Oh Lieberman

The Israeli general election is underway today. It's actually happening right now, and it features some of the most boring and bizzare political players in modern day Israel: You have the boring insecure Barack representing what's left of labor, The pompous inept Netenyahu trying to make Likus (not sure if this is a typo) big again, The Hillary Clinton of Kadima The only-reason-you-won't-vote-for-me-is-cause-of-my-vagina Tzipi Livni-who, to her credit, is the only half decent politician Kadima has right now, and last, but not least, the boy d'jour, the man of the hour, the Russian on a mission, Lieberman. There is also Hadash, which is cute young leftists jews and arabs hugging each other (which is nice, cause the people in their commercials are hot ) and the Green-leaf-Holocaust survivor party alliance, which is trying to use the Holocaust as justification to legalize weed. And to be honest, ladies and gentlemen, if I could convince my Israeli readers to vote for any party, it would be that one. Cause using the holocaust to justify the legalization of Marijuana is nothing short of awesome in my book. Plus, with those people in power, the peace-process is bound to get really really funny. But don't let such musings distract us from the person who everybody is freaking out about: LIEBERMAN.

There are serious causes for concern when it comes to Lieberman, especially with his new pledge of "no Loyalty, no citizenship", which was aimed at those disloyal pesky israeli arabs who won't serve in the military. And the thought of him being part of any Likud coalition government is actually making voters who hate Kadima vote for Kadima. Here is how neurotic the Lieberman fear has become:

This is where the visions start of Foreign Minister
Avigdor Lieberman banging his shoe a la Krushchev against the podium at
the United Nations, crying out for Israel to bomb the Aswan Dam. Or
there's Lieberman as Education Minister, teaching Israeli High School
Civics classes that loyalty tests as a requirement of citizenship are
essential to any functioning democracy. Sometimes I see Lieberman the
Justice Minister, trying to force through poll taxes and Hebrew- (and
Russian-) only literacy tests for the ballot boxes in future Israeli
elections. Or Housing Minister Lieberman, whose first act is to build a
moat around Umm al-Fahm. 

Interestingly though, Lieberman seems to be reveling in such controversy, and is not trying to make any real friends, anywhere. He is actually going for more enemies, so consistently, it's awesome. He started a fight out of nowhere with the ultra orthodox Zionist Shas party, saying that the "no loyalty, no citizenship" thing applies to you too, Hasidic boys (If I thought he cared about it, I would say he was doing it in order to fend off accusations of racism; be all like "see, I am a dick to jews as well"). And suddenly, ladies and gentlemen, you have a situation that's never bound to happen ever again: Shas and the Israeli Arabs, with a common enemy. Awesome. Some ultra Orthodox jews are even capitalizing on that, with the United Torah Judaism party distributing flyers saying "No to racism, Haradim for equality".

Some of the party's flyers label rival party
leader Avigdor Lieberman a racist, and state that "Arabs and haredim
fight racism – vote United Torah Judaism."  


United Torah Judaism's elections
headquarters said that "the party is trying to recruit as many votes as
possible. We appeal to the Arab voters who care about matters of
chastity and family honor."

Knesset Member Moshe Gafni added that "we
are against racism and for the Torah, and the Torah clearly says 'Do
not oppress an alien; you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens,
because you were aliens in Egypt,'" (Exodus 23:9)

Yes, calling Israeli arab voters aliens. That's reaching out. 

And now, even Shas is fighting back against Lieberman, accusing him of wanting to divide Jerusalem and give the arab neighborhoods to the arabs , open pork stores and allow gay marriage. In Shas' world, Lieberman is Dennis Kucinich. He is both a racist rightwinger and immoral pinko lefty, all at once. No wonder the guy has high appeal this election. But here is the funny idea: what if israeli arabs do meet the challenge of Lieberman, and do agree to join the Israeli military, thus proving their "Loyalty"? You know, cause it kinda happened before, in 1954?

On July 9, 1954 the State of Israel issued
an order for the army enlistment of "minority groups," which applied to
about 4,500 Palestinians. Back then too, there were those who hoped
that imposing an army service duty on the Arabs would prompt them to
quickly depart.

Yet then, the most terrible thing happened: About 90% of those
Palestinian youths quickly and joyfully reported to the army's
induction offices. They were willing, and even excited, to serve in the
army. This caused a great scare among top defense establishment
officials. "Oy vey," they said, while staring at each other with a
horrified look, "what shall we do now?" And the enlistment of Arabs,
which barely got underway, was annulled for generations to come.

And if this scenario happens again, down would go his ingenious plan. One wonders if he has a back-up one.

