On Beheading Arabs, Netanyahu's Legacy of Darkness, and the Mitzvah of Voting Against It

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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 currently facing 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 charge that 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."

Coming after last week-end's anti-Likud rally that drew tens of thousands of discontented Israelis, many saw the uproar over the latest outrage by a member of the Netanyahu ruling elite as one more sign that change is coming - that, as one rally participant said, "People want a leadership based on something else than fear." Poll numbers bear him out: In a race increasingly seen as too close to call, Likud has begun sending out frantic messages to voters that, "We must save the day and make sure every single one of our (friends) makes it to the polls on election day and votes for the Likud. Wake up!” Ironically, progressives say people are in fact waking up. In one blistering editorial, a Ha'aretz critic cites Netanyahu's creation of "an Israel ruled by and prizing bullying, stonewalling, racism, kitsch...by coded gratuitous hatred in legislative form.... Nine years into his rule, he has poisoned his country. Israel is broken and battered and weak with fear... His legacy is decay." He ends with the bitterest and most well-earned of invocations: "If Israel so chooses, it will be a relief fully as precious as life itself to finally see him go." Otherwise, he could have added, we won't survive here.

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Image circulating on Israeli social media showing the mock execution of Palestinian lawmaker Haneen Zoabi

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