Last week, Israel’s far-right foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman visited the UK. His visit was protested by progressive Zionists. Yet he responded with a remarkable declaration:
My expectation from all Jewish communities around the world is that they support any Israeli government. It doesn’t matter if you have a left government or a right government.
Jews are to support the Israeli government: any government. Doesn’t matter what it does, what policies it pursues. Jews should support it.
Former national chairperson of the Australasian Union of Jewish Students and past chairperson of the Australian Zionist Youth Council, Liam Getreu, described this as a “dangerous brand of Zionism”.
The episode, I think, illustrated serious issues facing the world’s diaspora Jewish communities. To what will we be loyal? Universal principles of justice, human rights and equality? Or unthinking, tribal loyalty to the Israel government, regardless of who is in it, and what it does?
These issues have become a matter of great urgency. In October 2010, I wrote an article about the corruption the occupation caused within Green Line Israel. I warned about “an overflowing tide of chauvinist nationalism”. I wrote that Israel’s “colonial rule is corroding its society”.
A startling, and horrifying, illustration of this trend occurred last week.
The Israeli government is made up of a coalition of parties, including Likud, Kadima and Shas. Likud is the party of the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu.
On May 23, a demonstration was “organised mostly by Likud activists”, according to progressive Israeli journalist Haggai Matar. As reported in Ha’aretz, over a thousand of them gathered “in south Tel Aviv, calling on Israeli authorities to expel illegal migrants”.
“Illegal migrants” is how the liberal Ha’aretz describes African asylum seekers in Israel. There are about 60,000 in Israel, according to the Israeli government.
We must expel the infiltrators from Israel. We should not be afraid to say the words ‘expulsion now’.
Another Likud MK, Miri Regev, said, “The Sudanese were a cancer in our body.”
Matar and a journalist from Ha’aretz were in attendance at the protest. A woman in the angry mob noticed Matar, and declared that he throws stones at soldiers. He denied this, but the crowd got angrier, and a speaker on stage yelled:
Haggai Matar is here, and he and his mother are traitors who should be kicked out of the country.
The two journalists fled for their lives. Others were not quite as fortunate.