It's Not Racism, It's Just Patriotism

This is the equation of identity that the extreme right has succeeded in planting: Your loyalty to the homeland is measured by how anti-Arab you are.

A racist, a transferist, a hater of Arabs, an embarrassment to democracy; indict him, expel him from the Knesset - these are only a few of the curses hurled at Avigdor Lieberman by politicians and publicists. It is as if Lieberman were something the cat dragged home from the Lebanon war garbage dump and not the house cat itself.

Indeed, it seems that the anger is not about what Lieberman says or plans to do "with the Arabs in Israel," but is directed instead at Ehud Olmert and the Labor Party for being ready to sit with the abomination. What has not been said is that it is spin designed to help Olmert survive, that Olmert and Benjamin Netanyahu are one and the same, that the Labor Party is a rag and that the left-wing parties will evaporate if they agree to sit with Lieberman.

The "spin" was annoying. Perhaps Lieberman, the man, was indeed hard to swallow. But no one said anything about the essence of the party, Yisrael Beiteinu. About the fact that a Kahanist offshoot was able to germinate in Jewish society, to develop branches and toxic fruits, and to take Israeli politics by storm. Not a single political party took to the streets to protest the very existence of a party based on a racist platform, not a peep was heard when the extreme right-wing, settler parties attacked Lieberman, claiming that he is lending legitimacy to the creep Olmert, the same "scoundrel" who championed the unilateral disengagement and planned, before fleeing back to his hole, to also carry out a unilateral realignment. Until just a moment ago, these law-flouting settlers believed Lieberman was a friend - and he turns out to be a traitor. They also have no problem with the Lieberman platform.

"Transfer? What's the big deal?" I remember a longtime settler from Neve Dekalim saying. "Just like they expel us from our land, we can also expel them, and it isn't even their land."

The fascist alliance between the settler-style right and the Lieberman-style right is, therefore, accepted as self-evident. After all, what is the difference between Effi Eitam, who spoke about expelling Arabs, and Lieberman? The political doctrine is identical, and so is the political path. Both sit in the Knesset spouting the slogan that Israel is for the Jews. Excuse me, Israel is for the patriots. And who else can be a patriot? This is the equation of identity that the extreme right has succeeded in planting: Your loyalty to the homeland is measured by how anti-Arab you are.

This is the heart of the trap in which the left is caught. Because it turns out that in order to expel fascism, the left-wing parties must be portrayed as protectors of the Arabs in Israel, to tell the public that they are opposed to the expulsion of Arabs, that racism is prohibited in the Jewish state. But such statements, like it or not, are a political trap from which there is only one way out: It's not important what Lieberman says or thinks, the Labor Party's master formulators say, the important thing is what he will do. It is as if thoughts, ideas and racist notions have a bedroom of their own, a sealed room that does not affect the public.

And so, it is easier to give an Arab a position of deputy minister or committee chairman - as long as one is not seen as an "Arab lover." It is easier to issue a directive to teach about the Kafr Qassem massacre, than heaven forbid quitting the government. Let's put the Arabs aside for a moment, they say in the Labor Party, we have a "social agenda" and we need to sometimes compromise a bit for its sake. "Compromise a bit?" Ah. But even this social agenda pertains to one society, the Jewish one. There are no Arabs in it. It turns out that Arabs are a burden. They hinder proponents of equal rights from appearing as true patriots.

Indeed, with 78 MKs in the coalition - Israel has not had such political stability in generations - it is possible not only to design agendas but also to realize them. But this is stability that will not advance any agenda - neither equality of rights for Arabs nor a political process. Only the stability of the principle of transfer can be preserved there, in a warm and comfortable place in the center of Israeli politics. Even more grievous, this is the same government stability that will please the voters who will also support Liebermanism in the next elections.