Peace Now appears to have arisen from its long slumber that began with its shameful endorsement of the Lebanon War. At any rate, I welcome the roused “lion” back to the field of struggle.
American Friends of Peace Now president, Debra Delee published a scathing attack on Avigdor Lieberman’s entry into the Israeli governing coalition:
There are times when America’s organized Jewish community must assert its collective core values of democracy and equality, civility and civil rights in the face of what is the exact opposite of these principles. Taking such a principled stand is something we owe to ourselves – and to our brothers and sisters in Israel – when the antithesis to our values becomes a senior member of the Israeli cabinet.
I am referring, of course, to Avigdor Lieberman, the ultra-nationalist bigot who has said time and time again that his goal is to rid Israel of its Arab citizens, to drive them out either by redrawing the borders to slice large Arab communities off sovereign Israel or by denying their citizenship.
Delee wisely lets Lieberman’s own words betray his hateful chauvinism:
…The main problem, the obstacle, are [sic] Israel’s Arabs,” Lieberman told a reporter in 2002, asserting that “90 percent of Israel’s Arabs will have to find themselves in the Arab entity that will be established there,” not within Israel. “It may seem brutal and sound brutal, but there is no other solution,” he said. “They have no place here. Let them take their packages and go to hell,” he added, using a Hebrew slang profanity borrowed from his native Russian.
Another famous love note to Israel’s Arab Knesset members was this quoted in Haaretz:
During a Knesset plenum debate, Lieberman said Arab MKs who meet with Hamas leaders “are cooperating with the enemy” and must be tried.
“The Second World War ended with the Nuremberg trials and the execution of the Nazi leadership. Not only them, but also those who collaborated with them. I hope that will also be the fate of the collaborators in this house,” referring to the Knesset.
In Israel, there is too much of the spirit of “oh, boys will be boys” when hate like this is spewed even in august places like the halls of the Knesset. There is a sense of “oh, all those politicians let off steam like that.” But anyone who writes off such homicidal hate should recall that similar such words and actions caused the assassination of a prime minister and countless acts of terror by Israeli settlers against Palestinians. I know it is a cliché, but hate DOES kill. And that is why it should be combated with full force. Those who spew hate like Lieberman should be boycotted and ostracized, rather than welcomed into the halls of power.
Delee next takes aim at American Jewish groups which have kept curiously silent on the Lieberman promotion:
US JEWISH groups, always quick – as we should be – to denounce Arab, European or American politicians who wear their bigotry on their sleeve have now fallen silent. When it comes to an Israeli populist provocateur with a long, documented record of chauvinism and hate, our community has nothing to say.
Applying the lessons of our history, we have assumed a proud role in American society of exposing and condemning intolerance. We pursue anti-Semites and bigots, immigrant-haters and homophobes, white- supremacists, sexists and xenophobes, whether here, in Europe or in the Arab world. But when a man who has called for the execution of his fellow Knesset members – Arab legislators who met with Hamas leaders – becomes the deputy prime minister of Israel, we’d rather look the other way…
Can we stay silent when the Israeli government welcomes an advocate of forcing Arabs out? Where is our outrage? What kind of message does our silence send? That we will acquiesce when an Israeli government actually carries out a forced expulsion? Would that not be a red line for us, either?
There are some rare moments when the Jewish values shared by all of us – whether doves or hawks, conservatives or liberals – oblige us to speak out. Even if at the receiving end of our outrage is a senior Israeli politician. This is such a moment.
Yitzchak Laor, writing in today’s Haaretz correctly compares Lieberman to Meir Kahane (both sat in the Israeli Knesset). It is an apt comparison despite the fact that Kahane and his party was eventually banned from official politics. Would American Jews acquiesce in Meir Kahane taking over the Iran portfolio in an Israeli government as Lieberman has done. Do we feel confident allowing the finger of a racist that much closer to the nuclear trigger?
Where is Aipac and where are the other Jewish defense organizations on this issue? Do they feel it is only their mission to hold Arabs militants and anti-Semites to account when they trespass? Do they believe that Jews or Israelis never trespass? Or that if they do, it’s not their responsibility to call them to account? If so, how do they expect that the world will find credible their claims of balance and integrity if only Arabs are found guilty of hate and never Jews?