On shared values and Avigdor Lieberman

February 26th, 2009

Avigdor Lieberman’s op-ed in the Jewish Week on shared values between Israel and the United States is as genuine as a Bernie Madoff lecture on business ethics. Let’s set the record straight: Avigdor Lieberman has advocated transferring Israeli Arab citizens out of Israel.  He wants to ask current citizens of Israel to take a loyalty oath.  He campaigned on a platform that only he “understands Arabic” and that there should be “no citizenship without loyalty.”  There is no doubt what he meant and who he’s targeting. Lieberman gets one thing right: the strong and historic Israeli-US relationship has been based on shared values and interests.  But his values are not my values – neither as an American nor as a Jew. It is his electoral rise and platform that threaten to shake the very pillars on which that relationship is built. The American Jewish community must not countenance an effort to whitewash Avigdor Lieberman and his policies. As Rabbi Eric Yoffie wrote in a recent Forward op-ed, Lieberman ran “an outrageous, abominable, hate-filled campaign, brimming with incitement that, if left unchecked, could lead Israel to the gates of hell.” To those in this community who may try to dress this wolf in sheep’s clothing, Yoffie added this warning:

For all those who claim to speak and lobby on our behalf, who fight antisemitism whenever it appears, and who champion Jewish rights everywhere, this is a moment of truth. If we are silent or speak the language of equivocation, we will weaken rather than strengthen Israel’s cause.... We do not make excuses for the haters, the bigots and the demagogues who incite against Jews and other minorities around the world, and we must not make excuses when the inciter is one of our own.
Yoffie is absolutely right - Avigdor Lieberman's politics threaten Israel's moral authority and threaten to undermine a strong Israel-US friendship based on shared values and shared strategic interests.