It might be difficult for the uninitiated observer to accept the fact that a racist, crypto-fascist politician is on his way to becoming the second most important figure in the Israeli political arena. It is, therefore, worth re-establishing the factual basis of the charge that we are dealing with the truly ugly face of racism, pure and unadulterated. Avigdor Lieberman is on his way to becoming the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Netanyahu’s new government.
It is clear that the person who shouts “fire” in a crowded theatre cannot claim the privilege of free speech and is responsible for the results of his action. Compare this with the prominent political figure, Avigdor Lieberman, who in Israel centered his recent electoral campaign on the slogan: No citizenship without loyalty.
The slogan, which is only one of the many items in Lieberman’s racist arsenal, is a clear provocation directed against Israel’s Arab population which comprises one fifth of Israeli citizens. Lieberman asserts that Israeli Arab citizens must be assumed to be insufficiently loyal to the state since they refuse, naturally enough, to support Israeli consensual policies on major political issues. Lieberman’s justification of his plan is also revealing. The loyalty oath is not racist, he argues, because it will be administered to all Israeli citizens. But only those who do not pass the test will have their citizenship revoked.
It should be clear to any objective observer that Lieberman’s program is a declaration of war against Israel’s Palestinian minority which comprises a fifth of the population. In our society, which lives on from one war to the next, in a sickening atmosphere of seething hatred and hostility one can, it has been proven, win many votes by calling for the disenfranchisement of 1.5 million Israeli Palestinians. It should be clear that what comes after disenfranchisement is ethnic cleansing…
Avigdor Lieberman, as a senior partner in the new cabinet, is Netanyahu’s certain choice for Minister of Foreign Affairs. Lieberman, who happens to be officially a prime candidate for indictment in pending corruption cases, also gets to choose the Minister of Police and the Minster of Justice. The media, basing itself on the “verdict” of the election results is warming up to the idea that Lieberman is just another legitimate politician in the local arena. However, enlightened public opinion, here and abroad will not accept the fact that a racist, neo-fascist politician has Israel’s government in his pocket. No amount of votes and mandates can legitimize racism and chauvinism.
Maybe Ms. Clinton Did Not Notice
Hillary Clinton did try and restore a bit of enthusiasm for peace prospects in the region during her recent trip to the region. She said that “no time should be wasted” and that “a new and creative approach is necessary.”(Ha’aretz, March 4, 2008). The difficulty is that we have been down this path before and know something about its twists and turns. We have become a bit immunized to statements like this: “It is our assessment that eventually the inevitability of working towards a two-state solution is inescapable.” (ibid)
Sticking strictly to protocol, Ms. Clinton made it very clear that the United States would not conceive of interfering in the ongoing negotiations to form the Israeli coalition. She and Netanyahu came out of their meeting, both smiling from ear to ear. As long as Bibi is smiling, one can be sure that no progress is being made on the Palestinian issue. Moreover, it seems that the two were kindred souls regarding the danger from Teheran. Clinton was almost apologetic to the present and future leaders of the Israel, stressing that the US was proceeding with further sanctions against Teheran to limit the range of Iranian missiles. While Clinton was being nice to the Israeli leadership, the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, came up with a really profound suggestion – to eliminate all nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction from the ME. Ms. Clinton might ponder the fact that the “inevitability” of discussing such a ban is also “inescapable.”
Clinton proved that she knows how to tread softly where Israeli interests are involved. She reached the area after Egyptian diplomacy had just overcome serious difficulties in hammering out a deal between Israel and Egypt on the border crossing issue, only to see the agreement sabotaged by Olmert who decided to surprise everyone including his own people by an ultimatum to include the prisoner swap as part of the border crossings agreement. Olmert, once again was trying to convince everyone that Hamas was on the verge of collapse, but managed to come out of another confrontation with empty hands. Clinton, with a minimum of responsibility, was clearly obligated, out of loyalty to the Egyptians who were carrying the ball for them to calm Olmert down. Instead she went back to the “Israel has the right to defend itself” mantra when the agreement scuttled by Olmert was the real cause for renewed tensions.
Instead of making an effort to save the border crossing agreement – the most effective way to stop the rockets, Clinton tried to expand the list of permitted items on the humanitarian supply. Olmert and Co. were not worried by the visit. They kept up with house demolitions in East Jerusalem and admitted the existence of immediate plans for settlement expansion. Clinton said that this was “unhelpful.”
But regarding Palestinians, where efforts are going on to restore a unity government, Clinton threw protocol to the wind and announced her opposition to the future participation of Hamas in a reconstituted Palestinian government. If this is indeed the US position it is worse than that of the previous Bush administration. A compromise had been worked out whereby Hamas, without changing its own ideological reservations, would agree to participate in a Palestinian government which would proceed on the basis of previous commitments. It may be helpful if she consults George Mitchell who knows all the fine points on this.
It should be appreciated that the Obama administration is conducting some sort of overall review of US foreign policy. But it is unnecessary, even completely “unhelpful” to conduct a visit to Israel according to the old Bush scenario and to signal a neurotic fear of offending Israel’s anti-peace coalitions. One thing is true about Israeli leaders. They have a sixth sense of when Washington is just not serious.
REUVEN KAMINER, a resident of Jerusalem who has been an Israeli citizen since he emigrated from the United States to Israel in 1951. He is a founder of the New Israeli Left, a member of the Democratic Front for Peace & Equality (one of the “Arab Parties” seated in the Knesset), a prolific author, activist and long time proponent of the Two-State Solution. He was a former rector at Bethlehem University.