NATIV Online        

  Vol. 6  /  October 2004                 A JOURNAL OF POLITICS AND THE ARTS      


The War Against Israel:
Exploiting Democracy
to Disenfranchise the Jewish Nation

Atalia Ben-Meir

This paper was published as ACPR’s Policy Paper No. 140 (2002)


Imagine a member of Congress declaring his or her unreserved support for Osama bin-Laden and al-Qa`idah. Visualize a senator, standing at the podium of the Senate of the USA, branding the Chief of Staff of the US forces a fascist. Envision a member of Parliament in England calling for the IRA to murder British citizens or a member of the Spanish Parliament encouraging the Basque to continue their unfettered terrorist attacks. Visualize hundreds of thousands of Muslims filling the streets of the USA and Europe shouting, “Death to the Americans and Europeans,” stridently expressing their undying support for Osama bin-Laden and the suicide bombers that crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Such scenarios are unconceivable in the USA and Europe, but they are an everyday occurrence in Israel under the guise of the democratic freedom of speech. In this manner, democracy is wielded as a weapon against the well being of the Jewish citizens of Israel and against the integrity of the State of Israel.

But this is only one battlefield in which principles of democracy are abused. Israeli Arab leadership is waging a war against the very raison de être of the State of Israel. Democracy is being manipulated by anti-democratic forces within Israel to abolish the Jewish-Zionist character of the State, and abrogate the Jewish people’s right to self-determination in their own state. The tactic in this war is the accusation that the Jewish character of the State of Israel is the quintessence of the discrimination towards the Arab population of Israel; the strategy is the destruction of the Jewish state.

* * *

This paper examines the above issues, with a special focus on the disenfranchisement of the Jews in the State of Israel.

CHAPTER 1: Israel as a Jewish and Democratic State

In a democracy, the parliamentary immunity granted to elected representatives is crucial for protecting a plurality of attitudes and practices. Without such immunity, representatives would be constrained in expressing controversial opinions and attitudes. Parliamentary immunity also limits the capability of the government or the majority party from severely curtailing political opposition, a sine qua non of democracy.

In the absence of such immunity, political representatives might be paralyzed for fear of sanctions.

1.1 Democracies and Freedom of Speech

Democracy is the rule of the majority while protecting the rights of the minority. To sustain itself, democracy must protect itself from the tyranny of the many and to prevent injustices to the few, just as it must guard against attempts at tyranny by the few.

In this respect, while emphasizing the importance of tolerance towards various opinions, democracy must concede the necessity, under certain circumstances, of placing limitations on tolerance. Indeed, one of the problems of any political system, but especially democratic regimes, is that the principles that underlie and characterize it might be abused and thus endanger it and perhaps even bring about its destruction.

One of the sine qua non principles of democracy is freedom of speech.

The question to be asked in this context is: Should one tolerate in the name of the democracy any opinion, however repugnant, and allow it to compete in the free marketplace of ideas, even if the consequence could be the destruction of democracy itself?1

The dispute revolves around the question of whether freedom of speech should be allowed despite the risk to a democratic regime. While one school of thought propounds that freedom of speech should be without constraints and that any restriction compromises the very principle of tolerance that stands at the root of democracy, its opponents point at historical precedents where undemocratic minorities have exploited the mechanisms provided by democracy to undermine the foundations of democracy. One of the better known examples is the Weimar Republic.

In support of placing limits on free speech, Dr. Cohen-Almagor has asserted

By the same principles that underlie criminal law, democracy can deny and punish people for taking part in organizations aimed at its destruction. There is no part in democratic ideology that asks the individual to sit idly by while witnessing attempts to harm the very foundations of democracy.2

However, can a democracy tolerate a situation where MK Yossi Sarid, the head of the radical-left Meretz party, proposes to Yasser Arafat that he condition the reduction of violence on a settlement freeze?3 Is justifying the murder of Jews, so long as Israel continues to build settlements, protected under the freedom of speech? Perhaps to demonstrate the seriousness of his proposal, Sarid did not even bother to request that Arafat unilaterally stop the terror at his meeting with him and the Palestinian team that included Abu Mazen, Abu Ala and Jibril Rajoub.4

Sarid is not alone in abusing the right of freedom of speech. Professor Ze’ev Sternhal went even further, urging the Palestinians to unconditionally murder settlers.

There is no doubt regarding the legitimacy of the armed resistance in the territories themselves [as opposed to the other side of the Green Line]. If the Palestinians had a bit of sense, they would concentrate their struggle against the settlements... They would similarly refrain from placing explosive charges on the western side of the Green Line.5

In outrage at this blatant incitement, several complaints were lodged with the Jerusalem police for his “incitement to murder Jews of Judea, Samaria and Gaza”. To the complainants’ astonishment, the police informed them “there is no criminal guilt” in Sternhal’s statements.6

As a consequence, no investigation was conducted to ascertain whether his proposal fell within the purview of free speech or constituted incitement.

1.2 Democracy and Restrictions on Candidacy

Rules concerning the right to become a candidate for elective office often reflect a conflict between two opposing principles. On the one hand, restrictions on candidacy should be as limited as possible. On the other hand, in view of the responsibilities of public office, the qualifications of candidates ought arguably to be more arduous than those of ordinary voters.

Guy Goodwin-Gill has commented on the legal principles, such as those embodied in the European Convention on Human Rights, which concern restrictions on the right to stand for public office.

European jurisprudence recognizes a variety of conditions and exclusions [from the right to candidacy], including penal detention and residence requirements, but provides generally that they shall be prescribed by law and reasonably necessary in a democratic society. They must also not be arbitrary or violate the principle of deny political rights merely on the basis of political opinion poses a direct challenge to the democratic process itself.7

On the face of it, it seems reasonable that candidates who advocate the destruction of the state, who are committed to terrorism, or who are opposed to democracy, should be barred. Yet it is difficult to draw a line between banning those who wish to use democratic structures for the purpose of undermining them, and followers of unpopular ideologies that should be tolerated in a pluralist society. Tolerance, in the view of Goodwin-Gill, is dependent, to some extent, on the condition of the state at the time of the election. Accordingly, there is greater tolerance for seemingly extreme views in peacetime than during the emergencies of war.8

1.3 Israel as a Jewish and Democratic State

When the State of Israel was established, its Jewish character was placed at the very foundations of its very existence. The essence of Israel as a Jewish state was reiterated four times in the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948. The Declaration unequivocally asserts that it is the natural right of the Jewish people to be like all other peoples, exercising self-determination in its sovereign state.

This right is the natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign state.

As spelled out in the Declaration, this right was recognized in the Balfour Declaration of November 2, 1917, and re-affirmed in the Mandate of the League of Nations in 1921, which gave international sanction to the historic connection between the Jewish people and “Eretz-Israel”, the Land of Israel.

The right of the Jewish people to rebuild its National Home in “Palestine” was first recognized by the British government and subsequently in the international arena more than 25 years prior to the establishment of the State of Israel. This right was subsequently confirmed by the United Nations.

In sum, the State of Israel was internationally recognized as the Jewish state for the Jewish people, their right to self-determination irrevocable.

Israel is also a democratic state.

Although the word “democracy” does not appear in the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel, its various sections make it crystal clear that its authors intended to establish an exemplary democratic regime.

1.3.1 Loyalty to the State of Israel

Nations demand loyalty to the state from their elected officials. In the United States, for example, federal officials must take an explicit oath that says, inter alia, “I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

Members of Knesset too are obligated, under section 14 of the Basic Law: The Knesset, to declare their allegiance to the State of Israel and to pledge themselves to faithfully discharge their mandate. Failure to make such a declaration, as stipulated in section 16 of the Law, would strip such member of any rights accruing to a member of the Knesset.

1.4 Milestones in Defining Restrictions on Candidacy

The first time that the judicial system was forced to address the issue of the definition of the State of Israel was in 1965 when the Central Elections Committee (CEC) disqualified al-Ard as it “negates the integrity of the State of Israel and its very existence”. Al-Ard appealed to the High Court of Justice, asserting that in disqualifying it, the Committee had violated the law. The High Court, after weighing the issues in dispute, upheld the decision.

