Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman 311 (do not publish again).
(photo credit: Flash 90)
The delegitimization of Israel reached a new peak last week with continued
attacks on its democracy. But this time the damage was not done by private
groups or foreign governments and anti-Israel lobbies. This time the worsening
of its reputation as a state which values democracy and freedom of speech was
caused directly by members of the Knesset.
No, not by Arab MKs critical
of the occupation, but by extreme right-wing MKs, self-proclaimed super-patriots
who falsely portray themselves as its defenders.
Their most recent
decision to set up a committee to investigate NGOs which have different
political opinions than their own which promote human rights,
Israeli-Palestinian dialogue and freedom of speech, has become the single most
serious threat facing the country as a true member of the family of democratic
I spend a great deal of my time lecturing on campuses, in
synagogues, and to Jewish communities around the world, trying to present a more
balanced picture of Israel, the peace process and the social and political
context. I am constantly met with a barrage of critics. The pro-boycotters are
critical because of its continued occupation policies and its refusal to enter a
serious peace process and allow the establishment of an independent Palestinian
state. The Right and some Jewish groups are critical of the government for
promoting Israeli-Palestinian dialogue and for supporting – at least in
principle – a two-state solution.
Each views the government – depending
on the policies it pursues – as failing in its role of protecting residents of
the country – Jews and Arabs alike – and in defending what they see as its
IN SOME cases, such as the radical pro-boycotters or
the radical supporters of settlement expansion, their criticism has become
transformed into a delegitimization of the very existence of Israel. For one
group, the Jewish identity of the state is too nationalist, and it should be
transformed into a binational state, while for the others it is not Jewish
enough and is no longer deserving of support, as evidenced by their refusal to
say the prayer for the well-being of the state in their synagogues.
of the groups would like to present itself as more patriotic than the other, but
this is a fallacy.
They are both equally part of the growing trend to
delegitimize the country.
But for every individual who is critical of
Israel for its position vis-a-vis the conflict with the Palestinians, there are
three to four who are increasingly critical of the way in which our democratic
values are being trampled.
In particular, these critics – the majority of
whom have traditionally been strong supporters – single out such organizations
as NGO Monitor and Im Tirtzu for their constant attacks on NGOs of the Left or
academics, students or intellectuals who hold views which they oppose. The
members of an audience explain – almost apologetically – how, as strong
supporters, they are finding it increasingly difficult to speak up for the
country when they see the basic values of democracy, freedom of speech and
diversity of opinion being trampled upon.
It is all too easy to seek
“enemies” among the radical Left, fundamentalist Islam or the racists of the far
Right. But the real damage is coming from those groups who falsely set
themselves up as defenders of the Jewish state.
They no longer have the
right to cast a stone in the direction of the Israel haters, because they are
responsible for eroding the very values around which the state was created and
has existed for the past 60 years.
It is all too easy to home in on
Durban as the root of all evil when it has become a convenient excuse for a
growing reign of intolerance. I have used the term “McCarthyism” to describe
this growing intolerance.
Many have argued that this is inappropriate,
and that Israel cannot be compared to the intolerance of the early 1950s in the
US – when academics, entertainers and other public figures were singled out for
not being ‘patriotic’ enough at the height of the Cold War
If there are readers who can suggest a better word, I will
be happy to adopt it. But until such a term is found, McCarthyism is taking hold
in public discourse, and it is not being combatted – not on the street and not
in the Knesset.
The attempt to legislate against NGOs and free speech,
and the desire to control the curriculum of schools and universities through
some centrally imposed ideology is McCarthyism in an extreme form.
unchallenged adoption of these views is destroying Israel as a democracy, and is
justifying its growing delegitimization. If the international community starts
to exclude Israel from cooperation and membership projects in trade, science and
culture, these same groups will not be able to blame anti-Semitism or Israel
haters. They will have to take full responsibility for the damage they have
caused.The writer is a professor of political geography at Ben-Gurion
University. The views expressed are his alone.