And the other reason why the loyalty oath evokes such outrage is that it’s associated, and was probably originated by, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman — now the chief bête noire and hate-figure both for Israel’s left and for many abroad. In an article posted on PJM on Saturday, Stephanie L. Freid writes that Lieberman is “widely perceived as an embarrassment,” and quotes Bradley Burston, a far-left columnist for Israel’s leftist daily Haaretz, asking:
Is anyone on the mainstream Jewish right — anyone at all — willing to speak in defense of Avigdor Lieberman?
The answer is yes, and the question reflects either Burston’s actual ignorance or willful ignorance. Here’s a member of the mainstream Israeli right advising that we “listen to Lieberman”; here’s another one praising his candor and courage; here’s even a not-so-right-wing Israeli columnist writing: “In praise of Lieberman.”
And as I’ve elaborated, the issues that Lieberman raises regarding the loyalty of Israel’s Arab minority are unfortunately real. Just a few examples: while Druze and some Muslim Bedouin Israelis serve in the Israel Defense Forces, the vast majority of Muslim-Arab Israelis refuse to perform even civilian national service. A 2007 poll found 64 percent of Israeli Arabs denying Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish-Zionist state. Also that year an Israeli academic and former adviser to Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Ariel Sharon told a conference that Israeli Arabs have “a consensus view … to destroy the national Jewish project.”
That is not to say Israeli Arabs are necessarily disloyal or a lost cause as a community. But when Israel’s legitimacy as a Jewish state is under attack both at home and abroad, an oath requiring loyalty to it as a Jewish state makes sense. It also dovetails with Netanyahu’s highlighting of the Jewish-state theme in the ongoing political maneuvering vis-à-vis the Palestinians.
Surrounding the “Jewish and democratic state” issue with epithets, hysteria, and distortions helps nothing. Whether or not it will eventually become law, the revised oath is a reasonable initiative by a country demanding what every country demands of its citizens — loyalty.