Israel’s nationalist foreign minister has raised eyebrows and ire by calling for the beheading of Arab citizens who are disloyal to the Jewish state.
Speaking at a campaign event in Herzliya ahead of March 17 parliamentary elections, Avigdor Lieberman, founder of the nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, said that “whoever’s with us should get everything.” But “those who are against us, there’s nothing to be done; we need to pick up an ax and cut off his head,” the controversial minister said. “Otherwise we won’t survive here.”
Lieberman, who has long supported forcing non-Jews to swear an oath of loyalty to Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state” as a prerequisite for citizenship, has been widely criticized for his advocacy of what critics call discriminatory policies.
Newsweek reports Lieberman addressed his controversial call for the beheading of disloyal citizens at a question-and-answer session following the campaign event.
“I have no problem with your being a citizen,” he said to one Arab-Israeli. “I expect all Arabs, Christians and Jews to be loyal to the state, regardless of religious affiliation, and to serve in the IDF. We accept and encourage those who identify with us.”
But Lieberman also said that citizens who commemorate Nakba, or Catastrophe, Day– which marks the 1948-49 Jewish ethnic cleansing of more than 700,000 Arabs during the tumultuous period of Israel’s founding– should be expelled from Israel to live in the Palestinian territories.
“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, and I am quite willing to donate them to PA [Palestinian Authority] chief Mahmoud Abbas,” Lieberman said. “It would be my pleasure.”
The Times of Israel reports Ahmad Tibi, an Arab-Israeli member of the Knesset, or Parliament, drew a parallel between Lieberman’s call to behead disloyal Arab citizens and the actions of Islamic State militants, who have made global headlines for their slickly-produced videos of hostage beheadings, calling the foreign minister the “Jewish Islamic State.”
Tibi added that “Minister Liberman’s talk of beheading Arab-Israelis necessitates the opening of an investigation.”
Israel’s Arab citizens, who make up about 20 percent of the nation’s population of eight million, face widespread discrimination in the Jewish-dominated state, despite being guaranteed equality under the law. The US State Department acknowledges endemic discrimination against Arab-Israelis, who are often treated as second-class citizens.
The State Department’s 2012 “County Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012: Israel and the Occupied Territories” lists “institutional and societal discrimination against Arab citizens, in particular access to equal education and employment opportunities” as one of the “most significant human rights problems” in Israel.
Public opinion polls have shown significant numbers of Israeli Jews support discriminatory policies against Arab-Israelis and apartheid policies against Palestinians living in the occupied territories. Nearly 50 percent of Jewish respondents to a 2012 Dialog poll said they wanted to strip Arab-Israelis of their voting rights, while half said Jews should be treated better than Arabs.