Wednesday, May 23, 2012

What's it got to do with the price of peanut butter? מה הקשר עם מחיר חמאת בוטנים

In the wake of last summer’s cost-of-living protests, Haaretz ran a weekly feature on its business page wherein the reporter would pick a consumer product — I recall chewing gum, mouthwash, and ketchup — and calculate how many hours an Israeli, a Brit, and an American have to work to earn enough to pay for said item. The highest number of hours was always worked by Israelis.

The reasons therefore were always the same, regardless of the product: shipping costs, the fact that Israel is a relatively small market, occasionally extra labeling or kashrut requirements. What’s the takeaway? Get ready: Israel is more costly to live in than the US or Europe. Get outta town! As if I hadn’t noticed, and it took an intrepid reporter to give me the wakeup call.

Am I incensed at this disparity? Indignant at having to pay more for chewing gum? Not at all. I actually have no grievance with the reasons given for the extra expense. I came here with my eyes wide open. I knew that my standard of living would go down, and I didn’t mind the sacrifice; I didn’t come here to get rich.

What’s galling isn’t the price of mouthwash; it’s when I read about the shortage of facilities for at-risk youth due to lack of funds; or the 1,000-bed shortage in neonatal care units; yet strangely, $17 billion is somehow available for the settlements.

Do the social protest activists not see the direct line that leads from Judaea and Samaria to Rothschild Avenue? It’s a zero-sum game, folks. There’s a finite level of resources, and as bad as I am at arithmetic, somehow I connect the dots.

Why do they believe that they can keep the protest apolitical? And why should we want to? Because the minute we point an accusing finger at the settlements, we lose momentum, or support, or whatever vagaries they think they can’t do without?

The non-settling public needs to hear the truth: Their anger at the manufacturers and retailers, while legitimate, is misplaced. I want the faucet that irrigates the settlements turned off, not so the price of peanut butter will go down (it won’t), but so that at-risk teens won’t have to be held in police lockups and preemies won’t be released from the hospital appallingly early. That’s social justice, not some wrong-headed goal of “including everyone inside the tent”.

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