The matter at the heart of the appeal was whether al-Ard sought to negate the Jewish character of the State of Israel or the very existence of the state. In his decision, Supreme Court Justice Agranat made it quite clear that he regarded both issues as constituting one indivisible issue. In contrast, Supreme Court Justice Cohen ruled that they were two separate issues.

In 1975, the problem arose once more, but this time the High Court of Justice accepted Justice Cohen’s narrow interpretation that the preservation of the Jewish character of the State of Israel and the existence of Israel were two separate issues. Interpreting the platform of the Progressive List for Peace (PLP) as “merely” advocating the negation of the Jewish character of the State of Israel, the High Court of Justice overturned the CEC’s decision to disqualify the PKP, impervious to the ramifications of this decision.

This ruling was a watershed in the conception of the State of Israel. The Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel attached equal weight to the two pillars upon which the State was established: Jewish and democratic. This was recognized in the 1965 ruling. By disqualifying al- Ard, the Court imparted equal weight and importance to Israel’s essence as a Jewish state for the Jewish people and to its democratic underpinnings.

In contrast, the 1975 decision diluted the essence of the State of Israel by subordinating its Jewish character to the physical existence of the State. In other words, Israel can exist even if it is no longer Jewish. The ultimate result of this decision was that the CEC could no longer preclude a list that advocated the eradication of the Jewish-Zionist character of the State of Israel and the elimination of Israel’s Jewish and Zionist symbols.

In 1984, some weeks before the elections to the 12th Knesset were to take place, the CEC decided to ban both the Kach list and the PLP. Both lists appealed the decision. The Supreme Court, sitting as the High Court of Justice, reversed the decisions of the CEC, but at the same time, called upon the Knesset to establish the necessary legal basis for the exclusion and disqualification of political parties.

In recognition of the possibility that anti-democratic parties might exploit the machinery of democracy to bring about its destruction, the Knesset decided to take legal measures to provide the grounds for the disqualification of racist or anti-democratic parties. On July 31, 1985, the Knesset amended the Basic Law: The Knesset, so as to include Section 7A Prevention of Participation of Candidates List: A candidate’s list shall not participate in elections to the Knesset if its objects or actions, expressly or by implication, include one of the following:

  1. Negation of the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people;

  2. Negation of the democratic character of the State;

  3. Incitement to racism:

To justify such a curtailment of the right to be elected, it must be shown that:

  1. Racist incitement is one of the party’s central and controlling aims and not merely a marginal concern;

  2. The party’s candidacy in the elections must be a means to realize such racist objectives; and

  3. The amendment stipulated that evidence of such racist objectives or actions must be clear, convincing and unequivocal.9

It is crystal clear that in ratifying this amendment, the Knesset was unequivocally ascribing equal importance to the Jewish character of the State of Israel as that imparted to the democratic character of the State.

1.4.1 Eroding Section 7A (1) of Basic Law: The Knesset

In 1999, Dr. Ahmed Tibi, Yasser Arafat’s erstwhile consultant, established a political party, The Arab Movement for Change, and registered it with the Parties Registrar. An appeal was then made to the Supreme Court to overturn the decision, the appellant presenting four arguments for the disqualification of the list10:

  1. The Arab Movement for Change negated the very existence of Israel;

  2. The party negated the existence of Israel as a Jewish state;

  3. The party might serve as a cover for illegal actions and therefore should be disqualified in accordance with Section 5 of the Parties Law;

  4. There was a clear conflict of interests between the party leader’s activities as a consultant to the chairperson of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat, and his role as a head of a party that wished to compete in the elections.

The appellant argued that the “real” aims of the party were to settle for a two-state solution in the first instance and then work to accomplish the further stage, which was the destruction of Israel.

Ostensibly, argument one and two fall under Section 7 of the Basic Law: The Knesset. However, a question arose whether the appellant was in a position to prove that the destruction of Israel was indeed the “real” aim of the party. The appellant based his reasoning on three interdependent arguments. The first argument was that the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) aimed at the destruction of Israel, as declared, inter alia, in the Palestinian Covenant. Second, the leader of the party in question, Ahmed Tibi, was identified with the PLO. Thirdly, Dr. Tibi’s aim was similar to the PLO’s.

Thus, if the PLO aims at the destruction of the State of Israel, and Ahmed Tibi is identified with this organization, therefore Tibi, and his party, are striving to destroy the State of Israel.

In considering the arguments, Justice Cheshin held that it would be unwise to characterize the PLO based on its Covenant, especially as Israel, by signing the Oslo and Cairo Accords with the PLO, accorded it, and its chairperson of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat, official recognition. Justice Cheshin also alluded to the explicit condemnation of violence and terrorism made by Chairperson Arafat, thus, either ignoring the wave of terror that had engulfed Israel in 1995-96, or absolving Arafat from any involvement in the violence.

In addressing the claim that the party denied Israel’s right of existence as a Jewish state, Justice Cheshin argued that the assertion that the State of Israel was the state of all its citizens did not undermine the existence of Israel as a Jewish state since, as a democracy, Israel is, indeed, a state of all its citizens. Further, Justice Cheshin noted that he could not conclude that the negation of the State of Israel as a Jewish state was imperative from the party’s ends. Finally, the party’s desire to divide Jerusalem and make East Jerusalem the capital of the established Palestinian state did not undermine the existence of Israel as a Jewish state.11

Here too, Justice Cheshin chose to obscure the significance and the purpose of transforming Israel into a “state of all citizens”, contemptuously ignoring Section 7A(1) of the Basic Law: The Knesset.

The Court, impervious to criticism, rejected the appeal and Ahmed Tibi was ultimately elected a member of the Knesset.

1.4.2 Judaism: An Antithesis of Democracy?

In the past decade a new intellectual current, known as “post-Zionism”, has captured the minds of the radical Jewish Left. Post-Zionism assumes that Zionism is no longer relevant as the leading idea in the life of the Israeli state, whereas Judaism is anachronistic and incompatible, if not antithetical, with democracy. The collaboration between post Zionists and Israeli Arab leadership, especially the Arab members of Knesset, is predicated by their determination to supplant Judaism and Zionism and replacing them with their version of democracy.

“In the course of time, an effective weapon in the war against the Judaization of the State of Israel was developed. The weapon is democracy.”12 To achieve their goals, the radical, Jewish Israeli Left, obsequiously courting Israeli Arab leadership, has divided Israelis into two groups: friends and foes.

..the friend being Azmi Bishara and Yasser Arafat, and the enemy being the Jew faithful to tradition and the Israeli people, to the Torah of Israel and the Land of Israel – we do not all have the right to exist.13

In May 1998, leading Israeli intellectuals, including Benny Morris, Ilan Pappe, Itamar Rabinovich, and Ze’ev Sternhal met with Palestinian counterparts to discuss the creation of Israel in 1948, which, in Palestinian historiography, is known as al Nakba (the disaster). Although the majority of the Israeli participants subscribe to post-Zionism, the Palestinian participants still accused them of suffering from Zionist schizophrenia.

In analyzing the dialogue, which was remarkably unbalanced, Meyrav Wurmser underscored the manner in which the Palestinian historians used the conference to undermine Zionism, and to refute any Jewish claims to the Land of Israel. Not only did they seek to prove that Zionism had no legitimacy as a national movement, but that it was a negative phenomenon with evil intent, the worst of sins.14

The Palestinian historians overtly condemned the Israeli participants, asserting that Israeli self-criticism did not suffice to arrive at full Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation. As far as they were concerned, nothing less than the full negation of the Zionist enterprise would be required for peace to be attained. In summing up the ramifications of the Palestinian historians implacable stance, Meyrav Wurmser writes: Hence, the Palestinian-Israeli dispute is not a simple conflict over territory. It is an all-encompassing ideological battle in which Zionism must be destroyed before peace can be achieved.”15 The Jewish participants, evidently, were oblivious to this blatant attack on the very existence of the State of Israel.

However, notwithstanding the Jewish radical Left’s self-abnegation, the Palestinian leadership relates to them with contempt.

The Israeli Left distorts our positions, incites public opinion against us, then tries to prove its moral superiority by defending the “freedom of expression in Israeli society.” ...The battle is not over freedom of expression, nor is the Israeli Left a believer in the principles of Voltaire. The battle, therefore, is over Arab representation. It is about our right as Arabs to organize, about our right to interact with our people suffering under Israeli occupation, and, finally, about the compatibility of Zionism with democracy and equality.16

Nonetheless, neither the contempt nor the unyielding demands of the Palestinians are capable of deterring the radical Left from sacrificing the interests of the State of Israel and its Jewish citizens in their pursuit of acceptance. And, evidently, even to get paid for it by international organizations whose goals are inimical to Israeli’s integrity. They also have no scruples at trampling the basic principles of democracy in the process. Thus, symptomatic of their outright disregard of democratic principles is the annual salary of NIS 350,000-NIS 400,000 paid to the former Labor Party MK Yossi Beilin by the Economic Cooperation Foundation (ECF), an organization whose expenses are covered by European Union.17 In financing Beilin’s egregious activities, the EU’s primary goal is to intervene in the Israeli national discourse and influence Israeli voting patterns, a situation, which would be intolerable in any other democratic country.

However, contrary to their pernicious attacks on Judaism, the truth is that it is the Labor Party, its policies and politicians, in all their various transformations, that have never been democratic.18 This situation drastically deteriorated when the Rabin-Peres Labor government signed the Oslo agreements in 1993 without receiving a mandate to do so from the citizens of Israel. To bolster their position, the government, with the collaboration of the mass media and academia, embarked on a systematic and unrelenting de-legitimization of the Israeli Right, settlers, religious Jews and all others who were opposed to the “peace” process. Raya Epstein meticulously describes the resultant erosion of democracy in the State of Israel,19 creating what Yaakov Talmon labeled a “Totalitarian Democracy”.20

Typical of the arrogance of the Labor Party is the authority MK Yossi Beilin arrogated to himself, in contradiction to all the principles of democracy, to negotiate and sign the Beilin-Abu Mazen Agreement,21 an agreement that makes far-reaching concessions to the Palestinian Authority, “without authorization, and contrary to the stated positions of his superiors, so as to establish irreversible political fait accompli in close cooperation with Yasser Arafat.”22

The journalist, Ari Shavit, in discussing Beilin’s undemocratic conduct, criticized Beilin for crossing red lines and for his attempt to further erode, from within, the Israeli position vis-à-vis the Palestinian Authority.

The deputy minister [Beilin] acted without permission. In doing so, this deputy minister carried out what can be accurately defined as a “diplomatic putsch” [conspiracy] unprecedented in Israel’s political history. He forced his own world-view upon a government that had never adopted it, and on a public that had never voted on it.23

It should be noted that Beilin assumed obligations that not even a Prime Minister can assume without government approval. Furthermore, hitherto the text of the agreement has remained a secret, with only Abu Mazen, Beilin and Shimon Peres privy to its contents.

This attitude is not at all surprising as the underpinning of the worldview of the Israeli radical Left is that regardless of the circumstances and the facts, Israel is always to blame. Especially striking is Sarid’s persistence in ascribing whole and sole blame to the collapse of the Camp David Summit to the former Prime Minister Ehud Barak; totally ignoring the unprecedented concessions offered Arafat (in blatant disregard to public consensus). Sarid argued that Barak’s failure was due to:

A combination of the faulty way the prime minister managed things, the abandonment of the left-wing camp, the abandonment of the Arabs in Israel and as a result their revolt; an incorrect working assumption by Barak that the conditions were ripe to strike a deal with the Palestinians on both Jerusalem and the right of return.24

No blame is accorded to Yasser Arafat for the summit’s failure.

Currently, the new weapon the Israeli Left is wielding against Israel is the threat of being put on trial as a “war criminal” by an international court. As articulated by Uri Avnery, an indefatigable and assiduous anti-Zionist activist, who unequivocally adopts Palestinian accusations and allegations:

If I were Shaul Mofaz, I would by now be very worried indeed. In Belgium, Ariel Sharon is standing trial for his part in the Sabra and Shatila events... This is only a beginning. The international campaign against war crimes is progressing rapidly. A permanent International Court for war crimes is going to be set up... The definition of war crimes will be widened. ...In one, five or twenty years, somebody may get up and sue Mofaz in The Hague, Brussels or anywhere else for acts committed under his command.25

This is the same Uri Avnery who, writing in the official PA organ Al Hayat al-Jadida, called upon the Palestinians to continue the intifada. Avnery explaining, that since the Palestinian violence had achieved such impressive gains, it must not be stopped.26


CHAPTER 2: Palestinian Trends in the Arab Sector

For decades, Arabs were actively involved in the Zionist parties, despite their feelings of alienation because of perceived discrimination. Since then, the identification with the State of Israel has been in decline, while the feelings of belonging to the Palestinian nation, with the PLO as its only legitimate representative, have steadily intensified, especially among the youth and university students.27 This is expressed in the decline of the “moderate” camp and the vanishing of the Arab lists associated with the Zionist parties.

The new Arab leaders, confident and independent, have internalized the rules of the political game. They have set their eyes upon accumulating political power and strengthening the Arab political representation in the Knesset, their ultimate goal is the advancement of a Palestinian national program that foreshadows the inevitable confrontation between the Jewish and Arab populations in the State of Israel.

2.1 Israeli Arab National Institutions

Arab ethno-centrism began to grow in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War. This trend expressed itself in the Palestinization of the Israeli Arab identity, growing self-assertiveness, organized collective action and a proactive institutional and political organization. The two most active Israeli Arab organizations are the National Committee of Heads of Arab Local Councils and the Supreme Monitoring Committee of Israeli Arabs.

2.1.1 The National Committee of Heads of Arab Local Councils

The National Committee of Heads of Arab Local Councils (NCHALC) was established as a national body for the specific purpose of advancing the municipal matters of the Arab local councils. However, the organization has become politicized, its actions in local affairs taking on nationalistic overtones. More insidious, it has turned its focus from assuring equal civil rights for Israeli Arabs to Palestinian national issues.

2.1.2 The Supreme Monitoring Committee

The Supreme Monitoring Committee was founded on September 2, 1982 with the view of creating a supra-leadership that would encompass both NCHALC and the Arab members of Knesset. At its first meeting, in October 1982, the Monitoring Committee, in sum and substance, not only stressed equality, but also more importantly, it laid the foundation for the coordinated effort to advance the national ambitions of Israeli Arabs.

Conceptually and politically, the Supreme Monitoring Committee fills the role of a surrogate government for the Arab sector in Israel. Since 1984, it has become the supreme political body in the Arab sector, being dubbed “the parliament of Israel’s Arabs”. The boundaries between the Committee and the NCHALC have gradually become obscured, a process accelerated when Shakaki Hativ was chosen to stand at the head of both bodies. Contrary to law, the NCHALC sets aside a half a percent of the budget allocated to local councils by the Ministry of Interior to the Supreme Monitoring Committee, without submitting an accounting on what the money was spent.28

Since its establishment, the Committee has become so powerful that there is a real danger of it becoming an ultimate-separatist body. The secretary of the Committee, Abed Inbitawi, has no qualms in stating, “We don’t need the official stamp of the State of Israel.” On the contrary, in his view, should the government of Israel declare the Supreme Monitoring Committee irrelevant, it would precipitate a confrontation with Israeli Arabs.29

Dr. Reuven Aharoni predicts that the Committee will ultimately be transformed into a parliament that would accede to Israeli Arabs’ desire to achieve separation. In view of the fact that Arabs dominate the Galilee, the Triangle and Negev, one can just imagine what Israeli would look like if these territories were geographically annexed to the Palestinian-Arab autonomy.30 Should this nightmare transpire, how long would Israel be able to sustain its geographical integrity?

2.2 The Arabization of the Arab Political Parties

The transformation undergone by the Israeli Communist Party symbolizes the radicalization of the Arab sector and the growing alienation of the Arab public to Israel.31 In 1965, the Communist Party split into two groups, the Israeli Communist Party (ICP) and the New Communist List (NCL), a Palestinian nationalist, secular party. While ICP espoused Zionist ideology, NCL was anti-Zionist, advocating the conversion of Israel into a state in which all citizens would be equal irrespective of their ethnic identity, the import being the eradication of the Jewish-Zionist nature of the State of Israel. It is, therefore, not surprising that its mainstay support was almost solely Palestinian although 50% of its central committee was Jewish.32

In 1982, NCL amalgamated with other groups to form the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality – DFPE, solidifying Israeli Arab-Palestinian identity and association with the PLO. Some of the paragraphs contained in the 1987 program for national and civil equality, initiated by NCL/DFPE, embody this orientation33:

  1. A complete withdrawal from the occupied territories and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state under the PLO;

  2. Recognition of the refugee right of return or to compensation;

  3. Recognition of the Arab community in Israel as a national minority and as an indivisible part of the Palestinian Arab people, with full national and civil rights with Jewish Israelis;

  4. Repeal of those provisions for the Druze community, which detach it from the Palestinian community.

In the latter half of the 1980s and especially during the 1990s, Arabization became even more extreme, with Israeli Arabs asserting, “Arabs do not need Jews to represent them,” in defiance not only of the Arabs in the Zionist Left parties.34 The Arab Democratic Party (ADP) established by Abd el-Wahhab Darawshe, embodied this trend by becoming the first national party that was based purely on Arabs. In both the 1988 and 1992 elections, the party assiduously highlighted its Arabism, its slogan in 1992 was especially nationalistic: “Arab votes for an Arab party.”

Arabization was reinforced by the Islamization of the political parties, even the DFPE, with the Jewish and Christian leaders supplanted by an exclusively Muslim leadership. Even the Labor Party departed from its policy of including both Christian and Muslim candidates in its party list; from the 1980s, all the Arabs selected for its list have been Muslims.

Concomitant with this trend is the decline in the support for Zionist parties within the Arab community, as shown below35

Support for Zionist Parties, by Year of General Elections












2.2.1 The Formation of an Operative Consensus

In general, the dominant trend found among Israeli Arabs’ political parties was, and is, the unqualified and categorical dedication to the realization of the PLO’s goals. All the mainstream Arab parties uphold the PLO ideology, including establishing Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state and the “right of return”, notwithstanding that these demands run counter to Israeli official policy. They do qualify the “right of return” by adding that the refugees would be able to opt for compensation.36 The radical parties, whether secular37 or Islamic,38 stipulate the unconditional return of all the 1948 Palestinian refugees to their villages.

In their quest to leverage their potential as a “blocking force”, Arab political parties have adopted pragmatic political positions, under a blanket “operative consensus” embodied in the ideology that the solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict lies in the formula “two states for two nations”. In doing so, they strengthened their potential of participating in the political decision-making processes.

This integrative transition has been characterized by a move towards the center of the political map, towards Israeli consensus. However, an analysis of the political positions of the parties indicates that the Arab parties can be positioned in the center of the political map not because they have modified their ideology but rather because the political map moved to the left as Israeli consensus assumed the political platforms of the Arab parties, agreeing that the establishment of a Palestinian state is the only way to attain peace in the Middle East.

The Israeli Arab consensus has, however, now been modified to accommodate the objective of eradicating Israel’s Jewish-Zionist character and establishing a “state of all its citizens”. As pointed out by Ghanem and Ossitzki-Lazar, the motto “two states for two nations” is no longer relevant. The majority of the Arabs unequivocally and unambiguously proclaim their opposition to the preservation of the State of Israel’s definition as a “Jewish state” even after a peace agreement has been signed and a Palestinian state has been established. In practice, what they demand is the establishment of a Palestinian state for the Palestinian people and the abolishment of the Jewish state for the Jewish people, with Israel transformed into a civic state, conjoint with Jews and Arabs.39

Obviously, this is an irreconcilable and insoluble confrontation. The Jewish population of the State of Israel cannot concede to Israeli Arabs’ demands to relinquish their state; capitulation would be national suicide. Clearly, should the Arabs persist in these demands, they would be precipitating an irreparable schism in Israeli society.

To encapsulate, Israeli Arabs regard themselves as citizens of the State of Israel and have no desire to be annexed to the Palestinian state. What they do want is to be part of another State of Israel – a non-Jewish and non-Zionist one, essentially, a non-Israel state.

Inherent in the conflict over the essence of the State of Israel and the recognition of Israeli Arabs as a national minority is the potential for escalation into a regional conflict, if not an international one, as Uri Horowitz of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies pointed out.40 Israeli Arabs base their demand on various international treaties that address human rights in great detail. On this basis, Israeli Arabs could avail themselves of the Palestinian leadership to pressure Israel to comply with its demands. They could also mobilize the Arab states and international pressure by appealing to the United Nations, the European Union and various human rights organizations. In doing so, the status of Israel as a Jewish-Zionist state becomes an international and a pan-Arab problem.

All of this is occurring with total disregard to Israeli law that stipulates that a “candidate’s list shall not participate in elections to the Knesset if its objects or actions, expressly or by implication, negate the existence of the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people.”


CHAPTER 3 – Abuse of Immunity Granted to MKs

Article 17 of the Basic Law: The Knesset provides that MKs shall have immunity. Article 1 (a) of The Law of Immunity of MKs, Their Rights and Their Duties (1951) defines MKs’ substantive immunity as follows:

An MK shall not carry criminal or civil liability, and will be immune from any legal action, due to a vote, or an act – in the Knesset or outside it – if the vote, the expression, or the act was part of his role or in order to fulfill his role as an MK.

Arab members of Knesset have abused this law to incite against Israel and its Jewish citizens, against the police and the IDF, and to highlight their unqualified support for those who wage war against Israel and its citizens.

Even the Knesset podium does not deter Arab MKs from incitement. MK Makhoul has labeled the Israeli government an “anthrax government”, slandering it by accusing Israel of being Nazi Germany: “Sharon was right when he compared the current situation to Czechoslovakia, except that he made a mistake in which side he’s on: He’s really on the German side of the equation.” He then went on to accuse Sharon’s government that it “loves death, with blood dripping from its lips”.41

Undoubtedly MK Tibi (Ta’al) was relying on his immunity when he raised a storm at a Knesset session by calling IDF Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz a murderer from the podium. Tibi, Arafat’s long-time advisor, said, “The Chief of Staff is a fascist, a cold-blooded child murderer, and is responsible for the murder of five citizens.” Acting Speaker Nechama Ronen asked Tibi to apologize for his remarks, and when he refused, Knesset ushers removed him from the podium. In an uncharacteristic involvement in politics, President Katzav issued a statement in which he condemned Tibi’s assault on Chief of Staff Mofaz, stating that he had overstepped the boundaries by abusing democratic principles to cause harm to the IDF.42

Undoubtedly, the absence of universal condemnation for Arab MKs’ pernicious outbursts against the State of Israel and its leaders have been interpreted as free reign to demonize the state. Clearly MK Barakeh had no trepidation at fulminating against the Israeli government, calling it a “government of blood” and Sharon “the head of a government of blood”. When called upon by the Acting Knesset Speaker MK Yigal Bibi to retract his statement not only did he refuse to do so, he continued to repeat it from the podium until three Knesset ushers succeeded in dragging him from the podium. Although a complaint was subsequently filed with the police against Tibi, and passed to Attorney General Elyakim Rubenstein, Tibi invoked his immunity and no action was taken against him.

This, of course, raises the question of how Tibi’s incendiary remarks against Chief of Staff Mofaz can be construed as being “part of his role” as an MK.

To address such travesties where MKs can make inflammatory statements against the State of Israel and the IDF, MK Katz (Likud) submitted legislation that would disqualify from a Knesset candidacy anyone who has expressed solidarity with a terrorist movement in the previous five years. The bill, that also allows the stripping of Parliamentary immunity from MKs who express support for terrorist organizations, has passed its first Knesset reading.

Responding to the outcry of the Arab MKs, MK Eliezer Cohen retorted,

I understand why you’re upset. You never expected that we would get up here and openly say that we will no longer tolerate these daily outrages in which Arab MKs express their cooperation with the enemy. But that is what we are saying: It will simply no longer be allowed to continue.43

3.1. Estranging Israeli Arabs from Israel

In the past, both Dr. Elie Rekhess44 and Professor Sammy Smooha45 projected that the peace process would serve as a catalyst for the deepening of the Israelization process and the weakening of the Palestinian affinity, in its PLO context. Rekhess even suggested that recognition of the PLO and the Palestinians’ right for self-determination, in tandem with the withdrawal of Israeli forces from some of the occupied territories, embodied the realization of the Israeli Arab Palestinian-nationalist platform. Ensuing from this, the Palestinization process would undergo localization that would translate into ascribing higher priority to local Arab-Israeli concerns, such as equality, social improvement and participation in political decisions, rather than Palestinian issues.

However, in diametric opposition to this prognosis, we are witnessing accelerated erosion in the affinity of the Israeli Arab community to the State of Israel and intensification in its identity with the Palestinian Authority and its goals. Israeli Arab leadership express their contempt towards the Israelization of Israeli Arabs, counteracting this process by assiduously cultivating total identification with the goals of the PLO, even when these goals are detrimental to the State of Israel and endanger its existence. Arab leaders, including members of Knesset, unabashedly admit that Israel is not their country and its flag is not their flag,46 refuse to be referred to as Israeli Arabs, regarding such an epithet as deriding, preferring “Arabs in Israel” or “Palestinian Arabs in Israel”. They have been so successful in inculcating this perception of Israeli Arabs that even Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, during his campaign, referred to them as “Palestinian Israeli citizens”.47

The animosity towards Israel exhibited by Israel MKs has become so intense that even Yediot Aharonot has editorialized that Israeli Arab MKs are “stretching the cords of democracy so much that they are in danger of rupturing,” which will “endanger the Arab citizens of Israel before it endangers the Jews.”48

The pervading attitude towards Israel can be encapsulated in the widespread reference, by Israeli Arabs as well as Arab MKs, to the establishment of the State of Israel as al Naqba. The large-scale demonstrations to commemorate al Naqba, timed to coincide with Israel’s Independence Day, embodies, in essence, the process of accelerated estrangement of Israeli Arabs from Israel. “For Israeli Arabs to call the creation of the country catastrophic is to implicitly endorse its destruction, by bullets or ballots.”49

3.2 Terrorism as a Democratic Principle

Israeli Arab leadership, including, and especially the Arab MKs, has maintained close ties with the Palestinian Authority and the Fatah, publicly declaring its support for their positions in the Arab-Israeli conflict. In fact, the Arab leadership has filled the role of the Palestinian Authority’s lobby in Israel,50 raising the question as to where its loyalties lie.

3.2.1 The Legal Framework

The curtailing of the freedom of speech in order to protect a democracy is not unique to Israel. Professor Louis René Beres has written that under international law, every state has the right to protect itself from rebellion, insurrection or “sedition”.51 The Constitution of the United States, for example, recognizes the importance of setting boundaries to the freedom of speech by prohibiting:

  • Defamation

  • Causing panic

  • Fighting words

  • Incitement to crime

  • Sedition.

But this right, which stems in part from the jurisprudential prerogatives of sovereignty, is not unlimited. Whatever a particular state’s established legal limits on internal opposition and protest, these limits must be firm and fixed for all circumstances. They cannot be varied from one case to another simply in order to meet shifting political interests of the moment.52

The Knesset also has passed laws that curtail the freedom of speech, including sedition. The Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance (1948) stipulates that:

A person who –

  1. publishes, in writing or orally, words of praise, sympathy or encouragement for acts of violence calculated to cause death or injury to a person or for threats of such acts of violence; or

  2. publishes, in writing or orally, words of praise or sympathy for, or an appeal for aid or support of a terrorist organization; or

  3. has propaganda material in his possession on behalf of a terrorist organization; or

  4. gives money or money’s worth for the benefit of a terrorist organization...

shall be guilty of an offense and shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to a fine not exceeding one thousand pounds or to both such penalties.53

The specific Israeli statute relating to sedition offers four definitions of sedition, ranging from “arousing hatred for, contempt for, or disloyalty to the state or governmental authorities or the law” to “arousing strife and hatred among different portions of the population”.

3.2.2 Unqualified Support for Terrorist Organizations

The attitude of Israeli Arabs to the State of Israel resonates in the statement made by MK Tibi in an interview in Maariv: “I believe that the Palestinian people have to struggle against the occupation and it is the obligation of each Israeli Arab to say ‘yes’ to the Palestinian struggle.”54

And indeed, Israeli Arabs admire and venerate Palestinian terrorists who have killed Israelis. But evidently so do members of the Israeli Knesset. Palestinian terrorist organizations have been waging a deadly war against Israel, targeting innocent Jewish citizens on the roads, in malls, coffee houses, buses, etc. This has not deterred Israeli Arab MKs from declaring their unqualified support for Yasser Arafat, including pilgrimages to Ramallah to meet with him despite the fact that such meetings are illegal. Even after thousands of terror incidents and hundreds of victims, and impeccable proof of Arafat’s involvement in the violence, Tibi continues to absolve Arafat of any culpability in the massacre of hundreds of Israelis. He even went so far as to disparage rumors purporting that support for Arafat among Israeli Arabs had diminished as a result of injuries inflicted upon them by terrorists.55

MK Bishara has even expressed his solidarity with the Hizbullah, proclaiming: “For the first time since 1967, we have tasted the sweet taste of victory. The Hizbullah has the right to be proud of its achievement and its humiliation of Israel.” In a eulogy to Abu-Jihad in 1998, Bishara declared:

We need the values represented by Abu-Jihad more than we need air to breathe. The “internal” Arabs are the sons of the Arab Palestinian nation and mourn Abu-Jihad’s death as a martyr. The Shahid expressed the tie between “the external” to the “internal” and the tie between the national and the Islamic streams.56

The radical Left in the Knesset has even endeavored to anchor the right to demonstrate support for terrorist groups in the law. On December 21, 2001, Hadash MKs Issam Makhoul, Mohammad Barakeh and Tamar Gozansky presented to the Knesset that, in effect, sanctions of inflicting injury upon Israeli citizens. The following is the text of the proposed law57:

Proposed Law to Amend the Order for Preventing Terror (Struggle Against Occupation, 2001) Amendment to Paragraph 1:1. In the Order for Preventing Terror 1948, at the end of the definition of “terror organization” will come: Excepting a group of people who struggle against the occupation that do not carry out one of the following:

  • Acts of violence that may cause the death or wounding of a person directed towards someone who is not among the security forces.

  • Threatening the use of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.

MKs across the political spectrum, from Michael Kleiner (Herut) to Yossi Sarid (Meretz) expressed their outrage at the bill; MK Ofer Paz (Labor) charging that the bill legitimizes spilling the blood of IDF soldiers, police officers, and border police. In essence, the proposed law would exempt those who attack armed Israeli civilians living in Yesha (Yehuda, Shomron, and Gaza) from being labeled terrorists. Also under the proposal, assaulting IDF soldiers would not be viewed as “terrorist acts”, the amendment defining the IDF an “occupying force”.

As clarified by MK Makhoul, as the proposed law stands, opposition to occupation is not terror. Certainly, the PLO and the Tanzim are not terrorist organizations. It is true that Arafat promised, in his letter to the former PM Yitzhak Rabin in September 1993, not to use violence and to forfeit his international right to use force to liberate the occupied territories, but since Israel did not keep its commitment to withdraw to the 1967 borders and remove all the settlements, Arafat was not bound by his obligations:

As long as the Israeli government continues with the position that they seek a military rather than diplomatic resolution of the conflict then Arafat’s commitment does not hold.58

Arab MKs’ support for the PLO is not limited to rhetoric; they have also taken an active role in violence against Israeli authorities. For example, MKs Barakeh and Tibi met with Yasser Arafat in Ramallah in December 2001, in a show of support for the PLO leader. Following the meeting, the two MKs incited a riot at the nearby IDF A-Ram checkpoint on the northern border of the capital. Soldiers manning the roadblock say that MK Tibi spat at them and cursed them, and then incited Arabs there to a violent riot.59 In May 2001, again at the A-Ram junction, they, once more, incited dozens of Arabs to march on the capital and were only stopped after the police threw tear gas.60 Even in the throes of Israel’s war of defense in March-April 2002, after the Passover pogrom in which 56 Jews were murdered, including the slaughter of 26, and the injuring of more than a hundred, at a Passover seder, Arab MKs clashed with Israeli soldiers at A-Ram.

