Avigdor Lieberman is being called ‘racist’ and ‘anti Arab’ in both Israeli and other media of late, but so far no one’s taken the time to explain why he’s been tagged with that pejorative.
Last week one of Israel’s leading Anglo-Israeli journalists spoke at Yale and averred that he ‘hates’ Lieberman as the face of his country to the world and that something ‘in his stomach’ doesn’t sit well with Lieberman in power. Since no one tells us why all this disparagement, we’ll take a guess. Avigdor Lieberman would like to see all residents of Israel affirm their loyalty to the state with an oath.
And that’ s not a very PC thing to do.
We know Israel has some unique problems with its Arab population and we think it’s a good thing that they are wrestling with ways to resolve them. As proposals go, this one doesn’t seem that bad. The key here is that Lieberman is asking for all Israelis to take this oath and doesn’t single out citizens of Arab origin.
This is not an America, which, after our Revolution, asked just Tories ( the ones who weren’t driven from their homes or worse), those colonists who sided with Great Britain and the king instead of supporting the Declaration of Independence, to take an oath of loyalty to the government. We did it again in the 1860s in the aftermath of the Civil War, when we required a similar act of contrition of those who seceded from the Union. And lest we think that our experience with oaths of loyalty are from long ago, various of our states and groups have flirted with them from time to time, the most recent being Democrats in Texas who imposed them on their candidates for office.
In addition, our naturalization ritual asks newly minted citizens to raise their hands and pledge fealty to their new country. But Lieberman is being castigated for pretty much the same thing.
Now, Avigdor Lieberman doesn’t look like a lovable guy. He, most of the time, looks as if he needs a shave. Then again, that’s the fashion of the day and Israel needs a Foreign Minister with a prickly image that the no-shave look conveys.
Last week Daniel Pipes wrote an article in the Ledger that praised Lieberman for a good start in his opening remarks and Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe said much the same in a column this week.
For our part, our ‘stomachs’ are not upset by the man. With the help of one of America’s foremost strategists, Arthur Finkelstein, we’ve watched him win first three, then 11, and now 15 Knesset seats. Lieberman’s Yisrael Beteinu is now Israel’s third largest party, and it’s not because his original base – Russian immigrants – have grown in number. It’s because the Israeli electorate has increasingly gained confidence in the man.
All of this doesn’t say we like Lieberman or his politics, nor does it say that we don’t like him and what he stands for. That’s for another column. But we do think this racist label is a bum rap and that a loyalty oath, asked of all Israelis, is a pretty good idea.