couponing in the holy land

Frugal food shopping for the Anglo Israeli

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George Orwell is alive and living in Eretz Yisrael

Yesterday was a very sad day for Israeli consumers.  Eitan Cabel’s law forbidding Yisrael HaYom to distribute its newspaper for free passed the first reading in the Knesset (it needs three readings to become a law).  Yes, you heard correctly.  A law is soon to be passed that forbids someone to give out a newspaper- it forces them to charge money for the paper!  Why in the world would Eitan Cabel do this?  Because a free paper is unfair competition to the other papers who charge money, of course!

A little background for those of you who don’t read the mainstream Israeli papers. Yisrael HaYom is considered to be a center to right wing paper. Yediot Achronot, the second most widely read paper, is considered to be left wing, Haaretz extremely left wing, Mekor Rishon is for intellectual dati leumi Jews, and Maariv is read by almost nobody.  Yisrael HaYom is financed by Sheldon Adelson, a right-wing American Jew who happens to be the 10th richest person in the world.  He is a strong supporter of Bibi Netanyahu and created Yisrael HaYom as a backlash against the left wing papers (mainly Yediot Achronot) who strongly dislike Bibi, to say it politely.  Remember some of these campaigns?

  

To get back to the point, the free Yisrael HaYom angers the other newspapers because (a)  they have to earn money because they don’t have a financial backer, (b) they hate any thing or any one that disagrees with their political viewpoint, and (c) Yisrael HaYom is the most widely read paper in Israel.  So what do you do if you can’t beat the competition?  In Israel, you don’t join them, you make them illegal!

Sounds Orwellian, does it not?  What happens if this becomes a precedent in other industries- will they ban 1+1 sales? “Free gift with a purchase”? Force all businesses to charge the same price so everyone earns the same amount of money?  Not that, of course- that is called price fixing and it is illegal.  Speaking of illegalities, there is a primary law in Israel (the equivalent of an Act in the US or a Regulation in the EU) which ensures the right of each and every citizen to open and run any business: “כל אזרח או תושב של המדינה זכאי לעסוק בכל עיסוק, מקצוע או משלח יד”.  So if this is true, then it would be reasonable to assume that Eitan Cabel’s law would be thrown out of the knesset.  In fact, a judicial decision was published stating that this law is “illegal” (the Israeli version of “unconstitutional”).  Despite that, it was still brought to the knesset!

For all of you who live in small communities who publish their own paper, never fear- the law only applies to “full-size” newspapers.  You can still give away your local paper, as long as it isn’t full-size, whatever that means.

I am truly shocked and amazed at the fact despite its illegality, our government representatives are still more concerned with political bickering than doing something about the “yoker mechiah”- the high prices of just about everything in Israel.  We can’t even get a newspaper for free!  Not only that, but I am disgusted with the thought that there will be only one political voice in Israel.  Every time I see a pro-Palestinian group quote an article in Haaretz, I cringe.  We all see the bias shown towards Israel in the foreign press- why should we allow it to happen here?

You may be thinking that this is an important issue, but what does this have to do with Couponing in the Holy Land?  Well, as you might have read in other posts, Yisrael HaYom is a good source for coupons, deals, and sales advertisements.  They also have a great section on consumerism.  In addition, I see no reason to pay for a newspaper when I can get one for free- that is being smart financially.

If you also disagree with Eitan Cabel’s proposed law to shut down Yisrael HaYom, there are several things you can do to make your voice heard.

#1: Sign the Atzuma petition.

#2: Go to Eitan Cabel’s Facebook page.  Hear his vitriol against Yisrael HaYom.  Comment on his page.  So far the great majority of comments are against him.

#3: Write to the supporters and opponents of Eitan Cabel’s law to express your opinion.  Most of the opponents, as you could imagine, are Likud members.  Most of the supporters are Yesh Atid members and further left.  A big surprise for me was seeing Dov Lipkin’s name as one of the supporters- as a former American I would expect him to be a strong supporter of free enterprise than he apparently is.

The full list is below, but some of the prominent supporters of the law also include Yair Shamir (Minister of Agriculture), Yael German (Minster of Health), Avigdor Lieberman (Minister of Foreign Affairs), Tzipi Livni (Minister of Justice), Shaul Mofaz, Uzi Landau, Yitzchak Aharonivich (Minister of Public Security), Sofa Landver (Minister of Immigration), Ahmed Tibi, Meir Shitrit, Amir Peretz, and as previously mentioned Dov Lipkin.

Some of the prominent detractors include: Yuval Shteinitz (Minister of Strategic and Intelligence Affairs), Yisrael Katz (Minister of Transportation), Moshe Feiglin, Uri Orbach (Minister for Senior Citizens), Yuli Edelstein (Speaker of the Knesset), Moshe Yaalon (Minister of Defense), Limor Livnat (Minister of Culture and Sport), Meir Porush, and Benyamin Netanyahu.

Yair Lapid, Naftali Bennett, and Shai Piron are not listed.

התומכים בחוק: חברי הכנסת אביגדור ליברמן, אילן גילאון, אראל מרגלית, דוד רותם, יאיר שמיר, יצחק אהרונוביץ’, מיכל בירן, סופה לנדבר, עומר בר-לב, ציפי לבני, רות קלדרון איברהים צרצור, איציק שמולי, בועז טופורובסקי, חמד עמאר, יואל רזבוזוב, יצחק הרצוג, מסעוד גנאים, סתיו שפיר, עפו אגבאריה, קארין אלהרר, שאול מופז, אורלי לוי אבקסיס, איתן כבל, דב ליפמן, חנא סוייד, יעל גרמן, לאון ליטינצקי, מרב מיכאלי, עוזי לנדאו, עפר שלח, רוברט אילטוב, שמעון סולומון, אחמד טיבי, אלכס מילר, דוד צור, טלב אבו עראר, יפעת קריב, מאיר שטרית, נחמן שי, עמיר פרץ, פאינה קירשנבאום ורונן הופמן.

המתנגדים לחוק: חברי הכנסת אופיר אקוניס, גילה גמליאל, יובל שטייניץ, ישראל כץ, משה פייגלין, פנינה תמנו-שטה, אורי אורבך, זאב אלקין, יולי אדלשטיין, לימור לבנת, משה יעלון, ציפי חוטובלי, אורית סטרוק, זבולון כלפה, יוני שטבון, מאיר פרוש, משה מזרחי, שולי מועלם-רפאלי, בנימין נתניהו, זהבה גלאון, ישראל חסון, מרדכי יוגב וניסן סלומינסקי.

נמנעו: חברי הכנסת אברהם מיכאלי, חיליק בר, אורי מקלב, יעקב אשר, באסל גטאס, נסים זאב, יואב בן צור ועמרם מצנע.

As you can see, it is pretty well divided politically.

Hopefully the Knesset will see come to their senses and vote down this incredulous piece of legislation, but in case it doesn’t, I pulled out my copy of 1984 to read this Shabbat so I will be ready for what the future holds in store for us.

“It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.”
George Orwell, 1984

Sources: Mako and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

 

 

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Encouraging competition to lower prices- Part 2

In my previous post, A real look at the price of food in Israel, I discussed the relatively high prices for food and other commodities in Israel as compared to OECD countries.  The information presented in the report was used as the foundation for creating a new law entitled Promoting Competition in the Food Industry-2013 which is still a proposal.  The instigation for this new legislation was the  Kedmi Report on the Food Industry of 2012 which outlined several methods to lower prices, including lowering import taxes, preventing suppliers from purchasing retail space and stronger enforcement of consumer protection laws.  Since that report a new government was elected and therefore some of the recommendations did not make it to the proposed law, such as lowering import taxes and strengthening the Consumer Protection Agency.  The three main areas the new law deals with are: (1) Regularizing the activities between supplier and retailer, (2) Strengthening competition in certain geographic areas and (3) Strengthening price transparency.

According to the vaadah there are four avenues that can be taken to lower food prices:

  1. Limiting market volume from the manufacturing end (a monopoly in one sub-industry can not be in other sub-industries as well) in addition to the retail end (limiting the market on a national level and a regional level).
  2. Active encouragement of the growth of small and medium-sized businesses.
  3. Encouraging the activity of private brands in the market volume through subsidies, research comparing the quality of different brands and advertising the results of the research.
  4. Creation of a body that will be responsible for collecting information, checking that the promotion of new legislation is progressing, following the lowering of prices and publishing an annual report of its findings.

When this law starts moving forward I will let you know.  So far it passed the first reading and the last meeting of vaadat ksafim was the end of December.

What do you think?  How do we encourage competition and lower prices?

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