I can’t wait to see how the liberal West deals with the success of Avigidor Lieberman’s party Yisrael Beitenu in Israel’s elections tomorrow. Yisrael Beitenu is an unabashed racial nationalist party, which flirts with a program expelling Israel’s Arab citizens. There are comparable, though milder, parties in the West: Jean Marie Le Pen’s National Front, Joerg Haider’s Freedom party, popular in Austria a decade ago, some others. In their rhetoric these parties flirt with the expulsion of recent immigrants, not, as in the Israeli version, the expulsion of citizens –like Israel’s Arabs, who have been living in the Palestine Mandate territory for many many centuries.
When racial nationalists raise their head in the West, the liberal establishment goes into conniptions about “hate”. Europe ‘s bien pensants convinced themselves it was 1940 all over again when Le Pen made it into the French run-off several years ago, though his chance of being asked to join the government was precisely zero. Israel withdrew its ambassador in 2000 when Haider’s party performed well enough to gain some ministers in the Austrian government. Nowadays you don’t even to be a racial nationalist to fall afoul of the liberals: note the New York Times strident recent condemnation of some very moderate American advocates of lower immigration rates.
Israel will be judged by different standards. Virtually all Israeli parties stress that Israel is a “Jewish state”–and it is the rare voice, like the inimitable Uri Avnery, who points out (in the article “Tzipi’s nation-state” –no permalink) how much this conception differs from current Western democratic norms. (Avnery asks how far an American would get by claiming that all Americans must acknowledge that America is an “Anglo-Protestant state”.) Of course, as he explains (with, I would think, some irony) “I know, I know, all these examples do not apply to us. We Jews are special. Fact is, God chose us.”