleagues in the upper crust of government - thought that a politician deserves everything, is going home. Olmert and his transgressions will be remembered as a footnote in history.

Contrary to the typically passionate claims of a few self-styled protectors of the law, Olmert`s conduct did not for one second endanger the rule of law in Israel; it did not threaten its form of government, nor did it undermine the state`s foundations. Far more serious acts of corruption have been committed. Much greater dangers stalk and ultimately threaten the rule of law, and our democracy is fissured and fragile due to other phenomena. It isn`t the Rishon Tours affair, nor the house on Cremieux Street, nor the Talanskys of this world, nor the cronyism and patronage in the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry that shape the state`s character. On the contrary, the manner in which the relevant instruments of power sprang into action and launched an all-out offensive clearly proves that when it comes to minor corruptible violations, the rule of law is in relatively good shape. The danger we are faced with stems from other, incalculably graver circumstances. Nobody has taken it upon himself to wage a war against these circumstances, because this war demands much more courage.

Like the `investigative journalism` programs we see on television, the self-righteous preoccupy themselves with trifle matters. How great it must be to make a name for yourself as a pursuer of justice as you shine the spotlight of your `investigation` onto a rabbi who got a little too frisky or the mechanic who overcharges his customer. This is a war that is universally satisfying to all sides. After all, who wants to tolerate an adulterous rabbi, a swindling mechanic, or a thief for a prime minister?

It goes without saying that such characters are worthy of ostracism, yet these battles are confined to the tiny space illuminated by a flashlight instead of the larger front where the greatest danger awaits. Olmert failed the Kolbotek (a popular consumer affairs TV show) litmus test, and he deserves to be punished accordingly, but the saintly image of the hell-bent seekers of justice that has been affixed to those who have brought him down is exaggerated, if not ridiculous.

Continued . . .

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