THE RETURN OF KAHANE

His rise to power is a story beyond him. It reflects a sea change in Israeli society to increased hatred in the 62-year old nation. But it all started innocently enough, beginning with a young immigrant from what was the Soviet Union, now Moldova.

The Return of Kahane



Perhaps no one in the world wields as much power as Avigdor Lieberman. In Israeli coalition politics, he is a kingmaker. In the current peace talks, he is a deal-breaker. In the Middle East, he exemplifies Zionist bigotry. In world diplomacy, his belligerence destabilizes a fragile region.

Israel’s new loyalty oath should not come as a surprise: Lieberman has been advocating such a citizenship requirement for over a decade. Back then, though, very few paid attention to the swarthy, blunt Likudnik.

His rise to power is a story beyond him. It reflects a sea change in Israeli society to increased hatred in the 62-year old nation. But it all started innocently enough, beginning with a young immigrant from what was the Soviet Union, now Moldova.

In 1978, a 20-year old arrived in Israel speaking a Romanian dialect, Russian, and little Hebrew. He came from a city brutalized by Tsar-era pogroms and World War 2 bombardments called Kishinev. Around the time he changed his name from Evet to Avigdor, which means “father-protector” in Hebrew, he wore a thick beard and sandals and moved to Jerusalem to study at Hebrew University.

Lieberman quickly found a home in ultra-nationalist movements. Sometime in 1979, the new immigrant visited Rabbi Martine David Kahane’s office in Jerusalem and met Avigdor Eskin – famous for his pusla denura kabbala death-curse of Yitzhak Rabin before his assassination. According to former leader Yossi Dayan, Lieberman then joined Kach, a rabid Zionist movement started by Kahane. Kach and Kahane preached xenophobic hatred and exclusion, calling for purges of non-Jewish populations from Israel.

click on the following…

An Open Letter To The World By Rabbi Meir Kahane

Kach was outlawed in 1988 and Kahane was murdered two years later.

Lieberman handed out Kach leaflets and began following current chief of the Foreign Affairs committee, Tzachi Hanegbi, then the student leader of Kastel.

“We used to call him the Sancho Panza of Hanegbi,” MK Jamal Zahalka said, referring to Don Quixote’s bumbling squire. Zahalka was a student at the same time in Hebrew University; he studied pharmacology while Lieberman studied International Relations. Zahalka remembers Lieberman’s guttural Hebrew “calling to throw Arabs from the university,” and his discrimination as a bouncer for the student club Kastel.

“He tried all the time to make a selection between Arabs and Jews,” Zahalka said, adding Lieberman was never on the front lines of violence. “Because he’s a coward, when there was physical violence, he just escaped.”

But Lieberman succeeded beyond what one might’ve guessed in the early 1980s. Today, he enjoys broad support in Israel and the ear of President Benjamin Netanyahu. Zahalka said, “His fascism and racism in the university against Arabs paved their way to high politics in Israel.”

Lieberman eventually took over the club from Hanegbi and graduated. He entered Likud politics organizing the flood of new immigrants from the former Soviet Union into a strong right-wing lobby. Lieberman began working for Netanyahu’s office in 1988, and proved his political skills eight years later when he helped Bibi win the office of Prime Minister. It was at this time he formed one of his most important political contacts: the successful, ruthless American campaign consultant Arthur J. Finkelstein.

Lieberman was then Netanyahu’s “closest ally,” according Tel Aviv University professor Yoram Peri in Telepopulism – Media and Politics in Israel. He was instrumental in Bibi’s consolidation of Likud: “At the end of 1996, [Netanyahu] turned to Lieberman for help in destroying the internal opposition in the party. Together they aimed to weaken the status of ministers and to concentrate power in the prime minister’s bureau.”

When Netanyahu’s grip on power began to slip, Lieberman left Likud and formed Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel is Our Home) and worked in Ariel Sharon’s government. His party combined Soviet diaspora constituency with hard-line nationalism, and grew so that in 2006, then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made Lieberman his Deputy Prime Minister. When Olmert went back to the negotiation table with the Palestinian Authority, Lieberman walked out. A year later, his party became Israel’s third largest in the February 2009 election. Here he cemented his role as a political dynamo. Under the guidance of Finkelstein, Lieberman ran a vindictive campaign: his ultimately successful ads read “No loyality, no citizenship” and “Only Lieberman speaks Arabic” (meaning his brutality was the only language Arabs truly grasped).

Lieberman won hammering one issue – the Arab threat from outside and within Israel. On stage during stump speeches, portraits of his former university colleague Zahalka and fellow MK Haneen Zoabi stood behind him as he called for them to be hung like the Nazis found guilty at the Nuremberg trials.

“He re-enforces racism. He makes aggressive racism more legitimate,” said Zoabi, who was the first Arab female elected to Knesset and, as punishment for boarding the Mavi Marmara flotilla, the first to have her Knesset privileges revoked by a Knesset led by Lieberman. Zoabi sees little substance separating him from Israel’s political elite.

“He is more full, more direct, and makes no political considerations, but he doesn’t want a new ideology. He is just more aggressive – he wants to reach the end faster than others,” Zoabi said. “He wants a pure Jewish state. It’s not a difference of ideology, its a difference of methods, of styles.”

Lieberman spelled out his grand designs in 2004. Barely six years later, the Lieberman Plan is halfway complete. With the loyalty oath stipulation to citizenship recently passed, all that remains is coercive population transfer of non-Jews outside Israel, splitting of the West Bank into four cantons federated with Jordan, and bombing Iran. What was once ultra-nationalist fantasy is now a political possibility with politicians like Lieberman, Hanegbi, Danny Danon, Dani Dayan, Tzipi Hotolevy and David Rotem in power.

“Rabbi Meir Kahane was disqualified,” said Zoabi. “[But] twenty five years later, those opinions which were out of legitimacy are now not just legitimate but part of the consensus.”

The policies of Kach, Kastel and Kahane control 16 seats in Knesset and are pivotal to Netanyahu’s coalition.

“Racism is meaningless without power,” Zahalke said. “The combination between racism and power is the most dangerous thing that we can imagine.”

Placing too much importance on Lieberman, however, ignores larger societal forces, Zoabi said.

“I disagree with making Lieberman evil,” Zoabi said, explaining the man is a boogeyman – or bouncer – used by Netanyahu to scare the US administration. His personal history with Netanyahu and their shared political consultants and Zionist vision begs the question – how true is the monicker “Biberman”?

Lieberman openly ridiculed the peace talks between Presidents Barack Obama, Mahmoud Abbas and Netanyahu – and effectively ruined any negotiations by unconditionally supporting settlement expansion deeper into Palestine. He is the battering ram of the modern Zionist aggression which refers to settlers as pioneers of Judea and Samaria, ignores Muslim, Druze and Christian Israelis, plans to bomb Iran, and viciously attacks left-wing Jews.

“The schism created in Israel started by Lieberman is not the problem – it is a symptom,” Zoabi said. “It is not enough to disagree with Lieberman. If you support human rights or democracy, you must delegitimize Lieberman.”


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1 Comment

  1. October 20, 2010 at 17:13

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