Israel’s ambassador to Norway has been recalled by the foreign ministry (see Yediot article displayed below). Local Norwegian staff at the embassy and the ambassador’s household staff each accused him of exposing himself and other acts of harassment, an allegation he denies. Israeli media cannot report the name or country in which this diplomat served. But I can.
He is Naim Araidi (Hebrew) an Israeli Druze poet and lecturer in literature at several Israeli colleges. Though he had no previous diplomatic or political experience, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman chose him because, as a Druze he came from Israel’s Arab minority, yet endorsed the nationalist views of the Israeli Jewish mainstream. Israeli Druze pride themselves on being distinct from the Palestinian minority and even from the majority Muslim culture among Israeli Muslims. Many (though not all–there is a growing refusal to serve among young Druze) serve in the IDF, since a 1956 agreement between the State and communal leaders appointed by the State made service compulsory. Since such service often provides important social and professional networking opportunities, they may use it as an entre into majority Jewish society.
Lieberman spoke publicly at the time of Araidi’s appointment about the reasons for it, noting he was sent to Norway because of its strong BDS “delegitimization” movement. The foreign minister felt that an Israeli minority would make an especially strong case against this tendency, since Norwegians have generally been quite supportive of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and other movements for ethnic justice. As such, an Israeli Druze could provide an especially effective rebuttal (Hebrew) to the pro-Palestinian movement popular in Europeans capitals.
For his part, Araidi, while not endorsing Lieberman’s anti-Arab politics, had this to say (Hebrew) about them:
As for me, I have no problem with Lieberman. He and the Israeli right are more transparent and honest than others and therefore less problematic for me. It surely would be a good idea for him to begin to express himself more politely, but from a basic perspective he is no different than anyone else [any other more moderate Israeli politician]. What’s the difference between Lieberman as foreign minister and the others that preceded him?
For his doctoral dissertation, Araidi didn’t choose a Druze or Palestinian poet. Instead, he chose Uri Tzvi Greenberg, the poet of the Revisionist movement, and one of Jabotinsky’s favorites. He noted that one of the qualities of Greenberg’s poetry he especially admired was the Nietzschean belief that poetry and art were beyond good and evil. One wonders whether he incorporated such a belief into his private life as well.
The Israeli civil service undertook an inquiry into the allegations against the ambassador and sent a staff lawyer to investigate. Once he interviewed the alleged victims, he decided to send Araidi home for the duration of the inquiry. The diplomat told Yediot that he planned to end his ambassadorship and “retire” from the foreign ministry. I’m virtually certain his resignation will be accepted.
Such an appointment only proves that when the nationalist right exploits Israeli minorities, especially those with no professional qualifications, for political purposes, it will backfire not only on the one who makes the appointment, but on the entire State.
UPDATE: Within a year of writing this post, Naim Araidi died of cancer after his return to Israel.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.