This is gonna be a fun day. I can't wait to see how it ends. 


  1. just to credit the writer from yediot – it’s b. michael one of the best in this paper.

    and I still hope for a surprise – that the fascist lberman will not get all those votes. (of course it means more votes for the likud, which is also baaa)

  2. So many mistakes in one post!?

    Being extremely dependent on Social Security and government handouts, Shas and Israeli Arab parties have been on the same side of the fence for many years. This is nothing new.

    Lieberman is not talking about Army service for Arabs. He did say equal rights (meaning – enjoying social security benefits) means equal obligations, meaning some kind of national service. This goes for both Arabs and Ultra-Orthodox.

    This is a very good idea and has been expounded before by the left, who hate the Ultra-Orthodox and want them to integrate into Israeli society. This would be a fine way to allow Israeli Arabs to do the same.

    National service can be anything – teaching at schools, hospital service, Yad Sarah and stuff like that. It is a great way to meet new people and make connections and learn new skills and especially – get away from the stifling atmosphere of the closed community. What’s so bad about that?

    The No Loyalty-No Citizenship schtick is simple: it is absurd that parties which openly support terror as well as the destruction of the state should be allowed to exist. Similar parties all over Europe have been banned. It’s not a big deal.

    As far as I can tell Lieberman is about strengthening the Zionist backbone of the country so he is indeed, openly, targeting populations who refuse to participate or are actively undermining it.

    That said I feel that he really does not care if you are Jewish or Arab. He clearly recognizes that there are many decent, law abiding Arab Israelis (which, in my experience, probably participate in Israeli society in a more fruitful manner than most Ultra-Orthodox. But I live in the North so maybe I’m biased).

    Finally, all this may be a financial consideration. Having such a large part of the population dependent on Social Security and not producing income is perhaps becoming too much and this is one way, among many, to curb this phenomenon (another is the Education Minister’s attempt to introduce secular subjects in Haredi schools). Again – this is about both Arabs and UO.

  3. B. Michael is always neurotic He hates everything that is not exactly like himself. In other words, a Leftist.

  4. Roman Kalik says:

    When it comes to B. Michael’s article, I’m afraid that he is far from being “the best of Yediot”.

    Far from it, in fact, because I don’t really appreciate attempts to rewrite, or hide aspects of, history in order to promote a political agenda. Which is precisely what B. Michael does when he brings up Lavon’s attempt to make the military draft apply to all members of Israeli society, in some rather amusing attempt at promoting a sense of equality for all – that was Lavon’s idea from the onset, which he publicly and openly stated time and time again. B. Michael’s claims of “forcing the Arabs to depart” has little, if any, real grounds, not to mention that Lavon called *everyone* to the draft. Muslim Arabs, Christian Arabs, Druze, Bedoin, Circassians…

    And why amusing, you ask? Because it didn’t work. The youngsters among the Israeli Arabs did indeed go to the recruitment centers – pointedly not going to the same ones the Druze went to, already marking the divide between Druze and Arab identity and mutual trust. Whereas the older generations of Israeli Arabs objected to the whole affair – rather vocally, at that, because of the whole “1948 war” thing that happened just a few years ago. In any case, the potential recruit population was registered, duly noted, and then… came the Lavon Affair, and Lavon was forced to resign due to his association with the events in Egypt, and his private project of integrating all of Israel’s minorities into the armed forces died.

    Following Lavon’s resignation, Prime Minister Ben-Gurion removed what little remained of Lavon’s initiative, of which he never really approved in the first place, and instead focused on making minorities serving in the Israeli armed forces a matter of voluntary, rather than involuntary, agreement. Volunteers were encouraged to serve, but not required to.

    The years that followed saw attempts made by the Israeli government to reach agreements with minorities to serve under the general draft – 1955 to 1956 saw discussions, back and forth, between Druze community leaders and government and military officials. Some Druze leaders wanted the Druze to be drafted – some didn’t. It wasn’t an easy question even within the Druze community, and many preferred the status-quo of those days – volunteer service. In the end, an agreement was reached and the Israeli Druze were drafted into the armed forces. A similar agreement was reached with Israel’s Circassian community.

    The Bedoin did not want such an agreement, but still volunteer in large numbers. Isareli Arabs (or Arabs of 1948, as they sometimes call themselves) don’t. If they wanted to serve, they would have volunteered to do so. They didn’t. Nor do they voice such wishes today – quite the contrary, I remember the article on Ynet about a year ago when an Israeli Arab got a draft letter from the army by mistake. Oh, the shock and horror…

    And even Lieberman doesn’t require of them to “fight their brothers” while wearing IDF uniform. National Service, in the form of volunteer work, is what he’s asking for. So B. Michael’s article is, how shall I put this… crap.

