Rattling the Cage: The threat from within

Why I think Avigdor Lieberman is more dangerous than Ahmadinejad.

larry derfner 88 (photo credit: )
larry derfner 88
(photo credit: )
Since our country not only legitimized Avigdor Lieberman but made him our showcase to the world, since Likud, Labor and Kadima all accepted him as a national leader, he's gotten cleaned up for public consumption. Overnight. Now the news stories don't use "racist" or "fascist" or "neo-fascist" or "anti-Arab" as adjectives before his name; now they say he's "considered by some to hold anti-Arab views" or something like that. Israel's defenders are spinning Lieberman as a fellow who's more bark than bite, whose style may be problematic but whose politics are well within reason. Look, they say, he supports the two-state solution! The truth about our foreign minister - and this is no scoop, it's old news everywhere, but a lot of people have conveniently forgotten it - is that he used to belong to Kach. He is a one-time member of a murderous anti-Arab movement, one whose ideology is summed up in the chant "death to the Arabs," one that was banned here and is listed by the US and EU as a terrorist organization. That was back in 1979, when Lieberman was studying at Hebrew University. "I made out his membership card," said former Kach general manager Yossi Dayan. "I stapled his photo to a card that said 'Kach' and had our symbol on it." Baruch Marzel, the movement's long-time leader, said, "He joined us. There were salon meetings in Tel Aviv that he organized for Rabbi Kahane." Avigdor Eskin, a Kachnik who led the cheering after Yitzhak Rabin's assassination, said, "Kahane recognized him as Kach's representative at Hebrew University. He distributed material for Kach." These statements were made on-camera to Channel 10 in early February, not long before the election. Lieberman, understandably, doesn't want to talk about it, and claims it was all a pre-election smear by his political enemies. "I deny any connection with the Kach movement and I have no intention of addressing these orchestrated provocations," was his statement. THE YOUNG LIEBERMAN, then as now a practical politician, soon left Kach and joined Likud, but his views of Arabs remained the same. After the election, author Daniel Gavron wrote: "Working as a reporter for The Jerusalem Post in 1984, I interviewed three young Likud party members on how they felt about Meir Kahane, who had just been elected to the Knesset on a platform that included expelling Israel's Arab citizens. Two of them condemned Kahane and lectured me about the liberalism of Ze'ev Jabotinsky, founder of the Revisionist Movement out of which the Likud had emerged. The third, Avigdor Lieberman, remarked laconically in his strong Russian accent that Kahane was 'saying out loud what many of us are thinking.'" Kach, Likud, Israel Beiteinu - the label may change but the merchandise doesn't. "Only Lieberman understands Arabic" was the campaign slogan he broadcast into Israeli homes night after night before the election; what he says privately can only be imagined. He fantasizes aloud in the Knesset about executing Arab MKs; there's hardly an Arab patch of land anywhere that he hasn't marked rhetorically for bombing; and he wants to kick hundreds of thousands of Arab citizens out of the country for the crime of being Arab. The foreign minister of the Middle East's only democracy once called a press conference in which he pointedly, repeatedly described Israel as a "police state," a dictatorship of lies run by the Israel Police, the State Attorney's Office and, of course, the Supreme Court. This may have had something to do with Lieberman's being under investigation for multimillion-dollar corruption, for allegedly being a bagman for rich Russian criminals - an investigation that's been going on for a dozen years. A former barroom bouncer, a lapsed Kachnik, a relentless Arab-basher, a warmonger, an enemy of the law in word and, allegedly, in deed - if this guy isn't a fascist, who is? BUT LOOK, say Israel's damage-controllers, he supports the two-state solution! Right, and Ahmadinejad isn't an anti-Semite, he's just anti-Israel. Oh, wait a minute now - am I comparing Avigdor Lieberman, foreign minister of Israel, to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of Iran? Yes, as a matter of fact, I am. They both exult in beating the drums for racism and war. They both brand entire ethnic and religious groups as the enemy and promise a sweeping, violent solution. They both appeal to a nation's spleen. The main ideological difference between them is that Ahmadinejad is a religious fanatic, while Lieberman is secular - which, I imagine, is one reason he left Kach to develop his secular brand of Kahanism in the political mainstream. Otherwise, he and Ahmadinejad are cut from the same cloth. Lieberman talks a lot about "the threat from within" being more dangerous than the threat from without - that the Arabs inside our borders can destroy this country easier than the Arabs outside. He's right about the threat from within, but it isn't from Israeli Arabs, it's from Lieberman himself and what he represents and the power he's gained. He's now taken over the Foreign Ministry. He's gotten the stamp of approval from the leading parties of the right, center and center-left - the Israeli consensus. He's being laundered and sanitized by virtually the entire American Jewish establishment. And he's not through by a long shot. At this point, he seems to have an even brighter future ahead. Lieberman is more dangerous than Ahmadinejad because we have the military power to deter Iran's threat to destroy us physically. I don't know if we have the power to deter Lieberman from destroying us morally - from turning us into the image of what we claim to hate.