Peoples Geography — Reclaiming space

Creating people's geographies

Lieberman in government reflects Israel’s heart of darkness

The integrity of one lone Labourite, Pines-Paz, is noted –he has just resigned over Lieberman’s inclusion (Labour minister quits over Lieberman’s role byDonald McIntryre, The Independent):

A lone Labour minister has resigned in protest at the inclusion of the right-wing politician Avigdor Lieberman in the coalition cabinet of the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Ophir Pines-Paz was the only minister to vote against the cabinet decision which, by a large majority, cleared the way for Mr Lieberman to become the Deputy Prime Minister. He said Mr Lieberman was “tainted by racist declarations”.

Mr Pines-Paz immediately announced yesterday that he would join a clutch of rival Labourites planning to stand next year against Amir Peretz, the incumbent party leader and Defence Minister, who successfully argued that the party should not trigger a political crisis by walking out of the coalition over Mr Lieberman.

Mr Lieberman, whose party envisages redrawing the border of Israel to transfer Arab population centres into Palestinian Authority areas under the banner “Israel is our home; Palestine is theirs” will be responsible for dealing with “strategic threats” against Israel.

Mr Pines-Paz said his conscience had left him no choice but to leave the government once it had decided to bring in Mr Lieberman and the 11 Knesset members in his Yisrael Biteinu party, swelling Mr Olmert’s majority coalition to 78 out of 120 MPs.

Akiva Eldar notes that Lieberman is much worse than the oft-made comparison with Austrian racist Joerg Haider (Haaretz, 30 October 2006; also appears in Counterpunch):

The prevalent comparison between Avigdor Lieberman and Joerg Haider does an injustice to the Austrian nationalist whose party joined the government in the winter of 2000. Haider is far from being a righteous man, but even in his most fascist days, he never called on Austria to rid itself of citizens who’d been living in the country for generations.

And Zvi Bar’el (Haaretz, 29 October 2006) notes in ‘Its not racism, its just patiotism’ that Lieberman’s inclusion is symptomatic of a deeper, wider political heart of darkness that should not be ignored:

A racist, a transferist, a hater of Arabs, an embarrassment to democracy; indict him, expel him from the Knesset – these are only a few of the curses hurled at Avigdor Lieberman by politicians and publicists. It is as if Lieberman were something the cat dragged home from the Lebanon war garbage dump and not the house cat itself.

Indeed, it seems that the anger is not about what Lieberman says or plans to do “with the Arabs in Israel,” but is directed instead at Ehud Olmert and the Labor Party for being ready to sit with the abomination. What has not been said is that it is spin designed to help Olmert survive, that Olmert and Benjamin Netanyahu are one and the same, that the Labor Party is a rag and that the left-wing parties will evaporate if they agree to sit with Lieberman.

The “spin” was annoying. Perhaps Lieberman, the man, was indeed hard to swallow. But no one said anything about the essence of the party, Yisrael Beiteinu. About the fact that a Kahanist offshoot was able to germinate in Jewish society, to develop branches and toxic fruits, and to take Israeli politics by storm. Not a single political party took to the streets to protest the very existence of a party based on a racist platform, not a peep was heard when the extreme right-wing, settler parties attacked Lieberman, claiming that he is lending legitimacy to the creep Olmert, the same “scoundrel” who championed the unilateral disengagement and planned, before fleeing back to his hole, to also carry out a unilateral realignment.

The rest of the article:

Until just a moment ago, these law-flouting settlers believed Lieberman was a friend – and he turns out to be a traitor. They also have no problem with the Lieberman platform.

“Transfer? What’s the big deal?” I remember a longtime settler from Neve Dekalim saying. “Just like they expel us from our land, we can also expel them, and it isn’t even their land.”

The fascist alliance between the settler-style right and the Lieberman-style right is, therefore, accepted as self-evident. After all, what is the difference between Effi Eitam, who spoke about expelling Arabs, and Lieberman? The political doctrine is identical, and so is the political path. Both sit in the Knesset spouting the slogan that Israel is for the Jews. Excuse me, Israel is for the patriots. And who else can be a patriot? This is the equation of identity that the extreme right has succeeded in planting: Your loyalty to the homeland is measured by how anti-Arab you are.

This is the heart of the trap in which the left is caught. Because it turns out that in order to expel fascism, the left-wing parties must be portrayed as protectors of the Arabs in Israel, to tell the public that they are opposed to the expulsion of Arabs, that racism is prohibited in the Jewish state. But such statements, like it or not, are a political trap from which there is only one way out: It’s not important what Lieberman says or thinks, the Labor Party’s master formulators say, the important thing is what he will do. It is as if thoughts, ideas and racist notions have a bedroom of their own, a sealed room that does not affect the public.

And so, it is easier to give an Arab a position of deputy minister or committee chairman – as long as one is not seen as an “Arab lover.” It is easier to issue a directive to teach about the Kafr Qassem massacre, than heaven forbid quitting the government. Let’s put the Arabs aside for a moment, they say in the Labor Party, we have a “social agenda” and we need to sometimes compromise a bit for its sake.

“Compromise a bit?” Ah. But even this social agenda pertains to one society, the Jewish one. There are no Arabs in it. It turns out that Arabs are a burden. They hinder proponents of equal rights from appearing as true patriots.

Indeed, with 78 MKs in the coalition – Israel has not had such political stability in generations – it is possible not only to design agendas but also to realize them. But this is stability that will not advance any agenda – neither equality of rights for Arabs nor a political process. Only the stability of the principle of transfer can be preserved there, in a warm and comfortable place in the center of Israeli politics. Even more grievous, this is the same government stability that will please the voters who will also support Liebermanism in the next elections.

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This entry was posted on 1 November, 2006 by in Diplomacy, Elections, Hegemon-watch, Israel, Israel Watch, Militarism general, Palestine, Political Economy, Racism.

Timely Reminders

"Those who crusade, not for God in themselves, but against the devil in others, never succeed in making the world better, but leave it either as it was, or sometimes perceptibly worse than what it was, before the crusade began. By thinking primarily of evil we tend, however excellent our intentions, to create occasions for evil to manifest itself."
-- Aldous Huxley

"The only war that matters is the war against the imagination. All others are subsumed by it."
-- Diane DiPrima, "Rant", from Pieces of a Song.

"It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there"
-- William Carlos Williams, "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower"