Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Holyland in Our Own Backyard?


Massive Building Projects in Beit Shemesh

The Corrupt Holyland Building Development 
The dramatic sentencing of Ehud Olmert to 6 years imprisonment for bribery, should open our eyes to the possibility of corruption in our own back yards.

Olmert's line of appeal to the Supreme Court is going to be:

1. Ehud Olmert himself didn't receive any bribes - at worst, his brother Yossi did.
2. There is no concrete evidence that even his brother received a bribe.

This defence is unlikely to be accepted, because what Olmert is describing is exactly how a sophisticated operator would take a bribe.

Olmert, a seasoned lawyer and savvy politician, would not have left an obvious paper trail between the Holyland building permits and his personal bank account.

Instead, according to the findings of the court, the contractors paid his (heavily indebted) brother, Yossi, and they didn't even leave a paper trail for that transaction.

The bribery of officials is an ancient art, which has only gotten more sophisticated over the centuries.

Any major contract is vulnerable to the commercial interests using corruption to influence buying decisions.
Bribery is still a part of the business operating culture in under-developed economies. The defence industry in particular, around the world, has regularly used bribery to win contracts.

In Israel, corruption is typically in the field of construction, where many millions of shekels in profitable business can be entrusted into the hands of typically underpaid and under-appreciated officials and middlemen ("askanim").

Only a small proportion of corrupt deals are exposed, because all the parties involved are united by their vulnerability to exposure & prosecution, and so form an impenetrable wall of silence, complicity and cover-up to any enquiring eyes.

The break-through in the Olmert case was the State Witness, Shmuel Duchner.

However, there are common indicators of corruption which should set off warning signals.

1. Overspending: Officials and community askanim who have assets or lifestyle beyond their reasonable legitimate means.
eg. A guy on a government salary who seems to have plenty of cash, cars, homes, vacations...

2. Favouritism: Buildings which get accelerated permits or special treatment. Subcontractors who have preferred or sole source status, for no apparent reason.

3. Cash: In the days of computerised banking, credit cards, et al - the old fashioned cash is still as untraceable as ever.
Watch out for someone insisting that even kosher-looking payments be made in cash without immediate formal tax-receipts. And, on the other hand, legitimate services/products which are paid for with unusually large amounts of cash.

4. Favours: A favour is a service which hasn't yet been paid for. Mutual back-scratching, favour trading, jobs-for-the-boys are all common forms of almost-untraceable corruption.

In short, corruption is common in Israel, although one can spend a lifetime here without ever noticing it.

It's time for all of us to open our eyes.

11 comments:

  1. Baruch Gitlin14 May 2014 10:04

    Implying the existence of corruption in Beit Shemesh based on the Olmert conviction, without presenting any facts or evidence whatsoever, is very unfortunate in that it undermines the credibility of this important forum when it deals with other important issues. It is also utterly unfair.

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    1. The police rely mainly on the public to step forward with information.
      This article is intended to give readers a few indicators of where corruption may be. How to spot 'smoke', if you like, that can help the police identify a possible 'fire'. I myself have seen plenty of such smoke, here in Beit Shemesh, Once you open your eyes to the possibility, Baruch, you can see it too.

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    2. Baruch Gitlin14 May 2014 14:05

      By juxtaposing the Beit Shemesh building project with Holyland, you're strongly implying the existence of corruption in Beit Shemesh in an article that makes no factual statement whatsoever to support that implication. If you can't see why that's wrong, I think it's your eyes that need to be opened.

      I wouldn't bother to comment about this at all, but I hate to see this kind of thing on your blog because I believe it is irresponsible and significantly undercuts your credibility with respect to the child abuse issue on which you've done such a brave and commendable job of providing support and intervention and raising public awareness.

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    3. Hi Baruch - many thanks for the feedback.
      It is interesting that you drew the parallel with child abuse.
      Indeed, when I first latched onto the problem of child abuse in our community, and was accused of making up stories, exaggerating and trouble-making, etc. I was convinced that child abuse was happening, right under our noses, just that people were not reporting it (for a myriad of reasons).
      The first step towards changing the status quo was to educate the public; better educated, it was just a matter of time before people started coming forward to tell their horrific stories and obtain the help they needed. Today, Magen receives reports of around 10 NEW cases of child EACH MONTH - with over 100 active cases...
      I envisage a similar process with addressing corruption. First, raise awareness, how to spot red flags, what to do about it, etc.
      Then the cases will surely come forwards.
      The corruption, like the child abuse, is there - but it's currently a largely hidden phenomenon.

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  2. people also need to fight against the corruption that goes on in daily life. how many times are people asked to pay in cash and get a better price? be it for the plumber, alternative health care, wig seller, etc. doing this of course means be willing to fork out more money.

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  3. Whether or not there is corruption here in Beit Shemesh, without facts one way or the other - accusations do nothing other than to weaken any argument. However, I do take up issue on this particular post, with the photo used. The arched landmark building of Holyland - to be juxtaposed with the arched landmark building here is Ramat Gimmel, is unfair to say the least, if not slanderous! As A RESIDENT of that same building I take deep offence to your use of such imagery! If you have something to say about that building - then say so! If not, your use of the picture does nothing more than make you no different to all the other cheap (in the non-monetary sense of the word) media outlets that exist today! Please change it!

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    1. Anonymous - welcome to RBS!

      The photo of the building you live in in RBS, which looks rather like the Holyland is illustrative, not accusatory.

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    2. Actually, Anonymous, you may wish to check the brief history of your building in RBS Gimmel.
      Try "Tofes 4"?

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  4. Anyone who's starting point is that 'corruption in Beit Shemesh?!! Mah Pitom!!" has a VERY short memory.
    The voting scam?

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    1. Baruch Gitlin15 May 2014 07:15

      Ah, because people were caught stealing votes, it's OK to assume that every housing project in Beit Shemesh is the result of bribary, and that the government is riddled with corruption from top to bottom, whether or not there's any evidence. Now I get it, that's the piece I was missing in the original post.

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    2. "every housing project in Beit Shemesh is the result of bribary, and that the government is riddled with corruption from top to bottom, whether or not there's any evidence."

      Perhaps you read a different article? David's article simply doesn't say this.

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