The Atlantic has published a favorable article about the possible ascension to the Israeli premiereship of Avigdor Lieberman, who lives in an illegal settlement and has called for transferring Palestinians from Israel because they are potentially disloyal to the Jewish state.
Author Michael Oren, the former Israeli ambassador to the US, pretends to be appalled by racist comments from Lieberman and then a sentence or two later he justifies them, again and again.
So the Atlantic is allowing a politician who was a minister in the Netanyahu government this year to publish what masquerades as analytic journalism about a rightwing party leader, but is propaganda, the classic Israeli “hasbara,” explaining-ourselves-to-the-world.
The conflict of interest is so massive it’s farcical. It’s like having a former Trump official who still supports his policies write an analytic piece about the immigration issue.
Oren’s goal here is transparent. Make Israeli racism understandable and justifiable. But readers should prepare themselves: the MSM is going this way. Yes it’s Jim Crow, but Israel has no choice.
Here are some excerpts showing Oren’s sales job for Lieberman. Lieberman is a complex but fair man, he just wants “greater loyalty” from Palestinians.
[H]e could be a constructive partner for any Trump-administration peace plan. Electoral success for Lieberman would mean an Israel that will demand greater loyalty from its Arab citizens and army service from Haredi Jews, an Israel fighting on at least one front, and an Israel that may reconcile with the Palestinians.
Yes it’s true that Lieberman has adopted racist ideas. But that’s because the late pollster Arthur Finkelstein advised him to choose “an enemy that most people hate and hone in on it.” So, “Lieberman chose Israel’s Arab citizens.” Watch how Oren pivots and makes it justifiable:
His 2009 campaign posters showed Lieberman glowering over the incendiary slogan “He speaks Arabic,” meaning force— the only language Palestinians understood. He accused anti-Zionist Arab politicians of treason—“Your place is in prison, not the Knesset”—and demanded loyalty oaths from Israeli Arabs and the death penalty for Palestinian terrorists. Such populism, brutish even by Israeli standards, earned Lieberman an international reputation as a racist. The sight of every poster, and every call for loyalty oaths, made me cringe. Yet Lieberman’s message resonated with a significant number of Israelis fed up with Arab Knesset members who were openly opposed to the Jewish state and who condoned violence against it. The larger public was desperate for ways to deter continued terror. Even if repelled by his rhetoric, they quietly shared many of his sentiments….
So Israel faced a fifth column. Israelis were subject to the terror campaign of the Second Intifada. And by the way: Israelis always means Jewish Israelis. Oren never speaks for Palestinian citizens.
In the throes of the second Intifada, during which 1,000 of their co-citizens were killed by Palestinian bombers, Israelis were not in a compromising mood.
Oren never mentions the thousands of Palestinian victims of Israeli violence. The word occupation doesn’t appear in the article.
Oren met Lieberman back in ’09 when he became ambassador and Lieberman was Foreign Minister. Lieberman was no racist. That was just tactics. Beneath the “supposed hatred” was a worldly trustworthy man.
The person I met that night was strikingly different from his public persona—curious about my background, respectful, and wry. He gave no hint of his supposed hatred of Arabs or indeed of any far-right attitudes, which I began to suspect were less deep-seated convictions than opportunistic political tools. In time, I would come to know Lieberman as that rare politician who retained the same devoted staff over many years and who always lived up to his word…
And the Jewish left is no better than the right, when it comes to transferring Palestinians. Lieberman’s idea is “logical and just”. Because Palestinians are a “hotbed of sedition.”
Lieberman described the Triangle [where several hundred thousand Palestinians live] as a hotbed of sedition and recalled how the Israeli left proposed transferring the 200,000 Arabs of East Jerusalem to Palestinian control even though most of them preferred to remain within Israel. For all the controversy it aroused, Lieberman’s concept struck a nerve among many Israelis who saw it as both logical and just. After all, 9,000 settlers had recently been uprooted from Gaza. …
Lieberman is a thoughtful man. In 2015, Oren was in the Knesset when he heard about Lieberman’s ideas about how to take on Hamas in the Gaza strip.
listening to Lieberman’s closed-door testimony before the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, I was impressed by his mastery of complex security issues. My colleagues on all sides of the aisle agreed…
You would never know that 2 million Palestinians live in Gaza in an open-air prison.
In the end, Lieberman is another smart, can-do Israeli. He doesn’t run on racism anymore. Everything will be fine.
[H]is campaign is aimed at Tel Aviv professionals. Commuting to their high-tech jobs outside the city, they pass billboards with Lieberman’s still-glowering face but a different slogan, this one in English. “Make Israel Normal Again,” it says, a clear reference to President Trump.
There’s one excellent insider moment in the article. In September 2009 Lieberman and Oren had a photo-op with President Obama and Netanyahu at the U.N. and then got on an elevator.
“I’m pessimistic,” [national security adviser Uzi] Arad said, concerned about the possibility of intensified American pressure on Israel. “Something will come of this.” Lieberman responded, chortling: “I’m optimistic. Nothing will.” And nothing did.
Nothing did because of the power of the Israel lobby in the United States. This piece is just more evidence of its power. BTW, the editor of the Atlantic is Jeffrey Goldberg, who served in the Israeli army and once said J Street was perceived as stabbing Israel in the back by supporting the Iran deal.