Thursday, February 05, 2009

The non-issue

Meanwhile, as the Israeli national election approaches, Likud party leader Netanyahu has endorsed Avigdor Lieberman's Ysrael Beiteinu proposal for a law that could take away the citizenship of Israelis deemed "not loyal." According to Haaretz:
Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday branded as "legitimate" rival prime ministerial candidate Avigdor Lieberman's electoral campaign against Israeli Arabs.

"This is a legitimate bill, which has already been proposed by Likud MK Yisrael Katz, but the problem with it is enforcement. It is legitimate to demand that the citizens of a state should be loyal to it," said Netanyahu in an interview with Channel 2.

Netanyahu was referring to Lieberman's vow to pass a citizenship law that will "prevent the disloyalty of some of Israel's Arabs."

Lieberman's hardline Yisrael Beiteinu has built its campaign ahead of next week's general election around the slogan: "No citizenship without loyalty," which is directed at Israeli Arabs, some of whom the party accuses of constituting a fifth column.
One historical example of such a law is the 1935 Nazi law respecting "citizenship certificates".

The fact this has become a major election talking point by two important political parties hasn't attracted any attention outside Israel. I wonder why?

In any event, an Israeli psychology professor explains in an op-ed piece published on YNetNews what the danger consists of. He writes:
The motto "without loyalty there's no citizenship" belongs in the darkest regimes. In such regimes, people are detained, tortured, sent to labor or rehabilitation camps, or simply "disappear" because someone suspected they are disloyal. In such regimes, citizens live in fear and are scared to speak up lest someone interpret their words as criticism; they secretly tell each other jokes (forget about political satire on television) while fearing that their neighbors or friends will turn them in.

"Without loyalty there's no citizenship." Seemingly, this is so logical and speaks to our sense of natural justice. This is why this slogan seems legitimate. Why should the State bestow its good upon those who are disloyal or do not wish it well? However, this is a trap that shall lead us to a life of fear. After all, who will be determining the loyalty threshold? And how shall we distinguish disloyalty to the State from disagreement with the position of authorities? The moment loyalty will be determined by authorities, any kind of criticism will be interpreted as disloyalty.

Next, he explains how the process takes root and grows:
Lieberman is not talking about us, say most citizens. Yet he is. Lieberman is talking about anyone who disagrees with his perception of the State and its path. Please read Yisrael Beiteinu's platform; it doesn't hide a thing. In the "Citizenship and Equality" clause, under the headline "stricter attitude to subversion," it says: "We shall act to ban parties or bodies whose words or acts constitute incitement against the State of Israel as a Jewish Zionist State and undermine its existence."

Next, watch Yisrael Beiteinu's election ads on TV, which feature examples of disloyalty, followed by a voiceover ominously: "No citizenship without loyalty." And what is the example provided? Protesters against the operation in Gaza holding up signs near the fence of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The conclusion is that those protesting against government decisions are disloyal. Loud and clear. And where do we mark the loyalty threshold? Balad? Hadash? Meretz? Or perhaps Kadima, which is engaging in talks on returning the Golan Heights?

And on a personal note – did you donate to Peace Now? Did you attend the mass rally in the wake of the Sabra and Shatila massacre? (Smearing the country in public.) Did you express solidarity with the Four Mothers movement? (Weakening the resolve of IDF troops in Lebanon." Did you endorse the Oslo Accords in the peace rally on November 4th, 1995? Did you perhaps back the evacuation of settlements from Gaza? (Promoting the handing over of territory to the enemy and contributing to the success of terrorism.)
Finally, the writer points out that there are plenty of examples of this process in recent history, so there isn't any good excuse for not seeing where this is going. He writes:
Sounds exaggerated? In an Army Radio interview in October 2007 quoted by Ynet, then-Strategic Threats Minister Lieberman slammed leftists who called for a boycott of artists who support the settlement enterprise.

