Monday, March 2, 2009

Liberal Profile of Avigdor Lieberman

Chris Hitchens recently wrote a profile of Avigdor Lieberman for the online magazine Slate. He is quick to point out the racist nature of Lieberman's party, Yisrael Beitenu, noting that Lieberman has called for the execution of Arab members of Parliament that meet with Hamas, has demanded that Palestinian prisoners be drowned in the Dead Sea, and whose supporters have chanted "Death to Arabs" at rallies.

In addition, Hitchens notes how Lieberman's position undermines the notion of an exclusive Jewish right to the land of Palestine. He says, "Avigdor Lieberman's essentially totalitarian and Inquisitionist style, though, may be even more manifest in his insistence that non-Zionist haredim, or pious Jews, also either take an oath of loyalty or forfeit their citizenship. This takes the ax to the root of the idea that Jews have a presence in Jerusalem from time immemorial and that their resulting rights are not derived from, or dependent on, any state or any ideology."

In other words, Lieberman's position distinguishes not between Jews and non-Jews, but between Zionists and non-Zionists. Jews that do not support the state and ruling class of Israel (a working definition of Zionism) should be denied citizenship. This implies that non-Jews that do support the state of Israel, like the notorious anti-Semite Jerry Falwell, have more of a claim to citizenship than Jews. Needless to say, such sentiments smash the notion of a Jewish-only state to pieces.

As we have said before, Lieberman's position is no aberration, though Hitchens might wish it was. Rather, it is a natural outgrowth of a slow rightward drift that has occurred in Israeli politics over the past 15 or more years. While Hitchens might wish to return to a "kinder, gentler" version of liberal Zionism, liberal Zionism began not with a position justice for the Palestinian people, but of the right to elect their own prison wardens (the Oslo process).

In conclusion, the choice between liberal Zionism and Avigdor Lieberman is a false one. We need not choose either. Rather, we may choose a people-to-people foreign policy, where local movements for justice, liberation, and democracy intersect with international movements for the same.

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