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Mr. Lieberman Comes to Washington

When far-right leader Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beiteinu party joined the Israeli government, pro-peace Israelis expressed outrage. The Brookings Institution extended an invitation.

Brookings’ Saban Center for Middle East Policy is holding the third annual Saban Forum in Washington, D.C. from December 8 through the 10th. This year’s forum is entitled “America and Israel: Confronting a Middle East in Turmoil” ­ “turmoil,” meaning pissed off Arabs, of course.

In his new book Palestine Peace Not Apartheid, Jimmy Carter charges that we lack a national discussion about our nation’s support for Israel. This invitation proves his point, as does the entire forum ­ which doesn’t think any Arabs, not even the empire butt-kissers, need be present. For some reason, they invited Supreme Court justice Stephen Breyer, but not a single Arab.

An Arab-less discussion of the Middle East fits comfortably with one prominent guest’s vision of the holy land. Lieberman is one of Israel’s leading advocates of forcibly removing masses of Palestinians in order to alter the country’s demographic outlay permanently. This has a more common name: ethnic cleansing.

A constant advocate for escalation and extremity, Lieberman’s repulsive ideas are more roundly condemned in Israel than they are here. When Lieberman joined the government, one cabinet minister, Ophir Pines-Paz, called him a “racist” and resigned in protest.

In 2002, the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth quoted with dismay one of Lieberman’s many disgusting proposals. If the Palestinians did not comply with Israeli dictates, he suggested, the occupying forces should “bomb all the commercial centers… gas stations… [and] banks.”

Lieberman’s ghastly plan for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel was to drown them in the Dead Sea. He offered to provide the buses to transport them.

In May, 2004, he said that 90 percent of Israel’s 1.2 million Palestinian citizens would “have to find a new Arab entity” beyond Israel’s borders. Lieberman, an immigrant from Russia, claimed the Palestinian citizens of Israel “have no place here.” Russians do, of course. This newcomer has the nerve to tell Palestinians with ancient lineage to “take their bundles and get lost.”

More recently, he called for the execution of Arab Knesset members who meet with the Palestinian Authority.

Despite the vitriol of this hatemonger, the Brookings Institution is proudly hosting the former nightclub bouncer on his upcoming trip to Washington. Officials at the Institution said they were “honored” to host Lieberman’s first address abroad since joining the government.

The sober-minded Christian Science Monitor ran a headline that would raise serious questions if Brookings were serious about Middle East policy. “Israeli cabinet minister calls for Arab-free Israel,” it read. Israeli newspaper Haaretz editorialized that Lieberman is “the most unrestrained and irresponsible man around for this job.” But, hey, he’s in the can’t-do-wrong Israeli government now, so let’s give him a forum in Washington, DC.

When Lieberman speaks on December 8, he will share the stage with Senator Hillary Clinton, as well as Bill Clinton. Like every other Democrat, they failed to utter one critical word about Lieberman’s new role in the government ­ even though he was a rabid opponent of the Oslo peace process.

Hillary Clinton’s willingness to mingle with Israel’s far right is nothing new. In 2002, she met with Benny Elon of the Moledet party, which openly called for the forcible transfer of Palestinians.

Many Democrats objected to the electoral success of Hamas in the barely functioning Palestinian Authority. They considered it a threat to peace. Senator Clinton was “deeply troubled” by the Palestinian elections. Instead of consistency, she openly embraces this fanatical ideologue who calls for driving the Palestinians into the sea.

This is not to suggest the Republicans have been honest brokers. President Bush is the most pro-Israeli American leader ever. The bipartisanship of support for Israel is reflected in the Institution’s invitation to Henry Kissinger to moderate the talk.

Kissinger would be an appropriate moderator because he is moderate compared to Lieberman. He argued for “transfer” publicly in 2004. In exchange for “some 5 to 8 percent” of the West Bank, “Israel would transfer some of its current territory to the Palestinian state.” To “ease the demographic problem” of too many Arabs in Israel, he advised stripping them of citizenship regardless of their wishes.

Li/eberman is welcomed by members of America’s so-called pro-civil rights, pro-minority party and their institutions. The hypocrisy of the Democrats ­ who are lined up against ethnic cleaning in Darfur, but support it in Palestine ­ is revolting.

This all strengthens President Carter’s point that the country lacks much-needed debate on America’s role in Israel-Palestine. You would think that the billions of dollars of tax aid American hands to Israel would merit some disagreement at the elite-level. In an interview with CBS, he explained the void of sensibility: the “news media are acquiescent, members of the Congress are acquiescent” while “the rest of the world debates this intensely, particularly in Israel.”

American policymakers show reverence to Mandela and King, yet back an Apartheid state that oppresses and dispossess people based on nothing more than ethno-religious difference while claiming to be a democracy.

Contact the Brookings Institution: 202-797-6105 | communications@brookings.edu

Contact the Saban Center: 202-797-6462 | saban@brookings.edu

WILL YOUMANS is a Washington DC-based writer for the Arab-American News.