  5. Nothing like a good history lesson to start the day. Kudos, Roman.

    I have to wonder, how did Lavon expect that to work so soon after the 1948 war?

  6. Andrew Brehm says:

    Avigdor Liberman is the Israeli equivalent of a moderate Arab leader. He wants an Arab-free Jewish Israel just as moderate Arabs want a Jew-free Arab “Palestine”. But so far the methods he proposed are more civil than the methods tried by moderate Arab leaders.

    And now, after 60 years, it finally turns out that such a position is not moderate at all, it is “ultra-nationalist” and “racist”.

  7. @4 Roman

    Good job correcting B. Michael’s nonsense. Thanks!

    Some additional comments about the national service to which people are referring:

    Israel’s national service program is already available to Arabs (I am not sure if that was clear to people). As several have noted, much of this work involves working in hospitals and schools. For example, a young Arab could act as a nurse’s aide or as a medical translator, helping Arab patients who only speak Arabic talk to doctors who speak only Hebrew. The young people who participate in the program are paid a monthly salary and, when they complete national service, are eligible for grants at roughly the same level as IDF soldiers who do not serve in combat positions.

    Some Israeli Arabs volunteer for national service today. The number is still small: about 600 out of the 19000 Israeli Arabs who reached the appropriate age last year. However, the number has been roughly doubling annually for the last few years.

    In a poll last year, 75% of Arab youth polled said they would join such a program, but most also said that if their families opposed it, they would not join. On the negative side, Israel’s Arab parties and Islamist organizations vigorously oppose the national service program because it gives Arab kids a chance to mainstream themselves, which they call “a threat to Arab unity.” Meaning, of course, that Israeli Arabs who are more mainstream tend to vote more mainstream and also to listen less to the Islamists and the communists. The Arab parties and Islamist groups make a big effort to talk kids out of doing national service. They care SO much about Israeli Arab young people, you see.

    Today, young Arab women from conservative Muslim backgrounds seem to be most interested in doing national service. Perhaps this is because they tend to be hemmed in by their communities and given few other chances to build personal financial independence, experience, career skills and contacts outside of their communities. National service offers young women a chance to join the job market, or perhaps to help with the costs of attending university.

    Of course, Lieberman is not looking at national service as a way to empower Muslim Arab women. What he’s doing is setting up an arbitrary “litmus test” for loyalty to Israel that does not require everyone to be Jewish or force Israeli Arabs to serve in the IDF. As others said above, the problem with his platform is the price that that people will pay if they don’t pass the litmus test.

    I don’t like Lieberman, but it’s important to be accurate.

  8. Personally, I would never vote for Lieberman because he seeks to divide Jerusalem and the Galilee. I would never vote for anyone who openly proclaims that as a good idea. However, I am not Israeli, so the choice is not mine to make.

    That all said – Yossi is 100% accurate in all he said, as per my research into the subject.

  9. Sandmonkey,

    It looks like you fell victim to political scare mongering.

    I hope Yogi, Roman and Zvi cleared few things.

    Thank you, guys.

  10. Roman Kalik says:

    Incidentally, to clarify one tiny historical tidbit…

    In December 1953, Ben-Gurion (who was then Prime Minister and Minister of Defence) declared that he was retiring. Moshe Sharet was made Prime Minister in his stead, and Pinchas Lavon became Minister of Defense.

    Lavon resigned on February 1955, and Ben-Gurion agreed to come out of retirement to take back the role of Minister of Defense, and soon took up his former role as Prime Minister in the 1955 general elections.

  11. lol does it make a difference Likud, Meretz, Yisrael Beiteinu all of us in the arab world will still get hit with the GAMZA KADIMA and its head gazma livni!!!!

  12. Which one is the candidate for hope and change?

  13. “Which one is the candidate for hope and change?”

    None, god forbid.

  14. I suspect that if, in any western democracy, jews were required to submit to this type of “loyalty test”, they’d call it anti-semitic. (Regardless of whether or not they’d pass.)

    Double standard here, anyone?

  15. Double standard here, anyone?

    Dick, the current system that excepts some Israelis from the draft based on ethnic and or/religious classifications is a double standard. Not saying it doesn’t make sense – just that one can hardly call the remedy of a double standard, a double standard, right?

    Adam, if you’re around, can you tell us if any groups are exempted from mandatory service in Denmark?

  16. SM…

    A vote for Hamas…a vote for Intifada…a vote for terror…is a vote for Liberman.

