Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Defending Avigdor Leiberman, Israel's New Foreign Minister

by Tamar Boussi 
The last two weeks, of the Israeli election, I followed Avigdor Leiberman as he was obviously as important as the "top three" candidates that the media had determined should be followed and reported on. After listening to Leiberman in several different venues, then asking him a question regarding his purported "racism", I carefully read the platform of Yisrael Beitanu. I want to issue the following challenge. Show me where, in Mr. Leiberman’s writings, speeches or party platform he is a "hate mongering" extremist or a "racist" as he has been accused by one or the other of the above named.

First of all, the party platform in brief:
No negotiations with terrorists
Overthrow Hamas
Citizenship should be linked to loyalty to the state and its principles. (Remember there are two Arab parties who the Knesset voted to not allow to run in this election because their platforms call for the destruction of the state of Israel and replacement with a Palestinian state. The Supreme Court ruled they must be allowed to run) Americans elected to public office must take an oath of allegiance as well as new citizens. Nowhere does Leiberman call for only Arabs or any other singled out be loyal to the state.

Legal residents who have served in the IDF or have done National Service will get preferential treatment when applying to Universities, receiving public service benefits and allocation of state owned land grants. (This applies to all sections of the population, not only Jews)The U.S. GI bill of rights comes to mind)
A coalition should be formed to change the system of elections to a more workable system, perhaps modeled after the American system.

A bill will be presented to allow civil union as well as religious marriage.
A special cabinet level position to encourage aliyah and integration of new immigrants from Europe and the U.S. due to the sharp rise in anti-semitism.
Remove the restrictions on the importation and sale of pork products.
Loosen Sabbath restrictions on commerce.
Some of these planks may be disagreeable, but which ones are right wing extremist and which are racist and in what way?

My question to Mr Leiberman on the borders was answered realistically and constructively. Borders are usually described as an issue in solving the disagreements between the parties in this part of the world. The idea of moving borders so most Arabs live together and will govern themselves autonomously and most heavily Jewish populated areas accrue to Israel, is basic idea behind the borders set by the UN partition. This would insure that no one is moved out of their homes. Israel is not the U.S. and the Middle East is not the Americas. How people live here is different in that cultural, religious and ethnic differences cause people to prefer living together in their own communities, in order to maintain those differences. While Arabs can live freely in Israel, Jews cannot live in Arab territories—why is that?

In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, Leiberman stated he has two basic commitments, first the Security of Israel, second, prosperity for the Palestinians. He is a supporter of a two state solution and in fact believes this is the only way to solve the issue of security for Israel and prosperity for the Palestinians.
American Jews may support the Zionist enterprise or not, but to attempt to pressure the government of a sovereign state to form a government, that is contrary to the wishes of the voters, in this case, by delegitimizing one of its leaders is not their province. To quote the embattled Dutch film maker Geert Wilders, "Thanks to Israeli parents who see their children go off to join the army and lie awake at night worrying, parents in Europe and America can sleep well and have pleasant dreams, unaware of the dangers looming."

Demonizing those with whom we may disagree is not helpful, democratic or wise. While we can all read between the lines and determine that we know what another person thinks, but this is mind reading when there is no evidence to support it.

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