This post has been updated with information about the violent threats against lawmaker Haneen Zoabi given renewed impetus by Lieberman’s comments.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has taken his campaign of violent incitement against Palestinians to new extremes with a call for those disloyal to Israel to have their heads chopped off.
He also repeated his long-standing demands for expulsion of Palestinian citizens of Israel.
“Anyone who’s with us should be given everything – up to half the kingdom. Anyone who’s against us, there’s nothing to do – we should raise an axe and cut off his head; otherwise we won’t survive here,” Lieberman said at an election event Sunday, in reference to Palestinian citizens of Israel.
There are about 1.5 million Palestinians, survivors and descendants of those who escaped expulsion from present-day Israel in 1948, who are nominally citizens of Israel. Palestinians commemorate this ethnic cleansing, which they call the Nakba (Arabic for “catastrophe”) every year on 15 May.
While they have a vote in Israel’s upcoming election, Palestinian citizens of Israel face relentless legal and social discrimination and violent incitement and calls for expulsion.
Lieberman wants ethnic cleansing
“There’s no reason for Umm al-Fahim to be part of the State of Israel,” Lieberman said in reference to a large town in the north of present-day Israel with a predominantly Palestinian population. “Citizens in the State of Israel who fly a black flag on Nakba Day – as far as I’m concerned they should go away, and I’ll donate them to Abu Mazen with great joy.”
Lieberman’s reference to “donating” Palestinian citizens of Israel to “Abu Mazen” – the Palestinian Authority’s leader Mahmoud Abbas – amounts to a renewed call for ethnic cleansing.
The Israeli foreign minister, who heads the extreme anti-Palestinian Yisrael Beiteinu party, has a long history of violent incitement. In a recent Facebook posting, Lieberman called for the execution of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.
According to polls, Lieberman’s party is set to lose seats at the upcoming 17 March parliamentary election. His comments may be an effort to galvanize Israel’s anti-Arab vote, which has been drifting to other openly genocidal parties such as Naftali Bennett’s party Habayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home).
It is not only Israel’s right-wing politicians who appeal to voters with incitement to violence against Palestinians; Israel’s ostensible left does it as well. In a recent election ad, Yitzhak Herzog, head of Israel’s allegedly dovish Labor Party, accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of not hitting Gaza hard enough.
In a 51-day assault last summer, Israel committed numerous war crimes, devastating Gaza and leaving more than 2,200 people dead.
Lieberman’s latest violent incitement will feed comparisons frequently made between Israel – the self-declared “Jewish state” – with ISIS (or ISIL), the self-declared “Islamic State” notorious for its brutal beheadings of hostages in the areas it occupies in Iraq and Syria.
Renewed threats against Arab lawmaker
Amid Lieberman’s call for axe murders, this image has been circulating among Israeli social media users. It shows a person dressed like “Jihadi John,” the executioner seen beheading hostages in Islamic State videos.
He is holding a knife at the neck of a person wearing a mask of the face of Haneen Zoabi, a Palestinian member of the Israeli parliament.
It is unclear when the image, which was submitted anonymously to the Israeli satirical website mizbala.com, was created. The Israeli website published it on 8 March, condemning it as a “provocation.” It may have been a Purim costume created before Lieberman’s comments, but his words apparently gave it new relevance for those bent on inciting hatred.
Zoabi is the frequent target of violent incitement by Israeli Jewish extremists who oppose her calls for legal and social equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Recently, Israel’s electoral commission tried to ban her from running in next week’s elections.
Zoabi was physically attacked last week while she took part in an election campaign event.
The publication Arabs 48, which serves Palestinian citizens of Israel, says that the circulation of the image and the attack on Zoabi, amid rising levels of anti-Arab incitement, are increasing fears for her safety.
With thanks to Dena Shunra for translation.