Not only do Arab MKs support the “Palestinian struggle”, they also regard terrorist acts as legitimate tactics against Israel, such as calling the August 16, 2001 shooting in Tel Aviv, “a legitimate part of the Palestinian struggle”. MK Talab al-Sana` (UAL) justified the attack during a media interview to an Abu Dhabi channel, clarifying that the attempted mass murder was “of a special quality, targeting military personnel and not civilians...” There can be no guilt feelings in this case: “When there is no security for Palestinians, there will be no security for Israel. If Israel can [attack] in Nablus, Palestinians can get to the heart of Tel Aviv.”61

In response, the Minister of Public Security Uzi Landau called the statement “treason”, and several Knesset members called upon Attorney General Rubenstein to indict al-Sana`.62

MK Bishara (Balad), also condoning the terrorist atttack, charged that the criticism of al-Sana` was no more than an attempt to silence Arab Knesset members from expressing their opinion.

To date, no action has been taken against al-Sana`.

On February 10, 2002, MK Tibi, together with Israeli Arab citizens, made a solidarity visit to Yasser Arafat in Ramallah. During the visit, Tibi expressed support for Arafat’s call for one million martyrs to march on Jerusalem, telling the crowd in Arabic that Israel was guilty of aggressions against the PA. Attorney Naftali Wurtzburger filed a complaint against Tibi, calling on the prosecutor’s office to file charges of sedition and supporting a terrorist organization against Tibi and his supporters. The complaint called for the removal of Tibi’s parliamentary immunity so that he may face criminal prosecution. Police Chief Shlomo Aharonishki stated the matter would be investigated and if the situation warranted, police would move forward with recommending charges.63 To date (October 2002), no action has been taken against Tibi.

This was not the only occasion where Arab MKs, often accompanied by representatives of the Jewish radical Left, met with Arafat and other terrorists with Jewish blood on their hands, knowingly violating the army ban on entering PA autonomous territories, a ban upheld by the Israeli High Court of Justice. These meetings of solidarity demonstrated the extent in which the Arab MKs and the Jewish radical left are impervious to the suffering of the Jewish population in Israel.64 In total disregard of the hundreds of Israeli casualties in the war of terror Arafat was waging against Israeli citizens, MKs Ahmed Tibi (Ta-al), Abdul Malik Dehamshe (United Arab List), Tamar Gozansky (Hadash) and Mohammed Barakeh (Hadash), attempted to meet with Arafat at his headquarters in Ramallah at the height of the IDF siege on Mukata.65

MKs allegiance to terrorist groups was discordantly evident in their mourning the death of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorist leader Abu Ali Mustafa. It should be pointed out that the PFLP is the terrorist organization whose members assassinated Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze’evi, and labeled as such by both the USA and Britain.

Bishara gave an interview in which he labeled Israel, the country in whose legislature he is a member, an “enemy”. Mustafa’s death had been a great loss for him, prompting him to call “brothers in the Galilee” to arrange rallies in Nazareth and Umm al-Fahm.

We have no choice but to wage an existential war... Israel is forcing this existential war upon us, but in the end there is no escape from the fact that the Palestinian nation will win over this oppressive enemy that does not recognize values or anything else...66

Notwithstanding their obligations as members of the Knesset, Tibi, Barakeh, and al-Sana` took part in the funeral procession for the slain terrorist alongside with leaders of various terrorist factions. The funeral march was marked by shouts to avenge the death and perpetrate terror attacks against Israel.67 Several months later, MKs Tibi and Barakeh met with Abdul Rahim Maluah, the number one man in the PFLP, galvanizing Attorney General Rubenstein to launch an investigation to see if criminal charges were in order for the crime of contacting agents of a foreign entity and a terrorist organization.68 No action has yet been taken against them.

This phenomenon has continued throughout al-Aqsa Intifada that broke out after the failure of the Camp David II talks. MK Barakeh, for example, lavished praise on the leaders of the intifada at the “Continuation of the Intifada rally that was held within the borders of Israel. The leader of the Tanzim, Marwan Barghuti, participated in the rally, as did the Secretary General of the Popular Front. Barakeh declared that:

We appreciate this intifada and I believe that it is the correct response, at the right time, even though a bit late...We must participate by virtue of our special status in our Palestinian People’s struggle, for liberation and independence.69

While the number of Jewish victims of the Palestinian intifada soared, a similar rally was organized by MK Tibi’s party, the Arab Party for Renewal, on December 2000. While Israelis were being murdered daily by Palestinian terrorists and snipers, Muhammad Dahlan, the Gaza Preventive Security Chief, a senior Palestinian leader, culpable for some of the terrorist acts against Israelis, freely entered Israel with his armed entourage to participate in the rally. Israeli Arabs welcomed his presence with cheers. Representatives of all the Arab parties participated in this event, organized in support of the Palestinian struggle and to extend active support for the heroic battle against occupation.70

Subsequent to Israel’s attack on a Syrian installation, in retaliation for terror attacks on Israel, MK Dahamshe sent a fax to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad condemning the Israeli attack and expressing his condolences for the deaths of the three Syrian soldiers “in a criminal attack by the fascist government of Israel on Syrian targets in Lebanon”, which is a declaration of war not only on the Palestinians but also on the Syrians. The Knesset Ethics Committee subsequently reprimanded Dehamshe.71

No other action was taken against him!

3.3 Abrogating Israeli’s Democratic Right to Defend Itself: MK Azmi Bishara’s Trial

On June 10, 2001, Israeli Arab Knesset Member (MK) Dr. Azmi Bishara (Balad) attended a ceremony in Syria marking the first anniversary of the death of Syrian President Hafez al-Assad. In his speech to the ceremony’s attendees – which included Hizbullah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the PFLP Ahmad Jibril, Hamas leaders, and leaders of other militant Palestinian organizations based in Syria – Bishara called for the Arab world “to unite against the warmongering Sharon government”, and encouraged Arabs to adopt “the path of resistance”.

Bishara’s speech angered Israelis across the political and public spectrum. Even MKs from the Labor Party protested. MK Ophir Paz labeled Bishara a “serial instigator against Israeli democracy who incites the Israeli Arabs”. MK Effie Oshaya, head of the Labor Party faction in the Knesset, sharply criticizing Bishara, accused him, saying,

His act is a humiliation of the State of Israel, one that will deepen the fissure between Jews and Arabs... It is especially grave considering the fact that Hizbullah is holding three Israeli soldiers captive... This is like spitting in the faces of the families of these soldiers.72

The debate following Bishara’s speech included both the legal grounds and the political implications; Israeli officials accused Bishara of crossing the fine line separating free speech from incitement. Certainly democratic free speech did not include the endorsement of belligerency nor the right to advocate the overthrow of a democratically elected government.

On June 12, 2001, the Attorney General announced the opening of a criminal investigation against Bishara as a suspect in inciting and “assisting an enemy during war” [as Israel and Syria are officially still at war].73 The indictment stated that on two separate occasions – once in Um el-Fahm commemorating the 33rd anniversary of the Six Day War, and once in Syria on the first anniversary of Hafez al-Assad’s death – Bishara publicly identified with Hizbullah, praising it for its terrorist activities, and called upon the Palestinians to adopt the same methods against Israel.

The office of the Attorney General emphasized that the investigation was not an infringement on, or in violation of, Bishara’s freedom of speech, since his statements qualified under “offenses relating to the support of a terrorist organization”.74 The office also added that, in this case, Bishara’s immunity was ineffectual since his actions were a breach of the rules governing a citizen’s loyalty to the state. The violation of these rules by an elected member of the parliament was considered both a legal and an ethical offense.

