Israel's first-world problems
Israel's much touted economic miracle, given official sanction when the country joined the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 2010, has brought a slew of first-world injuries. Similar to the unfortunate phenomenon of henna-covered millennials sustaining concussions after walking into dumpsters while tweeting on their Samsung Galaxy S8s, the Jewish state is currently being wracked by a variety of strange ailments that are only experienced by privileged individuals in wealthy countries.
First, there's the curious case of that iconic American rock and roll band, Aerosmith. One telltale sign that a country has graduated from "developing" to "developed" status is its citizens' standard of living. Since 2011, per capita growth has increased in Israel's GDP by a cumulative 14.2%, and private consumption has risen by a total of 25.2%.
As a result, Israelis are ready, willing, and able to shell out hundreds, even thousands, of shekels to see the world's greatest artists, live and frequently in Tel Aviv's Park HaYarkon.
However, the downside is that those sclerotic "Bad Boys from Boston," who performed on Wednesday night to a sold out crowd, brought a highly contagious strain of rampant consumerism to the Land of Milk and Honey.
The band landed at Ben Gurion Airport with a bizarre list of demands that included but wasn't limited to organic cashews, washed blueberries, four pink lady apples, non-alcoholic German beer, 12 pillows, gluten-free pretzels, and three small packets of peanut M&M's.
What effect will this mega-dose of affluenza have on the Israeli public? Only time will tell. For now, we bid a fond Aero-vederci, baby! to Steven, Joe, Joey, Tom, and Brad, who honored Israel by kicking off the first of their many farewell tours here.
Yes, the good times in Israel are rolling – so much so that even jailed murderers want to get in on the growing bonhomie. Similar to Aerosmith, imprisoned Palestinian leader and convicted Fatah terrorist Marwan Barghouti has published a list of demands – for ending the hunger strike he kicked off on April 17.
What's interesting isn't so much what Barghouti and his fellow "security prisoners" are asking for in order to improve prison conditions; it's what they're not asking for that's most revealing. The list of demands does not include any requests to stop torturing, raping, or otherwise physically abusing incarcerated Palestinians. Neither are the prisoners claiming that their lawyer-client relationships are being heavily restricted by Israeli prison authorities.
No, dear reader – Barghouti, serving five life terms for multiple murders and an additional 40 years for attempted murder, isn't claiming that Israel is violating international standards for how prisoners are to be treated. Rather, he is attempting to extort the Israeli government into providing the over 6,000 Palestinian terrorists serving time in Israeli prisons with more television channels, books, magazines, and air conditioning. He wants a greater selection of items available for purchase in the canteen, family visits, the restarting of open university studies, and public telephone use. No country in the world, except Israel, would ever be expected to enter into negotiations with such prisoners over such over-the-top demands.
Moreover, if you're a convicted murderer, there are few more hospitable places to spend the rest of your natural-born life than in an Israeli prison. If life is so unbearable for Marwan Barghouti, perhaps he should submit a request to be transferred to Russia's Vladimir Central Prison, where inmates are forced to beat each other, or Kenya's Kamiti Maximum Security Prison, where epidemics of malnutrition, cholera, and ulcers are normal occurrences.
Convicted terrorists bellyaching about not having Showtime, with the aim of smearing Israel in front of the international community, brings to mind a classic Aerosmith song, from 1974's Get your Wings album: "Same Old Song and Dance."
Rock on, Aerosmith!
Barghouti, dream on.
Gidon Ben-Zvi is a Jerusalem-based freelance writer, editor, translator, and contributor.