Cutting through the bullshit.

Saturday, 27 October 2007

The prettiest sight

As Jimmy Stewart observed in Philadelphia story, ‘The prettiest sight in this fine pretty world is the privileged class enjoying its privileges.’

The best that medical science has to offer, tax breaks, government handouts and bailouts, first class travel…are all luxuries we know the rich enjoy. But surely a natural disaster sinks all boats? Apparently not, writes Kimi Yoshino in the LA Times. While ‘Firefighters across the region have complained this week that they simply did not have enough trucks, helicopters and airplanes.’

AIG's [American International Group Inc.] Wildfire Protection Unit, part of its Private Client Group, is offered only to homeowners in California's most affluent ZIP Codes -- including Malibu, Beverly Hills, Newport Beach and Menlo Park -- and a dozen Colorado resort communities. It covers about 2,000 policyholders, who pay premiums of at least $10,000 a year and own homes with a value of at least $1 million.

[Certified firefighter, Bryce] Carrier and his 15 crew mates sprayed retardant on and around more than 160 homes in Malibu, Lake Arrowhead and the hardest-hit areas of Orange and San Diego counties this week.

Yoshino quotes Naomi Klein,

"What we have is a dangerous confluence of events: underfunded states, increasingly inefficient disaster response, a loss of faith in the public sphere . . . and a growing part of the economy that sees disaster as a promising new market," said Naomi Klein, whose new book, "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism," looks at, among other things, the response to Hurricane Katrina.

Klein said AIG offers a glimpse into the future of what she calls "disaster apartheid," in which the affluent are better equipped for emergencies.

Nor is it just from such ‘natural’ disasters as the bushfires raging through Southern California that the rich are better protected. In this week’s Forward, Rebecca Spence celebrates the enterprise of 31 year old Beverly Hills born oleh Aaron Cohen, founder of IMS (Israeli Military Specialists) Security.

Hiring Israelis culled exclusively from the Jewish state’s top four special operations units, Cohen oversees the only private security firm specializing in bringing Israeli-style protection to the upper reaches of stardom. Guarding the likes of Brad Pitt, Jackie Chan and Eva Longoria, to name but a few, Cohen — with a minimum retainer fee in the range of $20,000 and a day’s work costing up to $1,000 — has applied the principles he learned detaining terrorists to keeping aggressive paparazzi and the occasional celebrity stalker at bay.

Cohen earned his spurs in ‘an elite Israeli commando unit responsible for capturing, and sometimes killing, Palestinian militants in the West Bank’.

His story, soon to be told in a forthcoming memoir co-authored by Douglas Century (a former contributor to the Forward), is one that would warm any Zionist heart. At 18, Cohen made aliyah and subsequently became the only American to finagle his way into the ranks of an elite military unit — a feat, even for those born in Israel. As a member of Duvdevan, created in the wake of the first intifada, Cohen was among those who disguised themselves as Arabs to infiltrate the West Bank. In 1999, after returning to Los Angeles, Cohen was hired as a bodyguard and administered security at the home of A-lister Pitt, who was fending off a stalker.

The following year, sensing a demand for his expertise, Cohen founded IMS Security. In order to recruit his employees, he returned to Israel, where he still owns a condominium in the affluent Tel Aviv suburb Herzliya. Cohen tacked up a note in the lunchroom of his unit, offering high-paying jobs in L.A. to anyone who had finished his service. Cohen now employs a staff of 22, and he rotates in new Israelis every one-and-a-half to two years. It is, he said, a way of returning the favor to those who took him in as one of their own and gave him the experience of being a top Israeli fighter.

In the years since the attacks of September 11, 2001, Cohen has also built a business training American law-enforcement and military units in Israeli counter-terrorism techniques. His client roster includes the Houston Metro SWAT team, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and the Department of Homeland Security’s Los Angeles office. He has also become a pundit, dispensing security acumen on Fox News and Court TV, among other networks.

Wealthy celebrities need the best protection money can buy, because after all, Cohen explains, ‘Stalking is a form of terror’.

Veterans of Duvdevan and other elite forces may find lucrative employment with Cohen’s outfit, but for the ordinary reservist grunts like Yariv Oppenheimer detaining, harassing, and humiliating Palestinians at West Bank checkpoints, General Secretary of Peace Now is good enough.

Two Machsom Watch activists report seeing Oppenheimer doing his military reserve duty at a checkpoint inside the occupied territories, in an area that is slowly being ethnically cleansed of its indigenous population, mainly through the use of checkpoints, which forbid almost any type of transportation or access between the main Palestinian cities of the West Bank and the Jordan Valley.

Oppenheimer, together with the other soldiers at the checkpoint, also refused a Palestinian family with seven children who were traveling to see their relatives in a nearby village to go through the checkpoint. The fact that this was the Muslim holiday Eid al-Fiter that ends the month of Ramadan, didn’t seem to soften the Peace Now soldier.

[Hat tip to Hulkegaard, in a comment on Jews sans frontières.]


  1. It's amusing to see the elites rushing to defend themselves against Naomi Klein's new book. She's obviously got under the skin of a few people.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Happy. I hope the elites are very uncomfortable indeed with Naomi Klein creeping around under their skin!