When informed that the Interior and Ethics Committee was dealing with a request to remove his Parliamentary immunity, Bishara remarked that he was not afraid to sit in jail. “They [the Israelis] forced us to take their citizenship, and now they want to take it away from us.”75

Despite all the rhetoric surrounding the indictment of Bishara, both government officials and opposition leaders avoided the complex debate: How can Israel, as a democracy, deal with Israeli Arab citizens siding with its enemies, and what actions could Israel take to deal with such incidents in the future? As elucidated by Ronen Sebag, a researcher with the Middle East Media Research Institute:

Bishara’s case shed light on an extraordinary problem that is likely to further complicate Arab-Israeli relations in Israel. Bishara is not merely an Arab citizen who spoke against the survival of the state. He is a member of Israel’s legislature, the primary function of which is, as in any nation, to defend the nation’s existence and protect its citizens.76

3.3.1 Democracy on Trial: Defending MK Azmi Bishara

The messages embedded in Bishara’s speeches, precipitating his loss of immunity, were fully congruent with his ideology towards Israel:

Nothing can prevent me from saying that resistance against occupation is legitimate or telling the Arabs to support the intifada. I was in an Arab country – what is my message to the Arabs? To support the intifada. This is a principled position.77

By indicting MK Bishara, the Israeli justice system took a stand against such sedition.

To fully understand the underpinnings of Bishara’s defense, one must comprehend the worldview of his attorneys, Hassan Jabareen and Jamil Dakwar, the lead attorneys for the Israeli Arab civil rights organization, Adalah. Accordingly, all expressions of racism were a crime only if committed by a representative of the “dominant majority” who had power. Since Israeli Arabs are a powerless “marginalized minority”, ipso facto they cannot be indicted for racism. In other words, in Israel, only Jews can commit the crime of racism.78

The heart of Bishara’s defense, as will be pleaded by Bishara’s lawyers, is that prosecuting Bishara is tantamount to an assault on democracy. Whereas Israel purports to be a democracy defending itself, the defense will submit that it is the Palestinians who are the true democracy. By indicting Bishara, Israel was attacking a democracy. Why? Because outlawing support for the Palestinian struggle against Israel de-legitimizes the Israeli Arab parties and deprives Israeli Arabs of their democratic right of free speech.

In the opinion of the International Committee for the Defense of Azmi Bishara, it is the democratic right of Israeli Arabs to support the Palestinians in their war against their country of citizenship.

Indeed, the substance of Bishara’s defense strikes at the heart of Israel’s definition as a democratic state as opposed to the imperative to protect itself.

The Bishara case challenged Israel on various fronts. It triggered a mixture of questions relating to the nature of incitement, freedom of speech, the status of Israeli Arabs in the Jewish state, and the ways in which a democracy may defend itself without eroding its own democratic character.79

The Jabareen and Dakwar defense relies on two other points.

Even if all the facts noted in the indictment were true, no crime had been committed. Relying on Supreme Court precedent interpreting section 4(g) of the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance (1948), the text of the speeches, as noted in the indictment, did not prima facie constitute a crime. Why not? Because voicing resistance to occupation was a legitimate political opinion and did not amount to sympathy with or supporting a terrorist organization.80

The two political speeches delivered by Dr. Bishara in Syria fall within the scope of his parliamentary immunity as they were made in fulfillment of his role as an MK. He, therefore, cannot be criminally prosecuted for expressing opinions in accordance with the agenda of the political party of which he was elected. To support their argument, the defense argued by presenting the Court with identical speeches made by Bishara in the Israeli Knesset, for which no indictments were sought, prior to the delivery of the speeches in Umm al-Fahm and in Syria.

Bishara’s lawyers received succor from Dr. Gad Barzilai of the Israeli Democracy Institute, who asserted that it was hardly conceivable to argue seriously that Bishara’s speech had endangered Israel’s national security, or that it had spurred violence against the state. In his opinion, Bishara’s immunity had been canceled not for legal or constitutional reasons, but was rather an act of censorship “to censor the critical and radical attitudes of the Palestinian minority as a national community”.81

However, as abundantly demonstrated, Arab MKs flout Israeli law with impunity, with no fear of reprisal. Professor Beres, in assessing the elasticity of the boundaries of free expression in Israel, has stated:

Israel, it seems, has now gone far beyond permissible limits, both in terms of longstanding rules of international law and of its own authoritative domestic rules.82


CHAPTER 4 – Conclusions

To truly grasp the Israeli Arab confrontation, it must be perceived as a microcosm of a conflict that encapsulates issues that transcend Israel and have existential impact for the Western world. Analyzing the Israel-Arab conflict in isolation of its Islamic imperialistic underpinnings is to view the flow of events through tunnel vision. To ignore its ramifications for modern, democratic, Western and Eastern societies is to be grossly negligent.

Defining the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a clash over borders is more than misleading; it is deceptive and dangerous as it leads to conclusions that not only do not resolve the conflict but also aggravate it and endanger the existence of the State of Israel. Trivializing the religious factors inherent in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an indication of ignorance and total absence of comprehension of what the real issues are surrounding the conflict. For Palestinians, the Israeli-Palestine conflict is only the territorial aspect of an unbridgeable dichotomous relationship between Islam and Judaism. It is an existential battle that can never be resolved by territorial concessions but only by the destruction of the State of Israel.

From this perspective, the conflict raises issues that strike at the heart of democracy and the very existence of the State of Israel. Do Israeli Arabs have the democratic right to support the goals and the strategies of the PLO? Does the inflammatory invective against Israel, its government, and Jewish citizens and against the IDF constitute sedition or merely the exercise of the right for free speech? Does support for terrorist organizations and for the murder of Jews constitute treason or is it a democratic right? As things stand, Israeli Arab MKs assert that their support for the PLO terrorist regime and the devastating intifada unleashed upon Israel, is democratic, while squashing their espousal of the PLO’s goals is undemocratic. This paper argues that such a stance turns democracy on his head; rather than protecting human rights, it condones mass murder.

Israeli Arab leadership couches their condemnation of Israel’s policy in terms of oppression and a struggle for equality. However, in essence, the crux of the oppression imputed to the State of Israel is that its Jewish-Zionist character is undemocratic and discriminatory towards the Arab minority. Thus, underlying the Israeli Arab categorical demand for equality is the aim to disenfranchise the Jewish population of Israel. By demanding the eradication of the Jewish character of Israel, Israeli Arabs seek to abrogate the Jewish nation’s right to self-determination in their own independent state. The culmination of all these processes would be the reversal of the Zionist movement’s gains; Jews will once more be stateless, dependent, defenseless and impotent, an easy target. Capitulation to these demands would create the conditions for the establishment of a Palestinian state from “sea to sea”.

Here too, this paper argues that Israeli Arabs have turned democratic principles on their head; rather than assuring self-determination for all nations, it condones the abrogation of this right from the Jewish people.

In sum, Israeli Arab leadership, using and abusing democratic principles, is unrelentingly striving to achieve goals that jeopardize the very existence of the State of Israel.


CHAPTER 5 – Recommendations

Many of the problems examined in this policy paper are not only well known to the authorities, but they have the laws and the legal tools to deal effectively with phenomena that threaten the integrity of the State of Israel. The prevalence of infractions of the law in the Arab sector, and the proliferation of blatantly anti-Israel activities are the direct result of the authorities’ failure to enforce the law.

1. Israel as a Jewish-Zionist State

Israel’s essence as a Jewish and Zionist state must be anchored in law. Any person, organization or political party advocating the eradication of the Jewish and/or Zionist character of the State of Israel is to be declared illegal. Advocating the abolishment of Israel as a Jewish-Zionist state is to be deemed illegal and such groups or organizations shall be declared illegal.

Israel has the right to retain its identity, like any other state in the world. Jews have the democratic right for self-determination in their own state.

2. Incitement

It is recommended that all the laws relating to incitement be enforced. It should be made clear that anti-Semitism is racism. Demonization of Jews, Judaism and Israel is against the law and the perpetrator will suffer the full weight of the law.

All laws relating to meetings with people and/or organizations that seek to destroy the State of Israel and/or endanger the existence of both the State and any of its citizens must be enforced. Leaders and members of all the various anti-Israel groups in the Palestinian Authority should not be allowed to enter Israel, let alone participate in anti-Israeli rallies.

Solidarity rallies with the enemies of Israel, who murder Israeli citizens and soldiers with impunity, must be outlawed and their organizers arrested. Support for the murder of Israelis and/or the destruction of Israel must be considered a crime and the perpetrator arrested and placed on trial.

Statements in support of organizations that call for the murder of Israeli citizens and soldiers and/or call for the destruction of the State of Israel must be considered to be treasonous and the perpetrator arrested and put on trial, even if an elected official.

