This is a follow up on a post I wrote a few days ago based on a Gush Shalom posting. It noted that Israeli deputy prime minister Avigdor Lieberman charged on Israeli TV that the Israeli peace group, Yesh Gvul, and a lawyer representing it in bringing war crimes charges against Israelis officers, were “kapos.”
As I wrote then, Lieberman is known for shooting his mouth off in such settings. And while this is odious stuff it’s far from the first time that he’s said such things. Hard to imagine how such a brutish thug can get to be a senior cabinet minister.
Adam Keller provided a link to the Google Video for the Hebrew interview which I’ve translated (roughly–leaving out some of the back and forth Crossfire-type flame-throwing between Lieberman and the interviewer, Geula Even) below:
Lieberman: I think anyone who examines this will find there is a small group, all of which it engages in is incitement, an attempt to incite all of the Israeli people against another group of people. This same group called Yesh Gvul, which brought a charge in London against a chief of staff, two chiefs of staff, Dan Halutz and ‘Boogie’ Yaalon…The very same Daniel Machover…who brought a charge against a general of the State of Israel, Doron Almog, in London. The same Machover who–when it became clear that they were flying Almog back to Israel–brought a legal complaint against the [Israeli] ambassador and the ambassadorial staff because they brought Almog back [to Israel].
We have a small group on the left looking for something over which to incite…the same group which announced a boycott against those artists celebrating Gush Etzion’s 40th anniversary…
There simply can’t be a situation in which people try to break the national consensus. Gush Etzion is an absolute consensus created and supported by governments of Mapai and Mapam who were not right-wing extremists…
It is time to uproot this group that attempts to incite the State of Israel at every chance. It’s time to compare this group to those kapos who served in the concentration camps.
Even: No, No.
L: From my perspective these people are no less than…
Even: You are comparing this lawyer in London to a kapo?
L: This Israeli who lodges a charge against an Israeli general is exactly the same as a kapo and nothing less.
Even: Will you regret this? This is incredible what you say.
L: This is entirely credible and no less and this is the way we should treat these people.
Even: In memory of the Holocaust, don’t you think…Do you think there is a place for such a comparison?
L: There IS a place for such a comparison. It is imperative to treat these people in precisely this way.
Some background is in order. Yesh Gvul and several Israel human rights lawyers (including Daniel Machover mentioned above) have lodged legal complaints in Israel and England against Israeli generals responsible for attacks against Palestinians which murdered civilians. Lieberman refers to an incident in which Gen. Doron Almog flew to England to attend a Jewish communal event only to be confronted with a legal charge against him by a Palestinian group (and supported by Yesh Gvul). The Israeli embassy arranged for Almog to be spirited out of the country and back to Israel in order to avoid arrest. To this day, Almog cannot return to England for fear of being charged.
Lieberman is angry because Gush Shalom announced a boycott of the Israeli musicians who performed at the concerts celebrating Gush Etzion’s 40th anniversary. The Jerusalem Post reports:
…Avigdor Lieberman caused a political storm on Tuesday when he declared the Left responsible for all the lives lost in the Arab-Israeli conflict and for everything wrong with the country.
Lieberman, speaking to Army Radio, was responding to calls by the left-wing group Gush Shalom to boycott musicians who performed at a Sunday event commemorating 40 years since the resettlement of Gush Etzion in the West Bank.
“All our troubles, all our problems, all our victims are because of those people,” Lieberman said, referring to the Left. “I have no complaints against the Arabs or against the world. My claims are aimed against those in the Israeli Left, who are trying to break us from within at any cost and to breach every consensus.”
Lieberman himself lives in Nokdim, part of Gush Etzion.
I liken Lieberman’s performances to Ann Coulter’s right-wing sturm und drang theater. It seems like Lieberman knows his audience wants red meat and he gives them the juiciest pieces he can think of using the foulest smears possible. This is what the extreme nationalist right wants to hear and he gives it to them in spades.
Gush Shalom, which created the Gush Etzion boycott and is included in the “kapo” comment, is considering whether to bring defamation charges against Lieberman since in Israel it is a crime to falsely charge someone with being a kapo or Nazi. They are trying to weigh whether suing him will not bring him greater notoriety and support among the wingnut right. I’ve encouraged them to sue him since I think such vile bullying hate must be confronted. Otherwise it only becomes worse when the right is emboldened. This is precisely what happened in the case of Rabin’s assassination when charges like this flew fast and furious against Rabin picturing him in a kapo uniform at right-wing demonstrations.
There is every chance there is another Yigal Amin [Correction: thanks Andy for correcting my mistake–it’s ‘Amir’ of course] listening to interviews like this one and believing they would be doing their country a favor by ridding it of these meddlesome lawyers and leftist traitors. So sitting back and taking it is not a stance I relish.
Zvi Solow, Ben Gurion University professor and Israeli peace activist, also adds an interesting perspective on Lieberman’s rantings:
Liberman is first and foremost a Russian-produced racist. He thinks that “Europeans” – meaning whites– are much more “cultured” (a Russian term) than others. For internal political reasons he doesn’t say what his opinion is of Ethiopian Olim.
His understanding of the ME conflict is that it is ethnic, not territorial. That is why he keeps looking for ways to “get rid of” Israel’s Palestinian citizens. He is not opposed to withdrawing from part of the Occupied Territories – his logic is one of a power balance and not of “holy God-given land”. So he suggested that in the framework of exchanging Israeli territory for some of the settlement blocks Israel transfers Vadi Ara & Um el Fahm, complete with its population.
Now he came out in favour of withdrawing from some of the Palestrinian neighbourhoods of Jerusalem, which made him a heretic in the eyes of the religious right. “Liberman will divide Jerusalem” heckled the Religious Right MK’s. The “kapo” statement was a calculated attempt to draw predictable fire from the left & center, in order to regain “respectability” with the “Arab” hating right.
Gershom Gorenberg’s Minister for National Fears provides a chilling account of the political “rise and rise” of Avigdor Lieberman and highlights his solutions for dealing with ethnic conflict between Jews and Arabs.