Sunday, October 01, 2006

The current folk-hero status that Arcadi Gaydamak enjoys among many Israelis is for me one of many signs of Israel's bankruptcy as a democratic, properly functioning state. During the war, when authorities failed in many respects to address the most immediate and basic needs of the country's citizens, Gaydamak set up a tent city in the South and provided thousands of refugees with shelter, food and everything else they needed. He was even nominated for the Israel Prize, and is rumoured to have been approached by Binyamin Nethanyahu who tried to convince him to set up yet another party for Russian immigrants. Arcadi Gaydamak did a wonderful job during the war, but that does not mean that all the controversies and speculations that surround him and the sources of his wealth were suddenly washed away. Much of his fortune appears to have come from shady weapons' deals, and his name is mentioned ( together with that of the son of Francois Mitterand ) in one of the biggest scandals in the 1990s in France, dubbed Angolagate. In France he is wanted for tax evasion and illegal arms dealing, in Israel he is under investigation for money laundering. While Mr Gaydamak appears to do a lot of good work as a Jew and as a citizen of Israel, it is very sad that someone so controversial has to fill the enormous void left by the Jewish state's institutions.

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