Saturday, December 23

Corruption Comparisons between Israel and South Africa

“Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts completely”. The famous axiom repeated ad nauseam when referring to corrupt governments and parliamentarians who have promised their electorate better days during their election campaigns. The moment they are swept into power something happens and they lose their sensitivity towards the people they govern. Apart from that, many parliamentarians use their influence to make shady deals with private entrepreneurs who do not always operate within the framework of the law in the hope of becoming wealthy at the tax payers’ expense.

Many Israel-bashers compare Israel to apartheid South Africa under white minority rule. This shows ignorance of the situation between Israel and the Palestinians and the comparison is totally absurd and false. I have written about that in a previous article on this blog.

However, there is a similarity between some of Israel’s Knesset members and South Africa’s ANC members. They use their coveted positions of power to gain more influence and become richer by using public funds for their own financial advancement. This problem is widespread in the Palestinian Authority as well. This was the reason for Hamas victory in the elections nearly a year ago. However this is not the purpose of this article.

When the African National Congress won in the first democratic elections in April 1994, most South Africans were happy and ecstatic. The evil apartheid system ended and for the first time the majority of South Africans could look forward to a bright future without racism based on skin colour.

It did not take long for the euphoria to disappear. The reality of building a new South Africa with its many problems including massive poverty had to be addressed. Violent crime increased at a horrifying rate. The AIDS problem had reached epidemic proportions. Housing shortages, drugs amongst the youth and massive unemployment became the order of the day. Affirmative action was introduced and this did not result in the best people for the right job. It turned into an “apartheid fiasco in reverse” where once again skin colour became an issue. This time the blacks were given preference for certain jobs. This resulted in many people leaving the country of their birth – hopefully for better pastures overseas.
The ANC members of parliament had become very wealthy. They paid lip service to improving the economic problems of the poor that had elected them into power. These politicians did nothing except enrich themselves by joining “the gravy train” (elected politicians gorging on luxuries, since someone else foots the bill).
Apart from that, many ANC parliamentarians became corrupt and became involved in scandals of all kinds including sex scandals.

The vice-President of South Africa Jacob Zuma was accused of rape and corruption. He is in a similar predicament as Israel’s President Moshe Katzav, who also has a load of sex harassment investigations pending against him. Zuma and Katzav are strange bedfellows indeed! Here is a similarity between the Israeli and South African leadership! The difference is that Zuma was relieved of his post while Katzav remains president because he has not been charged in a court of law. The Attorney-General of Israel, Mani Mazuz, has not yet decided when to charge Katzav in court. The African National Congress chief whip, Mbulelo Goniwe, has been expelled from the party with immediate effect for sexual harassment.

According to IOL (South Africa’s Independent on Line) of 17th December 2006 stated:

“How encouraging that for once the government is sending a clear message: Sexual harassment is not on! Public servants who behave in a disgraceful manner (as in getting drunk and arriving late at state functions), and disregard the law (as in drunk driving and speeding), or blatantly exploit their position of trust and power (as in giving away tenders to their family and cronies) should be publicly shamed and serve a fitting prison term (not in the lap of luxury!). Then a clear message is being sent to the whole of South Africa that crime and corruption is not something one should strive to get away with but something of which to be ashamed!”

South Africa is one up on Israel here! Both countries have governments that do not do justice to their people. Both Israeli and South Africans elect governments that are coalitions of corrupt syndicates. According to The Jurist – Legal News and Research of 17th December 2006:

Lawyers for a business associate of former South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma [party profile] filed an appeal Monday with the South African Constitutional Court [official website] asking that the corruption conviction [JURIST report] of Schabir Shaik be overturned. Shaik was convicted of paying Zuma for political favors in a case which has left Zuma's name tarnished as a potential presidential candidate. The South African Supreme Court of Appeals [official website] last month upheld the conviction [JURIST report], finding that enough evidence existed to support the case and the 15-year jail term handed down to Shaik. His lawyers missed the December 15 deadline [SABC report] to file an appeal, but a court official said that Monday's filing included an explanation for missing the deadline. South African President Thabo Mbeki [BBC profile] fired Zuma [JURIST report] from his position last year after Shaik was initially found guilty. Zuma has indicated repeatedly that he intends to run against Mbeki in the 2009 presidential election. In June, the African National Congress [party website] reinstated Zuma to his deputy president position within the party after he was acquitted on rape charges [JURIST reports]. In September, a high court judge tossed the corruption charges brought against Zuma himself [JURIST report], saying prosecutors had failed to follow proper procedures, though the charges may be brought again in the future. Reuters has more. SABC News has local coverage”.

