Saturday, November 04, 2006


Avigdor Liberman

This should do wonders for Israel's reputation. The newly-minted Deputy-PM and Minister for Strategic Affairs Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beitenu) has decided to shoot his mouth off to the Sunday Telegraph. Lieberman did not bother to conceal the views he has so often articulated in the Israeli political discourse, telling his interviewer straight-up that "Jews and Arabs can never live together," and that "minorities are the biggest problem in the world." How a Jew who came to Israel from Moldova can talk about minorities as "problems" requiring solutions is beyond me. The British newspaper goes on to cite Tel Aviv University political scientist Gideon Doron who describes Lieberman as "the center of a new consensus" and as evidence of a worrisome rightward shift in Israel. I am not sure whether Lieberman was elected because of his racist views and his advocacy of "transfer" or because he was the only candidate to take seriously (and be taken seriously by) Russian immigrants in Israel. Nevertheless, I find it hard to argue with Doron's claims. Olmert's decision to welcome Lieberman into the parliament and the complicity of the Labor Party and others in this is a disgrace. It is also further evidence of the myopic, unprincipled, and incompetent course followed by this government since the war with Hizbullah erupted in the summer. Political survival has become the sole imperative of those in power. Meanwhile, Israel faces unprecedented long-term and short-term threats on all fronts.


dsokal said...

Amos - you speak negatively of Liberman's fears and his political solutions based on those deep-seated fears. Yet you end your commentary, "Meanwhile, Israel faces unprecendented long-term and short-term threats on all fronts." We all have fears then, don't we? Apparently, you do not think one of Israel's threats is from it's own Arab citizens. Where then does it come from - Hamas, Syria, Hizbullah, Iran, Libya, the Islamic Brotherhood, etc., etc., etc.? Why not allow Lieberman to add one more nightmare to the list -- what difference can it make?
If Gideon Doron is correct, and you seem inclined to agree with him, Hizbullah's missiles have had a psychological impact on Israelis which can be summed up simply: fear. "They think security is bad and trust Palestinians and Arabs less. They don't believe in the possibility of peace through negotiations, so Lieberman has become the centre of a new consensus." A consensus of fear.
I spoke to my aunt in the north of Israel a few days ago. I had sent her a brochure about a project I am working on selling Palestinian olive oil that is exported by two Israeli and one Palestinian fair trade group. (See In the brochure I stay away from any overt political statement, trying to steer clear of fears deeply held by either side. But just talking about Palestinians as if they too could want peace was bad enough to upset her, a supporter of Labor and more dovish policies. Missiles flying overhead and crashing on your land and home has a predictably negative impact on human souls.
We need to ask ourselves, "what is the source of our fear?" Then we need to ask, "what is the source of our enemies' fear?"

Amos said...

So, after we ask - ourselves and them - what do we do?

Is "fear-mongering" really the problem? It seems to me that there are a lot of things to be afraid of. Fear is not an inherent source of evil.

In any case, I don't think we're all that much closer to a solution after we have analyzed our fears. I don't believe that the fears of ordinary Israelis are the result of combines and machinations. So I am really not sure that fear is the problem. I prefer to deal with the more concrete policies offered by various actors and to focus my critique there.

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