Tag Archives: Knesset

Israel offers full rights to all

In his piece on The Hill’s Congress blog, “Israel’s ‘Jim Crow’ treatment of Palestinians continues”, Tibi once again maligns and libels the country which he purports and is paid to serve, not only as a elected official, but also as the Deputy Speaker of Israel’s parliament.

Perhaps more than anyone else, Tibi represents all that is wrong with parts of the Israeli Arab leadership. Rather than encourage integration among our community, the community of Arabic-speaking Israeli citizens, Tibi supports segregation, calling for the complete ostracism of any Israeli Arab who volunteers for national civilian service.He knows his political future rests on the continued demonization of the State of Israel and its Jewish majority. Tibi and many other Israeli Arab politicians spend much of their term in office on lavish trips to meet with regional despots and repressive regimes, rather than representing the people who democratically elect them and pay their wages.

During the last Knesset, before the revolution in Libya, Tibi and other Arab Members of Knesset travelled to meet with former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. Describing the visit to Gadaffi’s Libya as “wonderful,” these Israeli Arab MK’s were feted by the autocrat who discussed with his guests ways to end the existence of the State of Israel in its current form.

While the Syrian regime was massacring its people, another Arab Israeli Member of Knesset led a demonstration of support for Bashar Assad, claiming the Syrian leader was the “victim of aggression” even while the rest of the world stands aghast at his systematic butchery.

While Tibi and many of his cohorts are recklessly supporting and encouraging some of the most brutal regimes and terrorist organizations in the world, their local constituency is ignored.

However, there is another way.

As a member of the Arabic-speaking Druze minority, I served my country on the battlefield and I now serve my country in its legislature as Deputy Speaker.

During my few years in the Knesset I have quietly set about assisting our community without making headlines. I initiated an overhaul, repair and modernization of the sewage and water systems and the electricity grids in predominantly Arab areas in the north of the country, long ignored by others.

Furthermore, in a voluntary capacity, I created and continue to oversee a youth movement comprising of thousands of school children from the Arabic-speaking Druze community who are taught to love their country and contribute to society.

From among the graduates of our movement, we claim the highest percentage of Israeli army elite unit members in the country.

This is what can happen if one chooses integration and contribution over ostracism and demonization.

No one is going to deny that there are problems in the State of Israel, as there are in any state. However, the state has not created any laws that differentiate between peoples based on religion, nationality or background. What is most noticeable in Tibi’s article is that he fails to provide even one example of what he claims is “discrimination.”

In fact, the opposite is true.

In our whole region consisting of over 350 million Arabs, there are only 1,658,000 Arabs who have complete political and religious freedom and have the right to vote in full democratic elections.

It is no coincidence that all of these Arabs live as full and equal citizens in the one Jewish State.

From its very beginning, the State of Israel demanded full equality before the law.

In Israel’s Declaration of Independence, its first leaders wrote that: “it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the holy places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.”

It has stayed true to its principles.

The only question remains, what is our role as Arabic-speaking Israeli citizens? Will we pick up the gauntlet and contribute and assist in the building of our country, as Kennedy encouraged, or will we, like Tibi, continue to malign it while preventing our community from the progress, development and integration it requires and deserves?

Amar is a Druze citizen of Israel and deputy speaker of the Knesset.

Roger Waters needs some education

By Lior Ben-Ami
MidEastTruth.com
September 23, 2013

In his interview to “Yediot Aharonot“, Israel’s most popular daily, (September 2013) Roger Waters not only proved how ignorant he is about both Israel and apartheid; he also expressed a huge amount of hypocrisy, and also, sadly, anti-Semitism.

The facts are known: in South Africa under apartheid, a small white minority controlled and discriminated against a large black majority, based on racism. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a national, territorial conflict between two peoples, not a racial one. Security measures cause hardship to the Palestinian population but they are just that, security measures. The Israeli security fence (only small part of it is a wall) was only built after daily terror attacks including suicide bombers directed against Israeli civilians, in family restaurants, buses, cafes, shopping centers. The same goes for checkpoints. Remember the days when we could just board a plane, without going through hours of waiting in security lines, having to remove our shoes and belts? The same applies here. It was only after terror attacks that security measures were put into place.

