Democracy – a Concept Lieberman Has Yet to Grasp

There is no democracy without human rights groups. Show some respect, Avigdor Lieberman, before you vilify them.

Hello, Mr. Foreign Minister. As you are surrounded by 14 frightened mutes otherwise known as Yisrael Beiteinu Knesset members, you unleashed another of your horror shows against the left this week. An unwitting foreigner who just arrived here could be forgiven for thinking that Israel had a strong and influential left, so influential that the foreign minister saw fit to unleash such an unbridled attack against it. But let's put aside the cynicism in your choosing to target what remains of the left for a populist assault and to satisfy your voters. Let's instead delve into your ignorance.

Emil Salman

You came to us from a different place, a different regime, the same one where you now spend your vacations. Not many statesmen around the world opt for Belarus of all places, one of Europe's few remaining dictatorships, as a vacation spot, but let's not fixate on your unusual taste. Apparently you feel comfortable in the former Soviet bloc because there is no B'Tselem, Haaretz, Physicians for Human Rights or Yesh Din to deal with. In these places, only one opinion counts, one voice, one school of thought and one newspaper, even if it appears under various names.

Over there, the regime murders journalists. Over there sits Vladimir Putin and his ilk, the kind of people you so wish to emulate. Oh how pleasant it must be for you to recall your mamaloshen, the dictatorial language of your childhood. Oh how you must want to resurrect it here. But, as misfortune would have it, since your childhood a new world has arisen in Europe, a world with a flourishing civil society flush with human rights organizations and protest movements. We call it democracy, a concept whose significance you have yet to grasp.

If you were the only one expressing these thoughts - just another poor sap who doesn't understand anything - that would be one thing. But you are disseminating your ignorance in every direction, and it's falling on fertile ground provided by a hate-filled society with a fragile rule of law. That's the danger you pose. You are surrounded by feinschmeckers - finicky types - as you put it, but not the ones to whom you referred. From the president to the prime minister to the opposition leader, everyone is afraid to come out against you. They are the real finicky types.

So we need to go back to basics. The organizations that you slandered and that you want to muzzle are the breathing soul of Israeli democracy. There is no democracy without these groups. Show some respect, Avigdor Lieberman, before you vilify them. The sensitive and refined language you employ to describe these groups is a testament to your baseness. Paul Kedar, one of the founders of Israel's air force, a former Mossad man and a retired senior diplomat, became devotedly active in Yesh Din even after his days of heroism. He doesn't need approval from you nor does he deserve an investigation as you propose. He is the compass and the conscience of a lost society, as are the activities of the other organizations you railed against.

Do they "deter the IDF from its fight against terrorism," as you said? They certainly do, for that is their job. Do you really want an army that operates without constraints, supervision or accountability? How will we know if soldiers shoot people carrying white flags unless B'Tselem investigates? How will we know if the "neighbor procedure" - in which soldiers use a "human shield" to enter a house before them - is being employed without testimony from soldiers who are members of Breaking the Silence?

How will we know if Israel is denying treatment to a Palestinian cancer patient if Physicians for Human Rights doesn't report it? Who will tell us about settlers who set fire to vineyards if not Yesh Din? Who damages Israel's image more? The soldier who shoots an elderly man in his bed in Hebron and a youth carrying a water bottle in the settlement of Beka'ot? Or the person who reports these incidents?

Would you prefer an Israel without Haaretz, an Israel that would gladly believe that the demonstrator in Bil'in died of cancer? Or would you want an Israel with Haaretz, which would cast doubt on this version? What kind of society do you want here, Avigdor Lieberman? Your Israel is certainly not our home.

You want to eliminate all this. You want to make do with the IDF Spokesman's Office and with journalists who parrot your prepared statements. You have abandoned all the others to their own devices. If they are "terrorist collaborators," then you would have to mobilize the elite units that, as you know, are perfectly capable of liquidating them.

"The volume of protest was without proportion," you carped, revealing your line of thinking, under which it's up to the establishment to determine the "proportionality" of protest against us. By what measurement was it without proportion? Certainly by the measurement of your worldview. In comparison to the danger you pose, it was negligible.