The spread of Liebermanism
Lieberman, though he works tirelessly to disenfranchise Arab politicians - and, in effect, the entire Arab public - is not the most extreme. Baruch Marzel, Itamar Ben-Gvir and Effi Eitam are even less restrained when it comes to the rights of Israeli Arabs.
This week, the Supreme Court accepted a petition by two Arab Knesset factions - Balad and United Arab List-Ta'al - and overturned the Central Elections Commission's decision to bar them from running in the upcoming elections. This ruling, which did not ignore the problematic elements of both parties' platforms, rescued the political system from the disgrace it inflicted on itself and the voting public by disqualifying these slates.
As always, the bid to disqualify the parties came from members of the extreme right, and they are also the ones who heaped unbridled criticism on the court's decision. Most prominent among them was Yisrael Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Lieberman, who shouted at MK Ahmed Tibi, "Some of the Arab MKs should be dealt with like Hamas."
Lieberman, though he works tirelessly to disenfranchise Arab politicians - and, in effect, the entire Arab public - is not the most extreme. Baruch Marzel, Itamar Ben-Gvir and Effi Eitam are even less restrained when it comes to the rights of Israeli Arabs. But it is Lieberman, whose vision and platform seem to be rational and well thought out, who is actually the greater danger to democracy. The Central Elections Commission's sweeping consensus in favor of disqualifying the Arab parties - which even included Kadima and the Labor Party - is bitter proof of this.
Granted, Labor's response team argued vehemently that MK Eitan Cabel's vote on the commission in favor of disqualification violated the party's principles and did not reflect the majority's views. But to this day, party chairman Ehud Barak has yet to make his views on the subject known. And while Kadima likes to describe itself as a centrist party, its leaders, including Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, did not hesitate to vote in favor of disqualification.
Lieberman's dangerous and anti-democratic worldview has thus succeeded in infecting the centrist stream of Israeli politics, and that is reflected in the statements of politicians who are considered relatively moderate.
The ridiculous idea of demanding loyalty tests for Arab citizens as a condition for obtaining basic civil rights is being treated as a legitimate option in the corridors of the Knesset. So is the desire to transfer towns in the Triangle region, along with their residents, to the future state of Palestine as part of a "repartition" of the country.
Ideas that no one would have dared let cross their lips 10 or 20 years ago, lest they be thought utter fascists, have been bolstered in recent months by the war in the south. It seems that Israeli Arabs are once again paying the price of the bloody struggle between Israel and its neighbors. And populist politicians seeking to ingratiate themselves with an inflamed public are once again using the Arabs as a punching bag, along the lines of "stick it to the Arabs and salvage the party in the polls."
Now that the court has overturned the disqualification decision, the leading candidates must publicly disavow this spreading Liebermanism and its racist characteristics. Any other response would constitute an undemocratic and immoral disqualification of Israel's Arab citizens.