to Disenfranchise the Jewish Nation
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
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
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
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
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.
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 non-discrimination...to
deny political rights merely on the basis of political opinion poses a direct
challenge to the democratic process itself.
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
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
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
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
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.
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:
Negation of the existence of the State of Israel as the
state of the Jewish people;
Negation of the democratic character of the State;
Incitement to racism:
To justify such
a curtailment of the right to be elected, it must be shown that:
Racist incitement is one of the
party’s central and controlling aims and not merely a marginal concern;
The party’s candidacy in the
elections must be a means to realize such racist objectives; and
The amendment stipulated that
evidence of such racist objectives or actions must be clear, convincing and
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:
The Arab Movement for Change negated
the very existence of Israel;
The party negated the existence of
Israel as a Jewish state;
The party might serve as a cover for
illegal actions and therefore should be disqualified in accordance with
Section 5 of the Parties Law;
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
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
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
The Court, impervious to criticism,
rejected the appeal and Ahmed Tibi was ultimately elected a member of the
1.4.2 Judaism: An Antithesis of
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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:
A complete withdrawal from the occupied
territories and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state under
Recognition of the refugee right of
return or to compensation;
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;
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
Support for Zionist
Parties, by Year of General Elections
2.2.1 The Formation of an Operative
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
stipulate the unconditional return of all the 1948 Palestinian refugees to
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
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
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
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
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
3.1. Estranging Israeli Arabs from
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
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
Incitement to crime
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 –
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
publishes, in writing or orally, words of praise or
sympathy for, or an appeal for aid or support of a terrorist organization;
has propaganda material in his possession on behalf of
a terrorist organization; or
gives money or money’s worth for the benefit of a
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
3.2.2 Unqualified Support for
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
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 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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
Interview with Yael Kessler, spokesperson for Meretz MK Yossi Sarid, IMRA
(Independent Media Review Analysis), <www.imra.org.il>, April 29, 2001.
Ha’aretz, May 21, 2001.
Arutz 7, <www.israelnationalnews.com>, July 12, 2001.
Michael Pinto-Duschinsky, “Administration and Cost of Elections Project,
Restrictions on Candidacy”, Ace Project website, <www.aceproject.org>,
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),
<www.memri.org>, 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, <www.azmibishara.info>, undated.
Reported by investigative reporter Yoav Yitzchak, Maariv, February
9, 2002 and Arutz 7, <www.israelnationalnews.com>, 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.
Yaakov Talmon, The Beginning of Totalitarian Democracy,
Zmora-Bitan, Tel Aviv, 1987.
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.
Shavit, Ha’aretz, November 2, 2001, MEMRI, <www.memri.org>, Special
Dispatch 300, November 14, 2001.
Ha’aretz, February 16, 2001.
Avnery, “If I Were Mofaz”, Israel Insider, January 1, 2002.
Arutz 7, <www.israelnationalnews.com>, 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.
David McDowall, Palestine and Israel: The Uprising and Beyond, I.B.
Taurus, London, 1990, p. 121.
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
Hillel Frisch, “The Arab Vote: The Radicalization of Politicization?”,
Israel Affairs, Special Issue: “Israel at the Polls”, 1996, pp.
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.
Horowitz, Israeli Arabs and the Palestinian State, Jaffee Center
for Strategic Studies, November 2000, 11-13, pp. 12-13.
Arutz 7, <www.israelnationalnews.com>, October 26, 2001.
Arutz 7, <www.israelnationalnews.com>, May 15,2001.
Arutz 7, <www.israelnationalnews.com>, June 6, 2001.
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, <www.israelnationalnews.com>, August 30, 2001.
Reuven Koret, “Voiding Future Catastrophes”, Israel Insider, May
cit., Uri Horowitz, 2000, p. 12.
../authors/, “Israel, Sedition and International Law”, Professors for
a Strong Israel website, <www.professors.org.il>, 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.
Issam Makhoul, Interviewed by IMRA, January 1, 2002.
Arutz 7, <www.israelnationalnews.com>, December 17, 2001.
Arutz 7, <www.israelnationalnews.com>, May 15, 2001.
Israel Insider, August 7, 2001.
Arutz 7, <www.israelnationalnews.com>, August 6, 2001.
Arutz 7, <www.israelnationalnews.com>, February 11, 2002.
example: June 6, 2001, October 3, 2001, January 10, 2002, January 27,
Arutz 7, <www.israelnationalnews.com>, September 22, 2002.
Palestinian Media Watch, <www.pmwatch.org>; Arutz 7, <
www.israelnationalnews.com>, August 30, 2001.
Arutz 7, <www.israelnationalnews.com>, August 28, 2001.
Arutz 7, <www.israelnationalnews.com>, November 22, 2001 and November 27,
Maariv, November 6, 2000.
Yediot Aharonot, December 16, 2000.
Arutz 7, <www.israelnationalnews.com>, January 14, 2002.
Arutz 7, <www.israelnationalnews.com>, June 10, 2001.
Yediot Aharonot, June 14, 2001 and Ha’aretz,
June 12, 2001.
Arutz 7, <www.israelnationalnews.com>, June 12, 2001.
Ronen Sebag, “The Limits of Expression: The Case of MK Azmi Bishara”,
MEMRI, <www.memri.org>, Inquiry and Analysis No. 62, Israel, June 27,
The Palestinian Chronicle, website edition,
<www.palestinechronicle.com>, March 10, 2002.
Larry Derfner, “Putting the State on Trial”, Jerusalem Post, March
cit., Sebag, 2001.
Op. cit., Derfner, 2002.
Barzili, “The Case of Azmi Bishara: Political Immunity and Freedom in
Israel”, MERIP Press Information, Note 80, January 8, 2001.
cit., Beres, undated.