This election, Liberman’s racism is going mainstream

Liberman launched his election campaign under the slogan ‘Ariel to Israel, Umm al-Fahm to Palestine,’ once again signaling his willingness to expel Palestinian citizens from the country. The only difference? This time around he is being flagged as a moderate.

Avigdor Liberman speaks at the campaign launch for the upcoming elections. (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills)
Avigdor Liberman speaks at the campaign launch for the upcoming elections. One of the campaign slogans reads “Ariel to Israel, Umm al-Fahm to Palestine.” (photo: Yotam Ronen/Activestills)

Every time Avigdor Liberman opens his mouth to speak, one can smell hate and fear-mongering. In a speech during his election campaign launch Thursday morning, Liberman went a step further in his racist and inciting speech against Israel’s Arab citizens.

While his Yisrael Beiteinu party is being investigated for a major corruption scandal, Liberman is pulling out his most powerful weapon – one that always works in catching the attention of both the Left and the Right (assuming there is such a thing in Israel): attacking the Arabs, threatening in the most obscene way to harm their lives, security and rights to their land.

Once again he pulls the rabbit out of the hat: “population exchange.” Again? Yes, again and again. And this time, like all the other times, the idea that once seemed so out of touch is beginning to permeate into the political “center.” It goes something like this: Liberman lets fly another crazy idea into the political ether, repeats it at any given opportunity, forcing citizens and the media alike to play around with it. At a certain point they start to discuss it as a serious possibility. “Moving Umm al-Fahm to Palestine.” Slowly but surely the idea sounds like it is becoming more acceptable and possible. It is a classically racist plan whose goal is to erase, demonize and take whatever rights are left to the oppressed minority. Time after time it’s the same message: transfer, population exchange, expelling the local population, loyalty oaths and more.

Liberman is thus crowning himself as the expert on discrimination and violence. He demands the expulsion of Arabs from Wadi Ara in Israel’s north, as well as from everywhere else, while continuing to fan the flames of war in the occupied territories. He is not willing to see the Palestinians who were born here – and have been here for generations – as deserving of rights to their land. Their land was occupied, most were expelled, and in their stead came Jews from across the world. Liberman himself only arrived here in 1978, but in his eyes Palestinians such as myself, who were born here and became second-class citizens in the Jewish people’s democratic and moral state, need to continue and search for the way toward peace by themselves. Without him.

Liberman staunchly opposes any progress toward an agreement with the Palestinians. To his credit, it must be said that he has quit every coalition he has been a part of for one of two reasons: progress toward a peace deal, or due to investigations against him. In 1997 he quit due to an investigation; in 2001 he left along with Rehavam Ze’evi after Israel returned the Abu Snina neighborhood of Hebron to the Palestinians; in 2002 he left Sharon’s government; in 2004 he was fired in the wake of the disengagement from Gaza; in 2008 he quit due to the negotiations with the Palestinians over core issues; and in 2012 he left due to the Belarus ambassador affair.

If you ask Liberman, there is no solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict – war and power are the name of the game – this is the fate of all Jews who come to this part of the world. He has a hard time admitting to the failures of 1948, when the job wasn’t finished and “Arabs” still remained in the country. In such a reality, the only thing that Liberman believes is left to do is to continue occupying the West Bank, tighten the stranglehold on Gaza forever, feed the cancerous settlement enterprise and swallow the Palestinians inside Israel until they disappear.

Let’s put aside the worrying fact that a party like Yisrael Beiteinu even exists in Israel. Any party in France or Germany, whose main goal was to throw out all the Jews to Israel in a population exchange, or even to segregate all the Jews in one big city (a ghetto, perhaps), would not survive the tidal wave of condemnations from both the Jewish and international community.

Tzipi Livni and Isaac Herzog announce a joint slate for the upcoming elections, December 10, 2014. (Photo by
Tzipi Livni and Isaac Herzog announce a joint slate for the upcoming elections, December 10, 2014. (Photo by

But we can put this aside for a second, since Israel’s Arab citizens have long ago developed a kind of immunity to these phenomenons over the course of 65 years. What is truly worrisome is the fact that this party has started to crawl leftwards. All of a sudden Tzipi Livni and Isaac Herzog’s “Zionist Camp” is talking peace, and Liberman has become a potential coalition partner in the next government – the “anyone but Bibi” government.

The fact that Livni is embracing Liberman’s party is not surprising. She has yet to match her new leftist look to her old right-wing wardrobe. But what about the ostensibly left-wing Herzog? Is it ideological blindness? A lust for being prime minister? Or perhaps a couple of thousand of Arabs in Wadi Ara don’t really count on the way ballot box? I mean, surely no one will really take notice anyway. It’s not like we’re a bunch of racists.

Samah Salaime Egbariya is a social worker, a director of AWC (Arab Women in the Center) in Lod and a graduate of the Mandel Leadership Institute in Jerusalem. This article was first published on +972′s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. Read it in Hebrew here

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