When asked if he assigns any blame for the conflict at all to the Palestinian side, Waters compared the Palestinians to a woman who had been raped – they bear no responsibility whatsoever.

When confronted with the validity of calling Israel an apartheid state, Waters sends the interviewer to the dictionary:

– A policy or system of segregation or discrimination on grounds of race.

But Waters (deliberately?) fails to understand that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not about race. Arab citizens of Israel, whatever their religion (Muslim or Christians), enjoy Israel’s democracy and are equal in every aspect to their Jewish co-citizens. There are Arab members of the Israeli parliament (the Knesset) and Arab Israelis who serve on the Israeli supreme court (an Arab judge was on the Court which sent Israel’s Jewish president Moshe Katzav to prison under rape charges). Arab Israelis represent Israel in sporting and cultural events and take part in every aspect of Israeli society. At the same time, official Palestinian media and schoolbooks call for violence against Jews and describe them as subhumans. While in Israel the extreme right-wing party didn’t get enough votes to get into the Knesset, the Palestinian people voted for Hamas – a violent anti-Semitic fundamentalist organization, declared by the US, EU, Canada and Japan as a terrorist organization.

 

To compare Israel to South Africa’s Apartheid – where black people couldn’t vote, get elected or even sit on the same benches or bathe in the same beaches as white people – one must be completely ignorant about both Israel and South Africa under apartheid.

When asked about the Jewish star on the inflatable pig in his shows, Waters declares that “A Jewish star is a symbol of oppression”, yet insists that he’s not an anti-Semite. Will Waters ever use a Muslim crescent or the symbol of any Muslim organization which murders and persecutes Jews, Christians, women, gays, as an equal-opportunity “symbol of oppression”? Don’t count on it.

“I support the BDS movement. I’m against violence”, says Waters, ignoring the fact that BDS leaders condone violence and oppose negotiations with Israel.

Let’s use Waters’ system and look at the definition of “anti-Semitism”:

– “Hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group” (Merriam-Webster)

If we look at the Middle East, there is only one country which does not discriminate and persecute people based on their race, religious, sex, sexual preferences. That country is Israel. In Jordan, for example, Jews cannot gain citizenship; in Iran and every other Muslim country, homosexuals are tried and jailed if not hanged; in Saudi Arabia, Jews can’t enter the country and Christian churches are illegal; women are treated as inferior throughout the Muslim world and can’t study, drive, walk the streets by themselves, remove their head/face gear.

According to every parameter of quality of life (freedom, education, health etc.), Israeli Arabs are better off than their brothers, and definitely their sisters, living in any other Arab or Muslim country in the Middle East.

From the Map of Freedom 2013Freedom House

But Waters? He only joined the group that call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against the sole Jewish state in the world. If this is not “hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group” I don’t know what is. So yes, unfortunately, Roger Waters is an anti-Semite. A vocal one too. And I don’t use this word lightly, far from it. I disagree with many of the Israeli government’s policies and decisions and don’t think that criticism of Israel always or often equals anti-Semitism.

Over 90% of the Palestinians live under Palestinian rule – Fatah or Hamas. They have a flag, an anthem, a president, a government, a parliament, international phone and internet country codes (970, .ps), they participate in the Olympic games and other global sports events and sit at the UN. The people of Tibet or the Kurds, for example, could only dream about such a reality – but that hasn’t stopped hypocritical Waters from performing in China and Turkey.

