Tel Aviv Human Torch blames Netanyahu and his ministers, calls them "scum"
TWO VERSIONS of Moshe Silman's letter. Pro-Netanyahu paper edited out passage where he blamed the State of Israel and the prime minister.
A 57-year old man is in a critical condition in Israel's Tel Hashomer hospital after setting fire to himself at the end of a march through central Tel Aviv demanding social justice. About 10,000 people had taken part in the march, and were about to disperse in Kaplan Street, when former haulier Moshe Silman distributed several copies of a typed letter recounting his plight, his tussles with officialdom, and his concerns about health and homelessness.
Then he squatted down, poured petrol over his clothes, and set himself alight. Horrified bystanders managed to extinguish the flames before an ambulance arrived and rushed the man to nearby Ichilov Hospital. He was later moved to the larger Tel Hashomer Hospital because of the seriousness of his burns.
He is currently in critical condition in the intensive care unit at Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, with grade two and three burns on 94 percent of his body. If he survives he is expected to remain in hospital for a long period of time.
Silman, whose father was a Holocaust survivor, was born in Israel. He served in the army, and was a reservist, did various jobs, and for a time ran his own haulage business till it ran into debt, and he got into difficulty with the authorities. After this he became a taxi driver, but continued to get worse off, and in bad health. He had threatened to set himself on fire before. Housing officials reportedly told him "Just don't do it in our offices"
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told a meeting of Likud ministers today that Silman's self-immolation was "a great and personal tragedy," and that he was ordering inquiries. "I wish Moshe a complete recovery. I asked the Welfare and Social Services Minister and the Housing Minister to look into the issue."
Netanyahu's concern may be understandable, rather than appreciated. In his letter, Silman makes clear that he was protesting not just over his own treatment, but for others like him. He also declares clearly that he blames the State, the government, and Netanyahu. The letter details his financial, housing and health difficulties, along with his anger at the state “for the humiliation that disenfranchised citizens go through day in and day out, that take from the poor and give to the rich.”
The pro-government free newspaper Yisrael Hayom, financed by an American businessman, deleted the attack on Netanyahu from the version of the letter it published. The liberal daily Ha'aretz on the other hand drew comparisons between Moshe Silman's desperate act and that of the young Tunisian Mohamed Bouazizi, who died after setting fire to himself in December 2010, and ignited revolt in Tunisia and the 'Arab Spring'.
"The State of Israel has stolen from me and robbed me, left me with nothing
and the Tel Aviv District Court blocked me from getting justice. — registrar at the Tel Aviv District court, broke the law, disrupted legal proceedings, out of condescension.
It won’t even assist me with my rental fees.
Two committees from the Ministry of Housing have rejected me, despite the fact that I have undergone a stroke and was granted 100% work disability. Ask the manager of Amidar, in Hafia, on Hanevi’im Street.
I blame the State of Israel.
I blame Bibi Netanyahu and [Minister of Finance] Yuval Steinitz, both scum, for the humiliation that disenfranchised citizens go through day in and day out, that take from the poor and give to the rich, and to public servants those that serve the State of Israel The National Health Insurance, especially —, the manager of their operations, and the manager of their claims department, —, on Lincoln Street in Tel Aviv, who illegally seized my work equipment for my truck.
The Haifa National Insurance Institute branch, who abused me for a year until I was granted disability. That I pay NIS 2300 per month in Health Insurance taxes and even more for my medicine I have no money for medicine or rent. I can’t make the money after I have paid my millions in taxes I did the army, and until age 46 I did reserve duty. I refuse to be homeless, this is why I am protesting Against all the injustices done to me by the State, me and others like me.
As put together by reporters, Moshe Silman's story illustrates how easy it is to fall from respectable middle class to the ranks of the poor and dispossessed, and what little respect the latter are given by society and the state. Here's the story taken from Ha'aretz .
Ten years ago he was running a small haulage firm, Mika Transports which seems have earned a good reputation for service and reliability from its customers. But his business was hit by the Second Intifada, and he had to move to smaller premises. He did not receive official debt notices because they were sent to his old address. Then on October 8, 2002, National Insurance Institute bailiffs seized one of his four trucks, for a debt of NIS 15,000. Silman paid a third of the debt in order to reclaim his truck, but then he was asked to pay a further NIS 1,200 to cover towing expenses.
Silman could not reclaim the truck due to a strike at the National Insurance Institute, and says that it led to the collapse of his business. Six years later, he decided to sue the institute, and submitted a claim for damages amounting to NIS 8 million to the Tel Aviv District court, citing the seizure of the truck. Due to his financial situation he requested an exemption from the toll, but his request was rejected, and the case was never heard in court.In 2005, after his business collapsed, he was forced to evacuate his apartment.He began working as a taxi driver, but could not make ends meet. In an affidavit supported by documents, submitted with his damages claim against the institute, Silman wrote that during 2007 he earned NIS 4,150, and in the first third of 2008 – NIS 5,525. As his financial situation deteriorated, his bank account was seized, and all his savings and insurance benefits were either seized or used to pay his debts, estimated at hundreds of thousands of shekels. He was left only with his old Volkswagen Polo that he used as a taxi driver.
