Lieberman should be condemned not because of his past but because of his activity in the present and the messages that are driving his election campaign.
The testimony of the former director general of Kach, Yossi Dayan, to the effect that the chairman of Yisrael Beiteinu, MK Avigdor Lieberman, was a member of the movement after he immigrated to Israel (Lily Galili, Haaretz, February 3) should not be the reason to object to Lieberman and what he represents. Lieberman should be condemned not because of his past but because of his activity in the present and the messages that are driving his election campaign.
The slogan "Without loyalty there is no citizenship" is not illegal, but has its roots in a dark conceptual world and is contrary to the lifeblood of democracy, which never makes civil rights contingent on performing duties. The other slogan, "Only Lieberman understands Arabic," stinks of crude racism, against which a society that affirms life and freedom is obligated to fight. Lieberman's plan for "an exchange of territories," which is being marketed as a part of legitimate negotiations between two equal sides, is nothing but polite packaging that does not succeed in concealing its real aspiration: delegitimizing all the Arab citizens of Israel.
Lieberman indeed does not use the terminology of Kach leader Meir Kahane. In his platform and speeches he takes care to use "clean" language because, in contrast to Kahane, the rabble-rousing religious nationalist, Lieberman is an extreme right-wing politician who blends into his neoconservative worldview colonialist and racist elements. And like leaders of the extreme nationalist racist right in Europe - Jean-Marie Le Pen, Joerg Haider and others - he is aiming his propaganda straight at society's nucleus of fear and weakness, fanning nationalist sentiments and using a minority as a punching bag.
There is no doubt that the atmosphere in which nationalism became more extreme during the war in Gaza has strengthened Lieberman. In mock elections at schools he has won high popularity, and the number of Knesset seats predicted for him is rising steadily in the public opinion polls. Presumably his success will only increase as the security threat looms larger and the economic crisis worsens.
This is a tale foretold, which is becoming exacerbated in light of the ideological flabbiness of the candidates for prime minister. Likud MK Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak must disassociate themselves from him and his slogans, and soon. If not, the three of them will bear the full responsibility for the entrenchment of dangerous racist politics in Israel.