Push Comes to Shove Dept: Facing a startlingly tight election, Israeli political leaders are descending to newly toxic depths with hawkish Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s latest brazen declaration that “those who are against us – we must take an axe and chop off their heads.” The “racist call to murder” by those deemed “disloyal” to Israel prompted condemnation, demands for Lieberman’s arrest for (yet more) incitement, and the charge that his bullying and fear-mongering are emblematic of a political leadership that must go.
The ultra-nationalist, ever-inflammatory Lieberman, a former bouncer, the author of a controversial loyalty oath in Israel and an-often uneasy ally of Netanyahu’s, is currentlyfacing corruption charges; he’s also, by virtue of living in an illegal settlement in the occupied West Bank, the world’s only foreign minister who doesn’t live in the country he represents. Speaking at an elections panel at a college about Israeli-Arabs, Lieberman told his audience, “Those who are with us deserve everything, but those who are against us – there’s nothing to be done – we must take an axe and chop off their heads. Otherwise, we won’t survive here.” Proclaiming that “I expect all Arabs, Christians and Jews to be loyal to the state,” he also called for the expulsion of any Arabs who choose to mark Nakba Day, commemorating the displacement of roughly 700,000 Palestinians for the creation of Israel. “Those who raise the black flag on ‘Nakba Day’ in mourning over the establishment of Israel do not belong here, as far as I am concerned,” he said. “I am quite willing to donate them to PA chief Mahmoud Abbas. It would be my pleasure.”
Lieberman’s incendiary comments drew media coverage – though, oddly, not from the New York Times – swift condemnation, threats against a Palestinian lawmaker, and the chargethat Lieberman has become like “the Jewish ISIS.” The Palestinian Authority called the remarks “an official call as clear as day to murder Palestinians and Arabs after conducting a campaign of ethnic purification, which he is preaching.” They also said they would seek his arrest for incitement by the International Criminal Court, a suggestion Lieberman dismissed. A number of former Israeli diplomats likewise blasted the statements. Said one, “Israel’s number-one diplomat is waving an axe over the heads of citizens of the country that he represents, and in the same breath, he preaches to the whole world about fighting anti-Semitism.”