Silman's mother, a guarantor to his debts, was also left without savings. In order to save her apartment, she legally transferred it to her daughters, free of charge. The court registrar who rejected Silman's plea to be exempt from the toll on his damage claims suit wrote: "Whoever uses this route of property smuggling cannot be heard afterwards saying that he has no financial possibility of paying the toll."
In a Facebook post last March, Silman urged his friends to organize protests against the National Insurance Institute: "I think that considering the upcoming appointment of a new general director of the NII, which is actually the Anti-Social National Insurance Institute, which has throughout the years caused the most cases of injustice by any governmental service to the weakest segments of society – and continues to do so daily – we should organize protests in front of NII offices, [exposing it] as an anti-social organization, leading the wrongdoers, conducting itself as one of the worst private insurance businesses, and not as a national social insurance [service]."
Silman's un-accepted lawsuit was accompanied by testimonials from his old customers. Guy Hirsch, director of the orders' center in CMS, wrote of Silman: "Throughout the years we have never encountered any problems with the transporter, on the contrary, the services he provided were always impeccable as far as credibility, punctuality, high standards and representing our company in a respectable way vis-à-vis our clients."
Two years ago Salman's mother passed away. Her apartment was seized, prompting her daughters to go to court, claiming that they deserved to receive her inheritance. Following the rejection of Silman's appeal, and after his mother's death, his health faltered, and he suffered a stroke. Silman moved to Haifa, living on a NIS 2,300 monthly disability pension. Still, the National Insurance Institute decided to categorize him as losing only 50 percent of his working ability. His sisters helped and fed him. His appeals to be entitled to public housing were rejected again and again. When he was hospitalized, he told Rabbi Idit Lev, who helped him in Haifa, that his condition was "excellent because he was hospitalized and received three meals a day." Last December his pension period ended, and he began to receive it again only in May, after a long struggle. His friends say he tried to find a job, but his driving permit was revoked by a court due to his health.
When the social protests began, a year ago, Silman participated in all the demonstrations, and was active in Tel Aviv. Last night, after his action, his friends realized that he had gone to the Tel Aviv demonstration, and not to the Haifa demo, as expected. A friend had allowed him recently to live in a one-room apartment free of charge, but Silman was due to evacuate it next week. He told his Haifa friends often that he has no intention of living on the streets.
Last April he published another Facebook post: "I want to tell you what I'm going through now. This morning I lost my balance, but fortunately fell on the bed and wasn't hurt. At Rambam Medical Center, I underwent two CT scans, which negated the possibility of a stroke. Dr. Wasserman says that it was possibly my ear and wanted to send me home. She said they don't want to treat me and I should be treated at the clinic. But I'm afraid to go home, I live alone, and I'm afraid to go home. They insist on releasing me from the hospital without medical treatment, they also threaten to call the police, and instead of receiving medical treatment I could end up in jail. So long."
MANY of us in Britain may be reminded not only of what happened in Tunisia but of the Birmingham man who set fire to himself outside the Job Centre in Selly Oak after a row over benefits.
Apparently that is not the only issue for comparisons. After friends and fellow campaigners had waited outside Tel Hashomer hospital for news, Communist Party Knesset member Dov Kheinin observed:
"Moses Silman with burns to 92 per cent of his body is not hospitalised at the burns unit at Tel Hashomer Hospital. There's no room. He'd remains in the general intensive care ward until one of the eight bed in the burns unit becomes available as currently they are all occupied. This is what cuts to the health system look like.
Herein is the essence of Israel's situation. And they even talk about a war against Iran".
Meanwhile in Tunisia
The mother of Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian street vendor whose self-immolation touched off a season of Arab uprisings, has been remanded into custody for insulting an official.
The justice ministry said on Saturday that Manoubia Bouazizi, 60, was arrested a day earlier after an altercation with a judge in a court in her hometown of Sidi Bouzid.
Manoubia Bouazizi had reportedly been trying to register for government benefits provided to the families of those who died in the revolution.
She was transferred to a detention centre in nearby Gafsa and is due to appear before a magistrate on Monday, charged with insulting an official while he was performing his duties, ministry spokesman Mondher Bedhiafi told the AFP news agency.
The uprising in Tunisia was sparked in December 2010 when Mohamed Bouazizi, a 26-year-old produce vendor, died after setting himself on fire in protest against his humiliation and extortion at the hands of police and government officials.
On Friday, his brother, Salem Bouazizi, said his mother argued with a clerk of the court, not the judge, who embarrassed her and pushed her towards the exit, at which point the two exchanged insults.
"My mother was humiliated. The authorities must learn to respect people. We're not going to let this go," Salem Bouazizi told AFP.
He said his mother had been at the courthouse to sign documents that would allow her to receive government compensation awarded to "martyrs of the revolution."
There have been considerable tensions in Sidi Bouzid in the aftermath of the uprising over the international fame of the Bouazizi family.
Thanks are due to FB friend Sol Salbe for keeping us posted on the news from Israel, and drawing attention to the discrepancy between what Moshe Silman wrote and Yisrael Hayom's edited version.