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Everybody has their Liebermans

By Ivan Hentschel  Posted by Ivan Hentschel (about the submitter)     Permalink
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Recently, this story was published on MSNBC.

You can read the whole article for yourself, but the by-line that got me reads like this (next to a photo of a guy who looks unsettlingly much too much like Paul Krugman):

Israel's Yisrael Beiteinu party leader Avigdor Lieberman, who has called for the country's Arab minority swear loyalty to the state or lose their citizenship, has backed Benjamin Netanyahu for prime minister.

My old Texas Instruments calculator seems to be broken, so I can’t say exactly how many people I will piss off with this comment, but that’s the way the unleavened cookie crumbles.

Following in the footsteps of, and in the best traditions of, American politics, the Israelis have been busy playing the election game.  This last race was a troublesome threesome, starring the venerable retread (and to some reviled) Netanyahu, the foreign minister, Tzipi Livni (I still think her name sounds like an anorexic Italian sports car) and the third party, the Beitenu.

This third party, the Ralph Nader/Ron Paul element, the salt-in-the-wound, itch-where-you–can’t-quite-scratch, annoying-like-a mosquito-bite group, is apparently fronted by a man named...you guessed it…Lieberman!  

From the photo in the article, he appears to dress much more casually and with a much nicer flair than our Connecticut chameleon, but he is very outspoken about his positions concerning what Israel “ought to do,” and he is completely unapologetic about advising President Shimon Peres as to what stance to take and how the “new” government should be structured.  It reminds me of the old joke:” Hi! I’m from Beitenu and I’m here to help you!” 

I both know, and know of, many people in the US who are disgruntled, discouraged and annoyed by Connecticut's Joseph Lieberman and his curious impact on the last election. He dresses drably, speaks with the same lackluster drone, muddies the waters and makes no secret of his desire to be in the limelight and garner public attention for his changing and changeable positions.

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I think the Democrats have been very kind to Lieberman, considering how many times he has thumbed his nose at them. I have yet to sense anything worthwhile that he has contributed to either the process or the outcome.

The (real) Israeli Lieberman frightens me more. There are too many words and phrases in this article that bother me: hard-liner, ultranationalist, government reign, threat to mid-east peace, and that ominous line about “swearing loyalty.”

I am very concerned about how much obstructionist, militaristic and pugnacious thinking has risen so much to the forefront, especially when nearly the entire world is appalled by the recent genocide in Gaza. And history is littered with self-appointed “advisors” to kings, tzars and presidents, and I don’t recall any of them promoting bright spots in world development.

But the last influence the world community needs right now is a hard-line position on Palestinians, when almost everyone would like this decades-old conflict to be ended as soon as possible. And the term, "ultranationalist" just reminds me of the carnage, not so long ago, in the Balkans.  The simple fact is that no one needs to reign over the mideast: somebody needs to get to the Israeli leaders and not-so-gently remind them that the days of King David are long over and democracies don’t reign.

But more disturbing than any other reference is the one about “swearing loyalty” to the government. Great and memorable(?) leaders like Adolf Hitler and kings of the realm and their ilk have called for such measures over the centuries, and it has always been a story without a good ending.

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In the case of the Jews, after the Third Reich, I can’t imagine how such a phrase could even begin to roll off any Jew’s lips. If the Israelis are going to follow the US democratic model, they should pay attention to the fact that we ask people to “swear allegiance to the flag,” which is quite different from swearing loyalty to the government.  An essential component of a vibrant democracy is that we always are able to question the government (I think Rush Limbaugh just had a heart attack).

Liebermans, Liebermans everywhere, and not a chance to think. I have been thinking a lot lately, during the foreplay and aftermath of the passing of the stimulus bill, about how totally inappropriate, backward looking and oddly askew the language and remarks of the Republicans have been, and wondering how this recent obstructionism and recalcitrance would be resolved.

I have also wondered why Joe Lieberman has been relatively quiet.  But now I see the world stage is like Wrigley’s chewing gum -- with two Liebermans we can double our trouble and double our (not so very much) fun. 

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