The corruption in high places in South Africa is incredible. The appointment of cronies is rife in the ANC.

The situation in Israel is not very different. Ehud Olmert, Israel’s Prime Minister also has appointed cronies in the past. Here we have two states that show more similarities in corruption than what differentiates them in lacking accountability to the electorate that voted them into power. There is money laundering oligarchs from the ex-Soviet Union who have arrived in Israel. Reports of their influence in the ruling political party in Israel abound.

According to an article in Counterpunch on 1st January 2006, The Spoils of War by James Brooks, Israel’s corruption was inevitable. This article gives an account of what had been going on under the Likud Government before Olmert became Prime Minister when his Kadima Party won by a very slender margin in the March 2006 elections. Since then corruption remains the name of the game but with different players.

The Israeli electorate is divided. The electoral system of proportional representation will always result in voting patterns that will never allow any party to win an absolute majority. In order to govern, the party that gains the most support hurriedly forms coalitions of strange political party hacks from opposite sides of the political spectrum. The moderate left of centre Labour Party joined up with the centre Kadima Party under Ehud Olmert who invited the arch-racist Avigdor Lieberman’s Beitenu right wing party to join his coalition. The religious parties usually hold the balance of power and further create instability by their partisan demands. Their membership in any coalition demands a large price. So, if one is a serious voter one will always end up with a despicable coalition that one does not want. Suddenly all parties forget their principles in order to gain seats in the Knesset so that they can enjoy the benefits of government and self-aggrandizement. Sensitivity for the electorate disappears only to raise its head before the next elections.

Some examples of corruption and abuse of political power in Israel are:

  1. President Moshe Katzav refuses to resign despite the fact that he faces accusations of sexual harassment from eight women including a rape charge that was dropped. This resulted in the odd creation of half a president meaning that some of his official duties such as granting pardons for criminals have been curtailed. A rather strange Israeli invention created to bypass impeachment!

  1. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz refuse to resign because of the mistakes made in the conduct of the Lebanese War in July 2006. They accepted responsibility for their failure. They agreed to the appointment of an examining committee, which lacks the confidence of the majority of the public rather than an independent judicial commission.

  1. The Chief-of-Staff, Dan Halutz refuses to step down from his post despite heavy criticism for his conduct of the war.

  1. The chairman of the Knesset Foreign and Military Affairs Committee, Tzachi Hanegbi, is indicted for fraud and perjury. Yet he remains a Knesset Member.

  1. The Minister of Justice, Chaim Ramon, is standing trial for French kissing a twenty-one year old female soldier. At least, to his credit he has resigned from his post until the end of his trial.

The corruption occurring in ANC-led South Africa and Israel are similar. It illustrates the insensitivity of the legislators for the rule of law in their respective countries. It is also a threat to democracy in both countries.

Connections (protektsia), nepotism, pulling of strings and burocracy as a result, are widespread in both countries. Both countries operate in syndicates that prevent people from getting appointments unless they have good contacts with people in the hierarchy of government.

The behavioral patterns of many Israelis in public places are poor. Queue jumping by working in combinot (groups of friends, relatives or business associates who form groups or syndicates to further their own interests at the expense off others) is common place. Reckless driving that shows complete lack of consideration for others is the order of the day. Apologists for Israel always say that “this is excusable because Israel is at war with her neighbours that causes stress in the population”. This is no justification for bad, inconsiderate behaviour!

The combinot syndrome is prevalent in the work place as well and very often prevents people from advancing in their jobs – salary wise or other.

These various practices resulting in corruption and bribery as well as dishonesty in government will endanger both young democracies. Both countries will receive the status of “banana republics” eventually.

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