President Obama and President Abbas in Ramallah

It seems like Roger Waters not only wrote, “We don’t need no education”, he also lives by these words. Thought control he receives from from the BDS movement. His ignorance and hypocrisy about Israel, the Palestinians and the Middle East in large is appalling.
* * *
A history lesson

A short history lesson for Mr. Waters: In November 1947, the UN General Assembly voted to divide Palestine into two nation states: a Jewish state and an Arab state. Back then, the word Palestinians referred to both Jews and Arabs who lived in the land. The division was based on population – A Jewish state with a Jewish majority and an Arab state with an Arab majority.

The Jews accepted the international community’s vote. The Arabs in Palestine and the Arab countries refused the offer. At the time, the leader of the Arabs in Palestine was Haj Amin al-Husseini, a high ranking Nazi who had top level communications with high ranking Nazis like Himmler, Papen, Goebels and met with Adolf Hitler himself. Al-Husseini called Arabs to kill all Jews in Radio Berlin in 1944, planned with the Nazis to poison Tel Aviv’s water system (operation ATLAS) and to build, with the Nazis, a concentration camp for Jews in Palestine. Both Yassir Arafat and today’s president Mahmoud Abbas call the Nazi al-Husseini a “Palestinian hero”.

In May 1948, 7 Arab countries declared a war of annihilation against the 1 day old Jewish state. The Arab leaders vowed to throw all Jews to the sea. Israel survived and prevailed. At the end of Israel’s war of independence, the Gaza Strip was under Egyptian rule and Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) under Jordanian rule. East Jerusalem, including the ancient Jewish quarter, was closed to Jewish worshipers. The planned UN Arab state never came into existence: Egypt and Jordan never thought about giving the Arabs of Gaza and Judea and Samaria independence and the people of Gaza and Judea and Samaria – still self-declared as Arabs – didn’t ask for it nor had any such aspirations.

Only years later, in 1964, the Arabs of Gaza and Judea and Samaria started to call themselves Palestinians and the PLO was created. Its declared goal and founding manifesto? To destroy and “liberate” Israel from the Jews (“to attain the objective of liquidating Israel”.) Yes, that’s 3 years before the 1967 so-called occupation. It is also worth noting that the Palestinians didn’t start an intifada against Egypt or Jordan nor did they ask for an autonomy or a state in Gaza and/or Judea and Samaria. The PLO then was a pan-Arab organization used by the Arab league, who appointed the PLO leaders, to fight Israel.

In 1967, after Egypt, Syria and Jordan promised, once again, to wipe out the Jewish state and throw the Jews to the sea, the Six Day War broke out when Israel preemptively struck to protect herself. Some quotes by Arab leaders at the time:

* PLO founder Ahmed Shuqayri: “Whoever survives will stay in Palestine, but in my opinion, no-one will remain alive.”

* Syrian president Hafez Assad (Bashar Assad’s father): “Strike the enemy’s settlements, turn them into dust, pave the Arab roads with the skulls of Jews.”

* Egyptian government broadcast: “Every one of the hundred million Arabs has been living for the past nineteen years on one hope – to live to see the day Israel is liquidated”

* Egyptian government broadcast: “It is our chance, Arabs, to direct a blow of death and annihilation to Israel and all its presence in our Holy Land. It is a war for which we are waiting and in which we shall triumph.”

* Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser: “We knew that by closing the Gulf of Aqaba it might mean war with Israel. [If war comes] it will be total and the objective will be to destroy Israel.”

Israel had a great victory and in only 6 days roughly tripled its size, taking control over Gaza, the West Bank and the Golan Heights. Right after the war, Israel declared that it was willing to give back the land it took over in exchange to peace and normalization. The Arab reply came in the Khartoum Arab summit, know as the famous “3 ‘No’s of Khartoum”: no peace with Israel, no negotiations with Israel, no recognition of Israel. Pretty straightforward, right?

