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The Barbarian in a Suit

Avigdor LiebermanThe French philosopher Simone Weil once observed that barbarism should be "considered as a permanent and universal human characteristic which becomes more or less pronounced according to the play of circumstances." Historically, there is no doubt of the accuracy of this statement. As the 20th century so aptly demonstrated, civilization is a very fragile state. And with weaponry getting ever more destructive the fragility of our civilization and the potent potential of barbarism increases proportionately. So, in the 20th century we had two world wars, a large number of smaller ones, the Holocaust, ethnic cleansing on a grand scale, and a "cold war" kept from getting hot by the fear of nuclear cataclysm. One can only say that humanity is very lucky there is anything like civilization left and, obviously, we have continued to push our luck, so to speak, in the first decade of the 21st century.

One other way of measuring the precarious nature of our civilization is by observing how many "barbarians in suits" lead our nation states. You can point all the fingers on both hands at those so called "rogue state" leaders, but any objective observer would have to conclude they have nothing on men like George W. Bush, Dick Chaney and Donald Rumsfeld. For sheer body counts these American "leaders" are right up with the worst of them. It is most unfortunate that Barack Obama and a majority of the Democrat party seem determined to slip and slide down a similar bloody road.
 
I mention these American notables so as not to be accused of ignoring my own national breed of "barbarians in suits" as I turn my attention to another particularly ugly example, Avigdor Lieberman of Israel. I suspect that the idea of a Jewish barbarian was unthinkable before the rise of Zionism. But since that ideology has managed to tie Judaism (or what is left of it) to an obsessively ethnocentric nation state all the requirements for modern Jewish barbarians are in place and, sure enough, up they pop. There was Begin, Ben Gurion, Sharon and many more who have indulged in terrorism, ethnic cleansing and assorted massacre. Now we have Avigdor Lieberman.
 
Lieberman is Israel’s Foreign Minister, as well as deputy Prime Minister, so he usually is seen wearing a suit. But he is a barbarian nonetheless. His particular style of barbarism is racism. For instance, on June 22, 2010 Lieberman put forth a "blueprint for the resolution of the [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict" that demands the ethnic cleansing of Israeli Arabs. It is to be noted here that there are other non-racist "blueprints" on the table that can resolve this conflict. The most important one is that put forth by the Arab League (often referred to as the Saudi Plan) as early as 2002. This would normalize relations with Israel in return for the creation of a viable Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. Unfortunately, Israel has turned its nose up to this proposal. Instead we are offered the Lieberman alternative.
 
What Lieberman wants to do is strip Israel’s 1.3 million Palestinian citizens of their citizenship, and force them to become citizens of a future Palestinian "state." He puts this in terms of "land swaps" which implies that part of present day Israel will be shifted over into a future Palestine in exchange for the West Bank territory now occupied by Israeli "settlers." But I think this is a ploy. The Israelis are presently "settling" on two fronts. They are expanding on the West Bank (and this process will accelerate after September 2010) and they are expanding the Jewish population in the Galilee and other areas of Israel proper where the residents are now mostly Palestinian. My feeling is that if Lieberman’s plan is adopted Arab Israelis would find themselves in variations of the same crowded bantustans now being created for the West Bank Palestinians.
 
Why should anyone take Lieberman’s uncivilized racist proposal seriously? The answer to this is suggested by Michael Warshcawski, founder of the Alternative Information Center, a joint Israeli-Palestinian advocacy organization. Warshcawski explains that Israel is now more isolated than anytime in the past and the resulting pressure has narrowed the options of its ruling elite. That elite "knows that the only solution to the conflict acceptable to the international community is an end to the occupation" and the realization of a two-state solution. However, "none of them, not even Ehud Barak [head of the Labor Party] are ready to accept this...." Instead, most of the country’s leaders are of the same mind as Lieberman. That is, Israel should "push ahead" and create a pure Jewish state by absorbing a good part of the West Bank and confining the Palestinians, including those who are now Israeli citizens, to bantustans. This means abandoning the so-called peace process and accepting whatever international repercussions come along. Israel’s present Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is likely in favor of some variant on the Lieberman plan. Netanyahu sees the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a zero-sum game. Thus, if you give credence to a Palestinian state you de-legitimize the Israeli state. For an outside observer this is, of course, nonsense. But that is how Netanyahu sees it.
 
So what Israel’s leadership wants–and have always wanted since the founding of the Zionist state–is a pure Jewish state from the Mediterranean to the Jordan river. Ben Gurion accomplished but half of that task and the Netanyahu-Lieberman team believes that it is within grabbing distance of finishing the job. If you don’t like this policy direction you are just an anti-Semite. This is the mentality and the policy of barbarians. Actually, the Israelis have been behaving like little barbarians for a long while but in such a way that the rest of the world has been able to turn a blind eye. Now, Israel’s elite is pondering the possibility of going overtly public and so becoming, recognizably, big barbarians.
 
It is something of a relief to learn that the Israeli leadership is considering coming out of the closet. Just be done with it and let the world know that you are barbarians and elected ones at that. Just like Bush, Chaney and Rumsfeld who, after all, were so fond of the Israelis. Also, it will be very much easier to organize civil society against outed barbarians than closeted ones. So, "los locos dicen las verdades." It is time for the fools to speak the truth about themselves.


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