Lieberman dangerous?
Photo: AP

Clear and present danger

Yisrael Beiteinu openly calls for undermining democracy's most basic rights

The motto "without loyalty there's no citizenship" belongs in the darkest regimes. In such regimes, people are detained, tortured, sent to labor or rehabilitation camps, or simply "disappear" because someone suspected they are disloyal. In such regimes, citizens live in fear and are scared to speak up lest someone interpret their words as criticism; they secretly tell each other jokes (forget about political satire on television) while fearing that their neighbors or friends will turn them in.


"Without loyalty there's no citizenship." Seemingly, this is so logical and speaks to our sense of natural justice. This is why this slogan seems legitimate. Why should the State bestow its good upon those who are disloyal or do not wish it well? However, this is a trap that shall lead us to a life of fear. After all, who will be determining the loyalty threshold? And how shall we distinguish disloyalty to the State from disagreement with the position of authorities? The moment loyalty will be determined by authorities, any kind of criticism will be interpreted as disloyalty.


Lieberman is not talking about us, say most citizens. Yet he is. Lieberman is talking about anyone who disagrees with his perception of the State and its path. Please read Yisrael Beiteinu's platform; it doesn't hide a thing. In the "Citizenship and Equality" clause, under the headline "stricter attitude to subversion," it says: "We shall act to ban parties or bodies whose words or acts constitute incitement against the State of Israel as a Jewish Zionist State and undermine its existence."


Next, watch Yisrael Beiteinu's election ads on TV, which feature examples of disloyalty, followed by a voiceover ominously: "No citizenship without loyalty." And what is the example provided? Protesters against the operation in Gaza holding up signs near the fence of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The conclusion is that those protesting against government decisions are disloyal. Loud and clear. And where do we mark the loyalty threshold? Balad? Hadash? Meretz? Or perhaps Kadima, which is engaging in talks on returning the Golan Heights?


And on a personal note – did you donate to Peace Now? Did you attend the mass rally in the wake of the Sabra and Shatila massacre? (Smearing the country in public.) Did you express solidarity with the Four Mothers movement? (Weakening the resolve of IDF troops in Lebanon." Did you endorse the Oslo Accords in the peace rally on November 4th, 1995? Did you perhaps back the evacuation of settlements from Gaza? (Promoting the handing over of territory to the enemy and contributing to the success of terrorism.)


Sounds exaggerated? In an Army Radio interview in October 2007 quoted by Ynet, then-Strategic Threats Minister Lieberman slammed leftists who called for a boycott of artists who support the settlement enterprise.


"All our troubles, all our problems, all our victims are a result of these people," he said. "Overall, all of our problems do not stem from the outside world, and are not the result of the international community – it is because of these people." According to their election ads, Avigdor Lieberman and Uzi Landau mean every word they say.


Slippery slope 

This slope is a slippery one and climbing back up hurts. At first, the law will be utilized against minorities in the face of meek protest. Yet the protests will die down as one gets closer to the loyalty threshold. At a certain moment, every citizen will be asking himself or herself whether they are not risking their job, their wellbeing, or their family. From that point onward, only exceptional people will continue to protest.


In most cases they won't live long (at least not like free people,) and the threshold will keep rising. In many cases we will not know who determines the loyalty threshold or what it is exactly. Later, the question of loyalty will turn into a tool utilized by the authorities for hurting those who undermine the interests of the powerful. I did not invent this story. Regrettably, it happened in so many countries at different times – Argentina, Spain, China, Iran, the Soviet Union, and yes, in Germany too.


Lieberman will not win the premiership in the upcoming elections, yet if we fail to regain our senses, his party will be among the pillars of the coalition. Even if he serves as leader of the opposition, with nearly 20 Knesset seats (yes, that many,) in the next elections he will be in good position to win the premiership. His loyalty laws will be promoted in one way or another. Should the High Court prevent this, he will aim to curb its powers. This process started in the current Knesset.


Yisrael Beiteinu openly calls for undermining the most basic rights in a democratic society, including the right to express and promote one's views. Without these rights, there is no democracy. This is a clear and present danger that no voter may ignore.


Leon Deouell is an associate professor at the Hebrew University's psychology department


פרסום ראשון: 02.05.09, 00:45
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