After the 1967 6 Day War, and for the first time, the newly named Palestinian people declared their demand to take control over Gaza and the West Bank – as well as the rest of Israel. The PLO under Yasser Arafat started horrific terror attacks against Jews – in Israel and around the world, including attacks against schoolchildren (the Avivim school bus massacre, where 9 children were killed; the Ma’alot school massacre, where 25 were killed, including 22 children, and 68 more were injured.), public buses, the Israeli athletic delegation to the Munich 1972 Olympic games and commercial plane hijackings. Again and again, the Palestinians and their leader, Arafat, declared that their goal was to wipe Israel off the map and kill all Jews in it. As Arafat put it in 1980: “Peace for us means the destruction of Israel. We are preparing for an all-out war, a war which will last for generations.”

The PLO was considered to be a terrorist organization by the United States and Israel until the Madrid Conference in 1991. In 1990, the PLO under Yasser Arafat openly supported Saddam Hussein in the Iraqi regime’s invasion of Kuwait, leading to a later rupture in Palestinian-Kuwaiti ties and the expulsion of many Palestinians from Kuwait. Within a single week, some 450,000 Palestinians were expelled in Kuwait, resulting in one of the fastest and largest expulsions in modern history. Most of the Palestinians, who had resided in Kuwait as foreign workers and residents, returned to Jordan. Other Arab countries – from the Saudi Arabia to Egypt and Syria, all part of the US led coalition against Iraq – severed ties with Arafat’s PLO.

Only in 1993, after losing most of the Arab world’s support, the PLO recognized Israel’s right to exist and negotiation between Israel and the PLO started. In 1995, under the Oslo accords, Israel withdrew from Jericho and partly from the Gaza Strip. Unfortunately, every time Israel left an area, terrorism became more deadly. In early 1996, when dovish Shimon Peres was Israel’s prime minister, after Rabin was assassinated by an extremist right-wing Jew, Palestinian terrorism reached a new peak, with bloody suicide attacks against Israeli citizens, in buses and crowded areas. While Israel did everything possible to minimize civilian casualties and target terrorists only, the Palestinian terrorist organizations did everything to kill as many civilians as possible, using ball bearings, nails, screws, bolts, and other objects that served as shrapnel, to maximize the number of casualties in the explosion.
In 2000, Arafat said “no” to Ehud Barak and Bill Clinton’s offer: to get back Gaza, 94% of the West Bank, including control of holy sites in Jerusalem, plus land swaps. It was more than anything the late Yitzhak Rabin – the man Arafat signed the Oslo agreement in 1993 – ever agreed to. Arafat could not bring himself to declare “end of conflict”, turned down the offer to get everything the Palestinian people ever said they wanted and started a bloody second intifada against Israel. He didn’t even give a counter-offer. In his book, Bill Clinton blamed Arafat for preventing peace and Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan said that Arafat’s refusal was a “crime” against the Palestinian people.

During the second intifada there were hundreds of terror attacks against Israelis, including dozens of suicide attacks. Over 1100 Israelis were murdered, the vast majority civilians. Only in 2002, after daily deadly attacks against her civilians, Israel started to build the security fence. The facts are on the ground: the fence stopped a lot of terrorist attacks and saved many human lives. Yes, Palestinians face hardship by the security fence/wall. Yes, it’s ugly. But it saves human lives – both Israelis and Palestinians.

In summer 2005 Israel withdrew entirely from the Gaza Strip, evacuating all settlements, close to 10,000 civilians, every single IDF soldier and even dead people from their graves. The idea was to let the Palestinians have a chance to rule their lives. There were plans to turn Gaza into an oasis with a beautiful marina at the Mediterranean, with luxurious hotels by Hilton, Moevenpick and others. Had this experiment worked, Israelis would be more willing for the IDF to withdraw from more areas in the West Bank. Unfortunately, once again, it was proven that every time Israel leaves an area, it becomes a terror base. Hamas took over Gaza by force, killing, throwing from rooftops and arresting political opponents of Fatah. Hamas occupied Gaza and rocket fire to Israeli towns increased. While Hamas shot rockets from heavily populated areas, including school rooftops and mosques, and used civilians as human shields, hundreds of thousands of Israelis lived in fear, hearing daily sirens and running to shelters. In 2008, then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, offered Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) an amazing offer: 1967 borders (including some land swaps), all of East Jerusalem and allowing thousands of Palestinian refugees entrance to Israel. Then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wrote subsequently in her book that she was very surprised by Olmert’s offer, to which Abbas replied, “I can’t tell four million Palestinians that only five thousand of them can go home.” Abbas later denied this quote. Abbas also denied a key quote from his interview to Jackson Diehl in the Washington Post, where he said that even after Olmert’s offer “the gaps were wide.” Both Condoleezza Rice and Jackson Diehl from the Washington Post stand by their words.

