|A friend of mine who’s been working for 25 years on a shop floor in an Israeli factory summed up the historic signficance of Amir Peretz’s rise to power in the Labor Party. It doesn’t really matter all that much what happens in the general elections, he told me. By raising the issues of poverty and social injustice, by compelling all politicians — including Sharon — to address those issues, Amir Peretz has aleady won.
A generation ago, Israel was known as a country where social class barely existed. The first person I knew who visited the country back in 1971 came back elated. “There is no bourgeoisie in Israel,” he told me. It was a slight exaggeration — but only a slight one. The much poorer Israel of the 1970s did indeed have social classes — and the social injustice of that time gave rise to a movement of young Sephardic Jews known as the “Black Panthers”. But compared to the Israel of today, the Jewish state of 30 years ago was a workers’ paradise.
Israel has gone from being one of the world’s more just and fair societies to one of the least. The rich are getting richer, and the poor poorer, on a scale unmatched in other countries.