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The danger of Liebermanism
By Dani Filk
Ynet / Israel Opinion
12 January 2011
One line connects racist Knesset legislation, the rabbis’ letter, the establishment of a detention camp for refugees and shelter seekers, the formation of a parliamentary inquiry committee on the funding of human rights groups, and the foolish claims of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who accuses these groups of supporting terrorism. Lieberman did not make do with distortion-filled incitement against human rights organizations. He included in his offensive decent rightist Knesset members and ministers who resist the Liebermanian nightmare.
General Saint Jean, one of the leaders of Argentina’s dictatorship, described the junta’s targets as follows: “First we kill the subversives. Later we kill their collaborators…then those who remain indifferent; and finally the timid.” This is similar to Lieberman, who first threatened Arab citizens and is now threatening those he views as “collaborators” (human rights activists) and the “timid” (rightists who do not endorse his anti-democratic doctrine.)
We could have dismissed Lieberman’s words and offensives by linking them to the police probe against him. Paraphrasing the Right’s charges during the Sharon era, we could have argued that “the deeper the probe, the greater the incitement.” We could have been comforted by the illusion that his words were meant to divert the public’s attention from his probe, which is apparently expected to end soon. However, we must not take comfort in sweet delusions.
Even if Lieberman’s words stem from personal interests, he is not alone. He is the one who expresses the radical voice of a dangerous process undergone by a significant part of Israeli society and represented by the current government and Knesset. To his right we see National Union Knesset members as well as former Kach member MK Michael Ben Ari. Also next to him we see Minister Eli Yishai, Deputy Minister Yaakov Litzman, and Likud MKs.
Behind Lieberman, endorsing him with resounding silence, is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Meanwhile, most Labor and Kadima members are reconciling themselves to Lieberman’s activity with even louder silence, by being absent from the inquiry vote. Their silence is reminiscent of Martin Luther King, who once wrote that the cause of the greatest injustices in history was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”
Powerful voice needed
Lieberman is not alone, and his incitement knows no boundaries. With their reckless attacks, Lieberman and his partners sanction the murder of human rights activists in Israel. The murder of Emil Grunzweig and of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in Israel, just like the attack on Democrat Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in the US the other day, show us that the incitement by the far Right can take a bloody toll.
Should the targets of Lieberman’s incitement be harmed, he would not be able to shirk his responsibility, just like Prime Minister Netanyahu, who accepts the words of his Foreign Minister just like he reconciled himself not too long ago to the coffin held up during the Zion Square protest against Rabin.
In the face of this racist and anti-democratic wind, we should present a powerful voice; the voice of the democratic camp in Israel. This is the voice of those who are unwilling to accept the incitement and racism, the isolation of Arab citizens, the persecution of refugees and shelter seekers, and the silencing of those who do not think like Avigdor Lieberman and his partners.
We should also hear the voice of all those who dream of another Israel; an Israel that condemns racism, an Israel that features Jewish-Arab equality as well as equality between the center of the country and its periphery. An Israel that is not an occupier and that coexists with its neighbors through just peace; a democratic Israel of solidarity and social justice.
These are dark days, and Liebermanism is dangerous. Yet as activists in the Solidarity Movement chanted once upon a time, “the winter is yours, but the spring will be ours.” At this time, when the threat against the democratic realm is more substantive than ever, the democratic camp must embark on a struggle for another Israel.
Dr. Danny Filk is a member of the Physicians for Human Rights management team
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