Israel can’t and won’t offer more than what Olmert offered to Abbas in 2008. Anything more would be national suicide. Unfortunately, as always since the 30s (the Peel Commission), the Arabs in Palestine turn down every offer to have an independent state. As Hillary Clinton said recently: “I think Israelis have good grounds to be suspicious. And I would never be one who tries to rewrite or dismiss history. The Palestinians could have had a state as old as I am if they had made the right decision in 1947. They could have had a state if they had worked with my husband and then-Prime Minister Barak at Camp David. They could have had a state if they’d worked with Prime Minister Olmert and Foreign Minister Livni. . . . But the fact was it was a 10-month settlement freeze. And he [Netanyahu] was good to his word. And we couldn’t get the Palestinians into the conversation until the tenth month.”

And after all of the above, for Waters, Israel is the rapist and the Palestinians have no responsibility whatsoever.

Israel proved that it is willing to give up territory for a sincere peace. For peace with Egypt, Israel evacuated settlements and gave up the entire Sinai peninsula – 2/3 of Israel’s size at the time – because the late Egyptian president, Anwar Sadat, was a true man of peace. The same happened with Jordan – the late King Hussein was sincere in his wish for peace.

If only a Palestinian leader would be serious and sincere about peace, he would find a real, honest partner in Israel and huge support from the Israeli people. Putting all the blame on Israel alone is both hypocritical and counter-productive.
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Nazareth’s dwindling Christian populace torn between moving out, fighting back. Against Islam

This month’s local elections underline the bleak and bitter rivalries in the city of Jesus’s childhood

Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” wondered Nathaneal, a disciple of Jesus, in the Gospel of John. Asked today, that question would have many of the city’s residents hard-pressed for an answer.

The upcoming municipal elections, scheduled for October 22, find the largest Arab city in Israel impoverished and depressed. A nationwide study, conducted by the Ministry of Public Security in August, revealed that Nazareth residents are the most likely Israelis to fear falling victim to crime. They also reported the lowest sense of personal security, along with the inhabitants of the crime-ridden cities of Ramle and Lod.

“Things have deteriorated in this city,” said an elderly woman walking down Nazareth’s main street on Thursday, wearing a necklace with a large golden Cross. “No citizen gets any help — not from the municipality, nor from the government, nor from the police.”

Like its Christian twin. Bethlehem, in the West Bank, Nazareth’s demographic makeup has dramatically changed over the past six decades, a fact some residents tie to the deteriorating sense of security and general “low quality of life.” From being a city with a large Christian majority before 1948, today 70 percent of Nazareth’s 80,000 residents are Muslim. The change dates back to Israel’s War of Independence, when an influx of internally displaced villagers from the surrounding area relocated to Nazareth. Researchers also point to a significantly higher Muslim birth rate.

Religious tension in the city came to the fore in the early 2000s, when the local Muslims began constructing a new mosque near the Basilica of the Annunciation, the city’s towering Christian landmark. In early 2002, the government decided to halt construction on the site, built over the grave of Salladin’s nephew Shihab a-Din, following massive pressure from the Vatican. The Muslims were infuriated by the move, but put up little resistance when an illegal structure they had built on the site was bulldozed the following year.

