Everybody decent is disgusted with Avigdor Lieberman.
Avigdor Lieberman heads up the Israeli deeply nationalist party Yisrael Beitenu (‘Our Home’). It was Avigdor Lieberman who pushed for two of the Arab Israeli parties to be banned from the imminent elections – a ban which was briskly overturned by the Israeli Supreme Court yesterday. Avigdor Lieberman intends to shunt his Citizenship Bill into Israeli law to address the “disloyalty” of Israel’s Arab citizens. He’s interested in population swaps. He voted against pulling out of Gaza in 2005 (and has been making capital out of Hamas rockets ever since). He blamed the Mercav Harev bombings on “incitement” by Arab Israeli MKs. Nevertheless, in 2006 he accepted a responsibility for strategic affairs in the Kadima coalition, obliging Labour MK Ophir Paz-Pines to resign from the cabinet retorting that Lieberman himself was a strategic threat. Israeli politics is bizarre like that.
Everybody who likes to posture as someone who really cares about Palestinian Israelis enjoys ostentatiously displaying how much they despise the views of Avigdor Lieberman – and then too often making him out to be the archetypal Zionist. It’s pretty uncomplicated in fact – the man really is a strategic threat to Israelis and Palestinians alike. And even if being irreconcilably anti-Arab weren’t a strategic threat, being irreconcilably anti-Arab is enough to make you want him to fail. That he became so senior (he resigned in 2008) is a sign of the times and a signal of danger. Lieberman has a very well thought-out plan for the future. It’s not Kach (a party Israel banned because it was in favour of ethnic cleansing), but it involves treating Arab Israelis as a strategic threat.
To tamper with the words and meaning of Hadash (Israeli communists) chair MK Mohammed Barakeh, Avigdor Lieberman is a boycotter’s wet dream. He is their pin-up. He is exactly what boycotters want us to believe that the Israeli government is like. He fits with the whole pantomime narrative about Israel that boycotters force on us. He’s more like George Galloway than anything.
You can imagine what politicians like Lieberman can do with boycotts of Israel. This is a person who calls home-grown boycotts of the occupation a form of incitement to international victimisation of Israel, and blames the Israeli left. He has always blamed the left for “offering solutions to a problem they never understood”. In view of the quality of the recent protests about Gaza, he is looking like a savant these days, which is a crying shame.
“I have no claims against the Arabs, nor against the world. I do have a complaint against the leftists. All of our troubles, all of our problems, all of our victims are because of those people.”
He raises politics as a Jewish identity issue. Just as Jewish boycotters call themselves the only good Jews, he insists that good Jews support the settlements.
Richard Silverstein doesn’t seem to perceive any connection between Lieberman calling Jews who try to selectively boycott musicians “kapos” (an incendiary reference to co-opted Jews who policed the Nazi concentration camps in return for higher living standards) and the weak state of the Israeli left.
Newman and Pogrund worried in 2005, before Lieberman got lucky as Deputy Prime Minister, about the boycott strengthening the Israeli right:
“The boycott attempts from abroad only serve to strengthen the voices of the Israeli right, and their simplistic arguments that the British academic community is collectively anti-semitic and – in the words of one senior Israeli professor on the eve of Holocaust day this month – is guilty of repeating what the Nazi-era Germans did to Jewish academics. This knee-jerk, somewhat hysterical, reaction goes down well with the Israeli Jewish public, large sections of whom remain convinced that they stand alone against a hostile world that wishes for nothing more than the extinction of the Jewish state.”
If I can talk in crude political terms (this kind of befits me – but you live and learn) the Israeli right, like the Palestinian right, are standing solidly in the way of the Palestinian state which most Israelis want.
The Israeli left, the progressives – who for obvious reasons of wishing to broaden their support base in Israel aren’t calling for boycott – are the Palestinians’ best allies. Both the Israeli and Palestinian progressives need international support against their rejectionists. When they come together, they get further every time. Camp David, Oslo, Geneva Accords, Taba. They know what peace looks like. Anything we do here in support of Palestinians and Arab Israelis should not undermine the progressives. But the boycott campaign does undermine them. Boycott is the wrong tool for the job because it seems continuous with older hateful boycotts against Jews, and is amenable to being used by the Israeli right to reassert a polarisation between Israelis and Palestinians, and has been overrun by negationists (including British anti-Zionists, although they have little influence), because negation has been the logic and lifeblood of the boycott campaign – if only boycotters would realise its logic. The Israeli right are already deriving sustenance from Ahmedinejad, Haniyeh and Nasrallah. Why would we give the negationists any more? Why would we set Israel – and particularly the Israeli left – up to fail?
On the other hand, if you want to assist Avigdor Lieberman and the nationalists on opposing sides, then go ahead with the boycott campaign. You may end up proving yourself correct, and then won’t you feel on top of the world? Which is what boycotting Israel is all about – right?