  17. Craig:

    Yes, level playing field for all within israel, but I’m referring to a different double standard: advocating a “test” for minorities when one is a majority that one would resist and resent if one were a minority. As in a test of arab loyalty in israel that would be regarded as anti-semitic if applied to jews in, for example, the usa.

    Note, in this regard, that – in surveys – the adl uses agreement with the statement “jews are more loyal to israel than the usa” as a purported measure of anti-semitism. Measures of ethnic “loyalty” to parent societies rub very close to minority sensitivities.

    My bottom line: if Lieberman were a christian american politician and even hinting at this type of test for jews or any other ethnic minority, he’d be regarded as a dangerous racist. Which, of course, in reality he is.

  18. Dick:

    The test is to be applied to all, including to Jewish Haredim and peaceniks.

    Jews and nonJews alike would be subjected to Lieberman’s standards. It is not a double standard in the way you say.

  19. Amir in Tel Aviv says:

    I’m impressed by the knowledgeable commentators in this blog..!!!
    I suspect (it adds to my amazement), that some of them aren’t Israelis…

    Anyway, it is impossible to understand the Libermanism phenomenon,
    without listening to the Arab members of the Knesset. They are mostly
    responsible for the radicalization of the Jewish-Israeli electorate.

  20. I like Liberman, he’s a clown and clowns are good to have around.

  21. Roman Kalik says:

    @18 Amir:

    Anyway, it is impossible to understand the Libermanism phenomenon,
    without listening to the Arab members of the Knesset. They are mostly
    responsible for the radicalization of the Jewish-Israeli electorate.

    Indeed. Their best effort at unified leadership is “Let’s try Communism!” in the form of Hadash.

    The other Arab lists are confused about whether they should be Nationalists, pan-Arabists, or Islamists. The party blocs automatically side with anyone who says Israel is bad – Arafat? Hamas? Hezbollah? Syria? They’ll go over for a visit, shake hands, make some fiery speeches… and then go back to doing nothing useful whatsoever.

    And recently, the frequent visits to Syria, Lebanon, and so on… started to get on people’s nerves. In any other country, visiting an enemy state without due sanction to do so is illegal. In Israel, some members of the Knesset do whatever they like, and then say that denying them that is denying them their “Arab rights”.

    Here it is: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3668921,00.html

    They messed up. Completely and utterly.

  22. I’m impressed as well from all this historical knowledge, and i have only two things to add.

    In every election about 5-10 of the knesset seats are allocated to the hip party of the moment. 2 elections ago it was an anti religious party, in the previous election it was a geriatrics party, and now its liberman. Usually they don’t vote again to the same party because their voting is based on expectations that no politician can fulfill.

    As for the loyalty thing, in the context of the large liberman plan it is somewhat less racists, as part of his solution to the israely-palestinian conflict is to exchange with the PA the major arab areas in the eastern part of israel (in the 67 borders) with the areas of the big jewish settlements in the west bank, with the arabs leaving at those areas lose their israeli nationality and gain a paletinian one with any need to leave there house and land.
    Being a cynic, I am sure you will appreciate the fact that the arabs affected by this suggestion are willing to fight in every way they can to hold to their israeli nationality and refuse to join the PA.

  23. annoying spelling mistakes… should have been

    with the areas of the big jewish settlements in the west bank, with the arabs *living* at those areas lose their israeli nationality and gain a paletinian one *without* any need to leave their house and land.

  24. Dick, #14 said:

    “I suspect that if, in any western democracy, jews were required to submit to this type of “loyalty test”, they’d call it anti-semitic. (Regardless of whether or not they’d pass.)

    Double standard here, anyone?”

    Dick–every Jewish kid in the United States recites the pledge of allegiance to the “flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

    They’ve been doing it for as long as it’s existed. No one’s claimed it’s anti-Semitic.
    Not that I agree with Lieberman. I don’t. He’s a provocateur. But your point proves nothing.

  25. Dick every Jewish kid in the United States?!


    Oh, never mind.

  26. I hate Libermann’s fear based politics but the arabs and the UO brought that on themselves. With respect to the Arabs- what other country would tolerate having a segment of its population elect representatives to parliment where they do nothing other than to call for the destruction of their supposed homeland? As for UO, what other country would tolerate a sengement of its population living on the dole while slandering the country that feeds them at every turn?

  27. Andrew Brehm says:

    If Lieberman were an Arab and advocated the very same policies with just “Jews” and “Arabs” switched around, he’d be regarded as a “moderate”.

    Plus he would be the first Arab “moderate” not to advocate using violence and terrorism to reach his goal.

  28. No fan of Lieberman here, but he’s certainly not as simplistic as he gets described: