MK Bronfman Gets Death Threats for Backing Refuseniks'

Toward the end of the Peace Coalition's demonstration in Tel Aviv last Saturday night, organizers invited MK Roman Bronfman of the Democratic Choice to address the crowd as a representative of dovish immigrants from the former Soviet Union. After making all the expected remarks, Bronfman launched a political bombshell: He expressed support for IDF reservists who refuse to serve in the territories. Though he said he could not actively urge such resistance, he called the soldiers and officers who have decided not to serve "the nation's conscience," said they had restored the left wing's pride, and concluded, "I salute you." He won the crowd's greatest applause of the rally.

But when he left the dais, Bronfman received a sharp rebuke from opposition leader MK Yossi Sarid (Meretz) for "exploiting a joint platform" to express opinions not shared by other parts of the Peace Coalition. "[Bronfman] knows very well that we didn't set up this platform to support refusal to serve," said Sarid, whose party officially opposes such refusal. But Bronfman replied that every speaker has the right to say what he believes.

But while Bronfman's words caused some consternation on the left, where the refusenik issue is under debate, the dispute among the doves, pales in comparison to reactions within the Russian immigrant community.

Since last Saturday, death threats against Bronfman have appeared on Russian-language Internet sites, prompting the MK to complain to both Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein and to the Knesset Guard. In his letter to Rubinstein, Bronfman cited a message posted on the Russian-language Web site run by Arutz Sheva, the settlers' pirate radio station. "The time has come to wipe out all the reds in the Russian street, and first and foremost Bronfman," the message said. "The Bronfman phenomenon not only ought not to exist in politics, it ought not to exist at all. In any other state during wartime, traitors such as Bronfman would be executed. If the government is not capable of stopping him, we will do it ourselves."

The site's forum held a discussion on the topic of "Should we get rid of Bronfman?" Some of the responses included: "Why Bronfman specifically? He belongs in the same noose as Sarid and [former Labor MK Yossi] Beilin"; "The question is how much it cost the Arabs to buy him"; and "In self-defense, the Jewish people must punish them - both Bronfman and those who refuse to serve."

"I'm not afraid," Bronfman said. "But I was born in a totalitarian regime, and I am sensitive to the signs. Despair is leading us into intellectual totalitarianism. The intolerance that dominates the Russian street worries me greatly."