Israel’s far-right Minister of Defense, Avigdor Lieberman, has renewed his attack on the leader of the Joint List, MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash), accusing him of being part of a “fifth column.” On Monday, Lieberman opened Yisrael Beiteinu’s Knesset faction meeting by speaking about the demonstrations which were deadly repressed by Israel along the border of the Gaza Strip last week, as they have been since March 30.
Lieberman said: “Unfortunately, following the ‘march of terror’ in the Gaza Strip, we saw the march of hypocrisy. We saw it first in the [UN] Human Rights Council vote, or more precisely the Human Hypocrisy Council. We saw the countries that voted against us: Cuba, Venezuela, Afghanistan, Qatar ― those exemplary democracies that, of course, excel in respecting human rights.”
The defense minister continued: “Unfortunately, we also witnessed another phenomenon in which citizens of the State of Israel stand with Hamas against the country’s soldiers and against the security forces in Haifa. We can talk about freedom of expression, but it is not worth running away from reality. We’re talking about a fifth column,” Lieberman declared.
Lieberman then called to outlaw Joint List leader Ayman Odeh: “This is a systemic failure of all law enforcement agencies. I propose that we all get together, both the law enforcement authorities and members of Knesset, and remove Ayman Odeh, him and his colleagues, and outlaw them.”
Lieberman announced that he would ask the attorney general to launch a criminal investigation against Odeh, who allegedly cursed a police officer at the hospital where Jafar Farah, the director of the Mossawa Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel, was being treated for a broken knee incurred while under arrest following his participation in a protest held in Haifa last Friday, May 18.
According to Haaretz’s lead editorial published on Tuesday, May 22, Leiberman — whose ongoing public career, in the paper’s words, is the real failure of law enforcement — and Minister of Internal Security Gilad Erdan — whose right-wing street cred has suffered as a result of what has been perceived as his inadequate support for Benjamin Netanyahu during police investigations of the prime minister — illustrate just how grave the situation has become in Israel, warned the liberal daily, as it marches with delusional confidence towards a Judeo-nationalist future. These cynical politicians know that, in today’s Israel, the easiest and surest way to drum up public support is through racist incitement, something which has no place in a democratic country, according to the editorial.
“Erdan and Liberman simply learned a lesson in dangerous cynicism from their leader. One of Netanyahu’s great successes is in persuading the majority of Israeli Jews that the country’s Arab citizens — who account for around 20 percent of the population — are a fifth column that must not under any circumstances express solidarity with their Palestinian brethren or criticize the government. The frequent assertions according to which the Joint List’s lawmakers should limit themselves to civil matters, such as ‘infrastructure and education,’ constitute political suppression and outright racism couched as rationalist argument. Citizens in a democratic state may and should engage with their national identity and are permitted to criticize the government and to demonstrate against it. Israel has a duty to find ways to contain the complex relationship of Israel’s Arab citizens to the state and it must demonstrate sensitivity, particularly during moments of escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
“The claims regarding the behavior of Odeh, who was prevented from visiting Farah, who was injured at the demonstration, fall into that category of racism and distortion of the truth. Given the brutal suppression by police of a demonstration by minority members, focusing on Odeh’s curses creates a false symmetry in the equation of violence. Odeh and the Arabs are the victims of the state, not the other way around. Any citizen who seeks to live in a democracy should be disturbed by the wanton, racist incitement by Israel’s leadership against the Arabs,” wrote Haaretz.