3. Governmental Monitoring and Control Over Political Movements and Groups that Threaten the Integrity of the State of Israel

A democratic government cannot tolerate the establishment of a “state within a state” over which it has no supervision or control. A democracy cannot abide groups that plot, or even aspire to, its destruction. It is the right and the obligation of a democracy to protect itself and its citizens. Arising from this, the authorities must monitor the activities of the Islamic movement, and any other political movement that endangers the State of Israel. The purpose of this is to ensure that they do not lead to aspirations of separation from the State of Israel and to frustrate any attempts to create an affinity with groups or organizations that threaten the integrity of Israel. Anti-Israel and anti-Jewish incitement is to be outlawed and the perpetrator placed on trial. Groups or organizations disseminating anti-Jewish or anti-Israel propaganda are to be deemed illegal.




Raphael Cohen-Almagor, “The Delicate Framework of Israeli Democracy During the 1980s: Retrospect and Appraisal”, Israeli Affairs, Volume 8, Nos. 1 & 2, 2002, pp. 118-138, p. 124.


Ibid, p.125.


Interview with Yael Kessler, spokesperson for Meretz MK Yossi Sarid, IMRA (Independent Media Review Analysis), <>, April 29, 2001.




Ha’aretz, May 21, 2001.


Arutz 7, <>, July 12, 2001.


Michael Pinto-Duschinsky, “Administration and Cost of Elections Project, Restrictions on Candidacy”, Ace Project website, <>, November 16, 2001.




E.A. 1/88, supra at 196.


Based on Raphael Cohen-Almagor, “Disqualification of Lists in Israel (1948-1984): Retrospect and Appraisal”, 13 LAW & PHIL., 43 (1994), Emory University website, <>.




Raya Epstein, “Ideological Tyranny in the Guise of Democracy”, Policy Paper No. 84, Ariel Center for Policy Research, November 1999, p. 43.


Ibid, p. 45.


Meyrav Wurmser, “The Palestinians and the Post-Zionists: The Limits of Historic Debate”, MEMRI (Middle East Media Research Institute), <>, Inquiry and Analysis, No. 1, July 20, 1998.




Azmi Bishara, “The Israeli Democracy”, November 29, 2001, The International Committee for the Defense of Azmi Bishara and Minority Rights website, <>, undated.


 Reported by investigative reporter Yoav Yitzchak, Maariv, February 9, 2002 and Arutz 7, <>, February 10, 2002.


Yonathan Shapira, while researching the political reality and culture in Israel, reached the conclusion that “the status of the dominant ideology in the Yishuv was close to the status that the communist ideology enjoyed in the Soviet Union”. Quoted in Raya Epstein, “Ideological Tyranny in the Guise of Democracy”, op. cit., p. 40.


Ibid., Preface.


Yaakov Talmon, The Beginning of Totalitarian Democracy, Zmora-Bitan, Tel Aviv, 1987.


An agreement Beilin signed with Abu Mazen and Abbas, the PLO man who signed the 1993 Oslo Accords with Israel. The text of the agreement has never been released to the public, but two versions exist, an Israeli and a Palestinian version, which contain some very invidious differences.


Ari Shavit, Ha’aretz, November 2, 2001, MEMRI, <>, Special Dispatch 300, November 14, 2001.




Ha’aretz, February 16, 2001.


Uri Avnery, “If I Were Mofaz”, Israel Insider, January 1, 2002.


Arutz 7, <>, June 22, 2001.


Doron Bardatz, Ideological and Political Changes Among Israeli Arabs During the Years 1967-1977. M.A. Thesis in the Department of Middle East Studies, Haifa University, under the supervision of Dr. Ilan Pappe, November 1990, pp. 76-77, p. 45.


Ayala Kedem, “Israeli Arabs’ Shadow Government”, Makor Rishon, March 8, 2002.






Shmuel Sandler, “Israeli Arabs and the Jewish State: The Activation of a Community in Suspended Animation”, Review Article, Middle Eastern Studies, Volume 31, No. 4, October 1995, pp. 932-952, especially p. 943.


David McDowall, Palestine and Israel: The Uprising and Beyond, I.B. Taurus, London, 1990, p. 121.


Op. cit., McDowall, 1990, p. 238.


Benyamin Neuberger, “Trends in the Political Organization of Israeli Arabs”, The Arab Politics in Israel – At a Crossroads Conference, Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, Tel Aviv University, 1997.


Hillel Frisch, “The Arab Vote: The Radicalization of Politicization?”, Israel Affairs, Special Issue: “Israel at the Polls”, 1996, pp. 103-120.


Sarah Ossitzki-Lazar and As`ad Ghanem, Israel Arab Perception of Peace, Surveys of the Arabs in Israel, Survey No. 11, September 1993, pp. 19-21. This doctrinaire approach was also quite evident in the lectures given at “The Arab Minority Between Israel and Palestinians Study Day”, organized by the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, Tel Aviv University, November 12, 2000.


Ibid., 1993, p. 19.


Ibid., p. 21.


As`ad Ghanem and Sarah Ossitzki-Lazar, “The al-Aqsa Intifada Amidst Israeli Arabs: Reasons and Outcomes”, Survey No. 27 on Arabs in Israel, The Institute for Peace Research, Givat Haviva, January 2001, p. 20.


Uri Horowitz, Israeli Arabs and the Palestinian State, Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, November 2000, 11-13, pp. 12-13.


Arutz 7, <>, October 26, 2001.


Arutz 7, <>, May 15,2001.


Arutz 7, <>, June 6, 2001.


Eli Rekhess, “Israelis Despite Everything”, Panim, 5, 1998, pp. 60-65.


Sammy Smooha, “Arab-Jewish Relationships in the Era of Peace”, HaMizrach HaHadash, Volume 37, pp. 64-78, especially p. 72.


Amal J`amal, “Not Everything is Blue and White”, Ha’aretz, April 14, 2000; H.R. (Anonymous), “Israeli Arabs: Citizens of Israel or an Irredentist Factor”, Nativ, 51/4, July 1996, pp. 130-133, especially p. 130.


Yediot Aharonot, January 28, 2001.


Arutz 7, <>, August 30, 2001.


Reuven Koret, “Voiding Future Catastrophes”, Israel Insider, May 16, 2001.


Op. cit., Uri Horowitz, 2000, p. 12.


../authors/, “Israel, Sedition and International Law”, Professors for a Strong Israel website, <>, undated.




Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance, No. 33 of 5708-1948.


Maariv, December 17, 1999.


Interview with MK Ahmed Tibi, Kol Yisrael Channel, April 1, 2002.


Maariv, June 7, 2000.


Proposed Law 4794, presented to the Knesset, December 31, 2001.


MK Issam Makhoul, Interviewed by IMRA, January 1, 2002.


Arutz 7, <>, December 17, 2001.


Arutz 7, <>, May 15, 2001.


Israel Insider, August 7, 2001.


Arutz 7, <>, August 6, 2001.


Arutz 7, <>, February 11, 2002.


For example: June 6, 2001, October 3, 2001, January 10, 2002, January 27, 2002.


Arutz 7, <>, September 22, 2002.


Palestinian Media Watch, <>; Arutz 7, <>, August 30, 2001.


Arutz 7, <>, August 28, 2001.


Arutz 7, <>, November 22, 2001 and November 27, 2001.


Maariv, November 6, 2000.


Yediot Aharonot, December 16, 2000.


Arutz 7, <>, January 14, 2002.


Arutz 7, <>, June 10, 2001.


Yediot Aharonot, June 14, 2001 and Ha’aretz, June 12, 2001.




Arutz 7, <>, June 12, 2001.


Ronen Sebag, “The Limits of Expression: The Case of MK Azmi Bishara”, MEMRI, <>, Inquiry and Analysis No. 62, Israel, June 27, 2001.


The Palestinian Chronicle, website edition, <>, March 10, 2002.


Larry Derfner, “Putting the State on Trial”, Jerusalem Post, March 12, 2002.


Op. cit., Sebag, 2001.


Op. cit., Derfner, 2002.


Gad Barzili, “The Case of Azmi Bishara: Political Immunity and Freedom in Israel”, MERIP Press Information, Note 80, January 8, 2001.


Op. cit., Beres, undated.