As we all know, the kingmaker in Israel now is the racist pol Avigdor Lieberman, whose platform seems to consist of baiting Israeli Arabs (or Palestinian Israeli citizens, depending upon your view) and setting up the conditions for expulsion. What is only slightly less obvious is that Lieberman derives the vast majority of his support from Israel’s Russian population, most of which arrived in the early 90’s, and much of which does not speak Hebrew yet.
But here is the thing: the Russian community’s main enemy in Israel is not the Arab population, but rather the ultra-orthodox (“Haredi”) and the settlers. Why? Because the Russians are not particularly religious themselves. Many do not even qualify as being “Jewish” under Jewish law. If anything, they have high technical skills, are quite secular, and stand to benefit from Israel’s engagement with the west.
Put another way, the Russian-Israeli population has a strong interest in Israeli secularization — just the same as the Israeli Arab population. The Russians don’t want the government rabbinate deciding who can get married or where people can be buried. They don’t want precious governmental funds being used to support ultra-orthodox schools. And neither do the Arabs.
In other words, the Russians and the Arabs are natural political allies. People like Lieberman are using crude racial stereotypes to undermine their actual interests. And Israeli democracy is being destroyed in the process.
Somewhere I have heard this all before…