A Few Words About Avigdor Leiberman

Something very sad is happening today, and while this subject isn’t exactly welcome here, and I don’t have anything momentous to say about it, I wanted to say a few words.  The sad thing that is happening is the elections in Israel.

Bibi Netanyahu is probably about to become the next Prime Minister of Israel, which brings me no joy.  But the cause of the bulk of my sadness about this election, other than the fact that I will not be traveling to Israel to vote, is that if the polls are correct, Avigdor Leiberman’s Yisrael Beitanu party will gain the third-highest vote total, giving him a significant increase in power, and making the Labour party the fourth-largest party in Israel for the first time in Israeli history.

I’m not going to recap for anyone why Leiberman’s ascent is a cause for sadness; if you don’t already know, so much the better for you, honestly.  I’m not surprised in the least it makes me very sad.  The idea of an Israel where that is possible is an Israel which is almost unrecognizable to me.

But I’m quite surprised by how surprised I am.  After all, there is a rich legacy of politicians like Leiberman succeeding in parliamentary governments.  Jeffrey Goldberg today calls Leiberman “the German word for Le Pen” – others have compared him to Pim Fortuyn.  I suppose it is meant to comfort us to know that the Israelis are no more awful than the French, but of course that is no comfort at all.  

But it makes me think, about how last week I saw one of my oldest, dearest friends.  He and I went to Israel together over a decade ago; now, he is in seminary on his way to becoming a Rabbi.  And somehow, our conversation turned to how utterly disturbed both of us were by the tenor of everyone we know’s Facebook status messages during the recent violence in Gaza.  And from there, somehow, we ended up talking about how one of the great taboos is to talk about how the Shoah, and anti-Semitism in general, has traumatized all Jews everywhere.  Not in the childish way that some suggest that Israelis, having been abused by the Nazis, have become the abuser.  But in how this violation of Jews not that long ago remains a violation of Jews living today.  You can’t say that.  It sounds too much like there is something wrong with us, and you can’t say that.

But then today, as I sadly watch the returns from Israel, I think about how just in the last few weeks, there have been attacks on synagogues in Venezuela.  How a British diplomat had to be arrested after going on an anti-Semitic tirade at the gym.  How Israeli tourists are getting shot in malls in Denmark, and the reaction is for Danish schools to tell Jewish kids they shouldn’t enroll in school.  Shit like this just doesn’t happen to other people.  All over the world, there is a chance you might get killed any moment if someone knows you are a Jew.  Not a very big chance, but there aren’t a lot of Jews.  There are a dozen cities with more citizens than there are Jews in the world.

And I understand a bit better how so many people can say “Fuck y’all”, and vote for a Leiberman.  It doesn’t make me any less sad, or even less confused.  But I understand, more than I’d like to, how it happens.

3 comments

    • Jay Elias on February 10, 2009 at 5:13 pm
      Author

    I’d feel worse about it if these events made more sense to me.

  1. I was going to write a diary/essay on something but I figure I’ll park it here instead.

    My father was born in Eastern Europe, close to Russia, he and his family immigrated to America when he was 4 years old.  My mother’s father was an immigrant.  Both were from shtetls who had suffered from pogroms.  My father was a fighter, my mother more fearful with a strange stubborn pride added to the mix.

    I was taught about the Holocaust when I was growing up and my parents tried to educate me as to the kinds of anti-Semitism I would encounter as I went into the world.

    I felt I was very ready — even eager, to join the fight.  I had no real understanding, but as an argumentative young girl I liked the idea of battle.

    I remember reading a book by Mac Davis, “Jews Fight Too!”  Imagine that.  Up to that point the conventional wisdom was that Jews didn’t fight, they were led like sheep to the slaughter during the Holocaust, etc.  So I read this book that told me yeah, Jews could fight and how they fought during human history.

    Again, it didn’t really mean much to me, just stoked my ego for the fights I knew I was about to encounter.

    I turned 13 in 1967.  I attended a public school that had a grand total of 4 or 5 Jews.

    I found myself, after the 1967 war, treated almost as a celebrity.  All the kids’ parents, I guess, decided to think the Jews were groovy because they had kicked ass during war.  The stereotype was broken.  And I was very confused.  This was not what I expected at all.

    I don’t know why I find myself thinking about that now, on the eve of the elections.

    Yeah, not much sense to be had, not at all.

  2. …jessical & npk.  And, no, I do not have a thorough, scholarly historical knowledge about all of it.  I only speak from my very subjective feelings.

    Reading the title of your diary, I felt I  needed to google Avigdor Lieberman to find out more about him, as my cursory, diletante view was of some vaguely right wing fanatic.  Perhaps I did not read far enough into the google, but I came away with basic validation of my overly simplistic assessment.

    I sent out a number of e-mail forwards from “In Memorium – 63 Years Later – Never Again”  I sent out a message about remembering the Holocaust.  I added this statement:

    There are many who disagree with what I am about to say, but I must say it.  The holocaust must never be denied nor forgotten.  Unfortuantely, however, there is another holocaust going on right now and is in many quarters being denied and/or forgotten —!  It is the “nakba'” the Palestinian Holocaust, where the atrocities at Jenin, Gaza, Sabra and Chatilla, bear an uncanny resemblance to the Warsaw ghetto.  The grandchildren of the Warsaw ghetto are visiting upon the Palestinians, what was visited upon their forebears all those many years ago.  How sad.  How truly, truly sad.  How these damages and scars are passed on to distort future generations.  Stop it now! Sydney  

    (Criticisms of my comments are welcome except to call me anti-semitic. I am not.)

     

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