Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Solana and Lieberman: Smiles All Around.
Lieberman Steps Out of the Shadows
A LONG BUT INFORMATIVE ARTICLE
By JONATHAN COOK
"Lieberman, a Russian immigrant, is every bit the populist and racist politician he is portrayed as being. Like many of his fellow politicians, he harbours a strong desire to see the Palestinians of the occupied territories expelled, ideally to neighbouring Arab states or Europe. Lieberman, however, is more outspoken than most in publicly advocating for this position.
And, as a coup de grace, he has recently demanded the execution for treason of any Arab parliamentarian who talks to the Palestinian leadership in the occupied territories or commemorates Nakba Day, which marks the expulsion and permanent dispossession of the Palestinian people in 1948. That would include every elected representative of Israel's Arab population.
These are Lieberman's official positions. Apparently unofficially he wants even worse measures taken against Palestinians, both inside Israel and in the occupied territories. In May 2004, for example, he told a crowd of his supporters, in Russian, that 90 per cent of the country's Arab citizens should be expelled. "They have no place here. They can take their bundles and get lost." His speech could have had second billing with one by Adolf Hitler at a Nuremberg Rally.
According to reports in the Israeli media, Lieberman has not joined the coalition until now because he has been playing hard to get, making increasing demands of Olmert before agreeing to sign up for the government. His hand has grown stronger too: according to opinion polls, he is now the most popular politician in Israel after Binyamin Netanyahu, leader of the Likud party.
In the newly established post of Minister for Strategic Threats, Lieberman -- the avowed Arab hater -- will shape Israel's response to Iran, leading the chorus threats being made by Israel that the country is only a hair's breadth from dropping bombs, possibly nuclear warheads, on Tehran. After that, he will presumably help the government decide what other "strategic threats" it faces.
So why are Israel's politicians, of the left and right, so comfortable sitting with Lieberman, the leader of Israel's only unquestionably fascist party? Because, in truth, Lieberman is not the maverick politician of popular imagination, even if he is every bit the racist -- a Jewish Jorg Haider or Jean Marie Le Pen.
In reality, Lieberman is entirely a creature of the Israeli political establishment, his policies sinister reflections of the principles and ideas he learnt in the inner sanctums of the Likud party, a young hopeful immigrant rubbing shoulders with the likes of Ariel Sharon, Binyamin Netanyahu and, of course, Ehud Olmert.
But Lieberman, who arrived in Israel as a 21-year-old, was not around for those lessons. He imbibed nothing of the principles of "hasbara", the "advocacy for Israel" industry that has its unpaid battalions of propagandists regularly assaulting the phone lines and email inboxes of the Western media. He tells it exactly as he sees it, even if mostly in Russian.
Yisrael Beiteinu's openly racist agenda spoke to the darkest instincts of the one million newly arrived Russian speakers. They feel little affinity for the Jewish state -- apart from a loathing for everything Arab.
When they return home, they find it hard to make sense of Israeli officialdom's lip service in distinguishing between Arab citizens, who have some rights in the Jewish state, and the "Arabs" of the occupied territories, who have none. Many Russian speakers wonder why Israel does not simply kill or expel the lot of them.
Instead of using words like "disengagement", "convergence" or "realignment", Israel's politicians of the near future may simply call for the expulsion of Arabs, all Arabs.
Lieberman wants a president who has the authority to make major legislative changes, even constitutional ones, without having to make the backroom compromises to keep together the coalition governments that characterise Israel's current political system. The president Lieberman has in mind would be more on the lines of an autocratic ruler."