I did not vote for Avigdor Lieberman and never will. I do not agree with some of his political positions and do not accept his framing of certain issues. But I am appalled by the left's delegitimizing of Lieberman and anyone connected with him. I do not believe that Israel's Arab citizens must be required to declare their loyalty to the Jewish state. What must be demanded of them and of all Israeli citizens, whether Jewish, Druze or other, is unflinching loyalty to the State of Israel and its laws. But even if one can, and sometimes should, disagree with Lieberman on his approach and statements on this sensitive issue, he's still not a racist. Lieberman is neither a racist nor a fascist, and depicting him as such does an injustice to his voters and harm to Israel.
What's racist is denying the Jewish people a state of their own. Certain Arab Knesset members talk incessantly about the Palestinian people's rights, including their own state. But in the same breath they refuse to acknowledge Israel as the state of the Jewish people and deny the very existence of a Jewish people as a nation with national rights. The person who deserves the racist epithet is MK Jamal Zahalka, who attended the conference of hate in Geneva and called himself "a victim of Israel's racist apartheid" while serving as a member of the Israeli parliament.
The left's tendency to delegitimize and demonize people with whom they disagree is no less reprehensible than similar tactics by the right. Just as we must condemn right wingers' attempts to cast doubt over the patriotism of Yossi Beilin and his fellow subscribers to the Geneva Initiative - provocative as this plan might be to most Israelis - we must condemn the left's lamentable habit of denigrating Lieberman.
The idea to change the state's borders in a peace agreement may not be practical or implementable in our circumstances, but we cannot deny its legitimacy and sense. And in any case, it has nothing to do with racism. Lieberman has said publicly that he supports the principle of establishing a Palestinian state. The media attacked Lieberman for his comments on Annapolis, but his statement on Israel's commitment to the road map is of infinitely greater importance. It's a fact that the Annapolis process did not mature into an agreement, and the road map enjoys widespread international recognition. Incidentally, it's interesting to note that no such assurances of Israel's commitment to the road map have come from Benjamin Netanyahu.
It's time that both the left and right learn to engage in debates over issues, not individuals, and stop delegitimizing and demonizing once and for all.
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