Israel has just cause to take pride in its democratic system. What other country at war with ruthless terrorists would take for granted the right of independent media to highlight interviews with former security leaders who lambaste the government and warn of impending catastrophe if its policies are not reversed?
While I disagree with these approaches, whose singular themes are reminiscent of the flawed premises of the Oslo disaster, the unfettered right of citizens to express dissent at such times is the hallmark of a mature democracy. Not least, it guarantees that our leaders are kept on their toes and obliged to continuously consider alternative options. Public opinion and the ballot box are their masters.
However, a distinction must be drawn between debate and malevolence. Avraham Burg’s interview in English supplement of Haaretz last Friday, addressed to Americans visiting Israel for the GA, was sheer malice.
The remarks of the former Knesset Speaker and chairman of the World Zionist Organization expand on an article of his which appeared a few months ago in Yediot Aharonot demonizing Israel and Zionism. It was then translated throughout the world and now occupies a prominent position in the pantheon of anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic Web sites.
In that article, Burg accused this country of resting “on a scaffolding of corruption and on a foundation of oppression and justice.” He predicted the emergence of a “strange and ugly” Jewish state run by “an amoral clique of corrupt bureaucrats who are deaf to both their citizens and their enemies.”
He even rationalized the behavior of Palestinian suicide bombers who, he alleged, emerge “from the infrastructures of injustice and moral corruption they spill their blood in our restaurants because they have children and parents at home who are angry and humiliated.”
EDITORIALLY AND in op-eds, Haaretz has of late been bewailing the tendency of American Jews to uncritically support the democratically elected government of Israel, urging them to put their weight behind dissenting policies promoted by a small discredited clique of failed politicians – policies rejected by the vast majority of Israelis.
In his most recent interview, Burg embellishes his previous libels referring to the “cancerous process which is devouring us.” He makes the utterly false allegation that most Israelis would leave the country if they could, and that only “the economically weak and the fundamentalists are staying.”
He is equally outrageous when he alleges that Jerusalem schoolchildren recently told him that when they become soldiers they would “kill old people, women, and children without giving it a thought” and compares them to Nazis. He makes other outlandish observations, suggesting, for example, that graffiti from a few crazed individuals calling for “Death to the Arabs” represent the norm in Israeli society.
If this is not self-hatred, how else to describe a person whose outbursts of venom against his own people have become a rallying cry for all who wish the Jewish state ill?
This is not just washing one’s dirty laundry in public. This is malicious propaganda. This is defamation of Israel. This is calculated, at the very time the GA is in town, to undermine solidarity with Israel under the Sharon government. This is grist for the mills of anti-Semites, demonizing and delegitimizing the Jewish state. This paves the way with words for acts of violence against Jews, wherever they are.
That a former Speaker of the Knesset and head of the Zionist movement can survive politically after indulging publicly in such post-Zionist rampages is a reflection of the decadence of Israeli politics. For if Burg represents the Left, the Left is doomed.
It is sad that a man like Burg can continue repeating his lies with hardly a word of criticism from his own party, whose leaders constantly protest the “incitement” of the Right. the Labor Party will never enter the Prime Minister’s Office so long as it tolerates the defamation of the vast majority of Israeli voters by one of its principal leaders.
Where is Shimon Peres, the leader of the party? Where are the other moderate Laborites and members of Knesset? Where are the fellow traveling intellectuals, such as Amos Oz and A.B. Yehoshua?
Surely it is time they speak up and make it clear to us that Avraham Burg does not speak for them.