"All our troubles, all our problems, all our victims are a result of these people," he said. "Overall, all of our problems do not stem from the outside world, and are not the result of the international community – it is because of these people." According to their election ads, Avigdor Lieberman and Uzi Landau mean every word they say

This slope is a slippery one and climbing back up hurts. At first, the law will be utilized against minorities in the face of meek protest. Yet the protests will die down as one gets closer to the loyalty threshold. At a certain moment, every citizen will be asking himself or herself whether they are not risking their job, their wellbeing, or their family. From that point onward, only exceptional people will continue to protest.

In most cases they won't live long (at least not like free people,) and the threshold will keep rising. In many cases we will not know who determines the loyalty threshold or what it is exactly. Later, the question of loyalty will turn into a tool utilized by the authorities for hurting those who undermine the interests of the powerful. I did not invent this story. Regrettably, it happened in so many countries at different times – Argentina, Spain, China, Iran, the Soviet Union, and yes, in Germany too.

Lieberman will not win the premiership in the upcoming elections, yet if we fail to regain our senses, his party will be among the pillars of the coalition. Even if he serves as leader of the opposition, with nearly 20 Knesset seats (yes, that many,) in the next elections he will be in good position to win the premiership. His loyalty laws will be promoted in one way or another. Should the High Court prevent this, he will aim to curb its powers. This process started in the current Knesset.
The article, by Leon Deouell of the Hebrew University's Psychology Dept is headed: "A clear and present danger: Yisrael Beiteinu calls for undermining democracy's most basic rights".

Wouldn't you think this is something that would be of concern to liberal, center-left, anti-fascist America, or whatever the recent label is, from the point of view of economic/military support, or at least that would factor into the "peace process" in some fashion, maybe the "sending of a clear message", something like that? Maybe not.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks for the update w/the excellent post badger


2:37 PM  
Blogger badger said...

hi annie. been quiet around here lately, folks deep in thought, I figure...

5:28 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

It's scary, isn't it, that there's a chance of this law coming to the books. Israel is suffering from a massive victim complex, and as such most of its citizens will see anything they do as justified in their fear.

It really makes one wonder: how long can a state whose citizens define themselves almost exclusively in terms of a universal and permanent external threat, rather than in terms of some kind of positive self-affirmation, last?

The reason for my quiet in regard to your posts on Israel and Iraq is that it seems like most of the action now taking place is elsewhere, in Afghanistan. I don't expect much of any real change in the situation in either Iraq or Israel/the OPT. (Though this law you mention is scary.)

Whereas things are rapidly unraveling in Afghanistan for the U.S. it seems. (M.K. Bhadrakumar had another excellent article on Afghanistan today on ATimes.)

6:13 PM  
Blogger badger said...

I'll have a read. (I keep forgetting why the troops are in Afghanistan in the first place--they were tracking down OBL, who escaped from Tora Bora, and they've been tearing the country apart ever since--what are they looking for exactly ? Enemies? They could blow up any country and create all the enemies they need. In other words, I don't get the politics exactly...)
I'll have to read more.

6:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

a little quiet but i think the stunned factor plays a part (for me anyway). i've been picking up news from some neocon blogger out of israel the 'new game' is the settlers will never leave the WB and the alleged 'plan' is to relocate some palestinian state (the carrot of one anyway) in some other location that most of the arab israelis already live in thereby killing thousands of birds w/one stone.

i check your blog everyday so don't mistake my silence for apathy. thanks again.


1:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Badger, if I understand Z-Big's thesis in his book, The Grand Chessboard, he offers Afganistan as the key turf of Central Asia, and like Pepe Escobar's Pipelinistan book, insists that the control of Central Asia's vast energy resouces depends on getting the petro products out across Afganistan, the easiest, shortest route to western markets that by-passes Russia. Western oil companies have surveyed where the pipelines need to be to transport product from every petro producing country in Central Asia, and some negotiating with Afgan's Taliban govt was going on before 9/11. The strategic importance of Afganistan to the oil wing of US political system remains.

8:55 AM  

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