Ramez Jaraisy, the city’s Communist Christian mayor nearing 20 years in office, downplayed confessionalism as a significant factor in Nazareth. Tawfik Zayyad, his predecessor in office who was killed in a 1994 car crash, was a Muslim, he remarked. Over the past century, Christian and Muslim mayors governed the city, paying little attention to the religious affiliation of their constituents.

Mayoral incumbent Ramez Jaraisy in his office, October 10, 2013 (photo credit: Elhanan Miller/Times of Israel)

Mayoral incumbent Ramez Jaraisy in his office, on October 10, 2013 (photo credit: Elhanan Miller/Times of Israel)

“I was elected four times in direct elections by both Muslims and Christians,” said Jaraisy. “Some people use religion to achieve political goals. We have no religious dispute outside small fundamentalist groups of Muslims and Christians. They are a very small minority.”

One member of that “very small minority” is Nazareth resident Bishara Shlayan, a retired captain in the Israeli merchant navy, who is in the process of forming a political party for Christian Arabs living in Israel. The party, Shlayan said, is geared at confronting what he regards as the gradual encroachment of the city’s Muslim majority on Nazareth’s historic Christian symbols.

Mary’s Well used to have a big blue sign explaining its history. They removed the sign in order to erase any trace of Christianity, naming it ‘the Nazareth Stream.’ Even the city bus announces the stop as ‘Nazareth Stream.’ Why? Others may ignore this, but I consider it very significant.”

Shlayan said that solving the problem of Christian emigration from the city required more than merely electing a Christian mayor. Change, he reasoned, must come from the Knesset, before “all the city’s Christians leave because of the gangs demanding protection money.”

Jaraisy said Shlayan is a “collaborator” with the Israeli authorities, striving to create needless tension between Christians and Muslims in the city.

“He will fail,” the mayor asserted.

But Shlayan was not the only Christian in town speaking his mind. Waiting for his son to exit a church high school downtown, Ibrahim said he left Nazareth 14 years ago for the nearby Jewish city of Upper Nazareth — and has never looked back.

“If you gave me all of Nazareth for free, I wouldn’t come back,” Ibrahim said, adding that he recently sold his 10-apartment building in the Muslim neighborhood of Jabel Hammoudeh. “We faced problems of racism there. Almost every apartment in the building has an illegal weapon.

“Religion plays a big role in Nazareth. When the Christians were a majority, there was no problem… Our mentality is more European and our religion says ‘Love each other.’ ”

Ibrahim said his new Jewish neighbors in Upper Nazareth are very friendly, as long as he doesn’t discuss politics with them.

Mayoral candidate Hanin Zoabi at her Nazareth office, October 10, 2013 (photo credit: Elhanan Miller/Times of Israel)

Mayoral candidate Hanin Zoabi in her Nazareth office, on October 10, 2013 (photo credit: Elhanan Miller/Times of Israel)

Hanin Zoabi, the controversial member of Knesset from the Arab nationalist party Balad, joined Nazareth’s mayoral race in late August. Zoabi, a secular Muslim — who sailed on the Mavi Marmara to Gaza in 2010, castigated the IDF over its interception of the vessel, and was only allowed to run for the Knesset in January after court intervention — acknowledged that Christians are leaving Nazareth in greater numbers than Muslims, but said that this is due to the Christians’ generally higher socioeconomic level.

“Muslims want to leave Nazareth just as badly as Christians do,” she said. “Christians aren’t moving to Upper Nazareth because they are more welcome there than Muslims… For the state of Israel, if you’re not a Jew you’re either a foreigner or a threat.”

By forming a new Christian party, Zoabi added, Shlayan was “selling his honor and his nation.”

But the Christian navy captain seemed unscathed by that critique. While waiting for the paperwork for his new party, he recently appealed to Tourism Minister Uzi Landau to place the largest statue of Jesus in the world on the city’s Mount Precipice, from which — according to Christian tradition — the heathen residents of Nazareth tried to push their savior to his death, and failed.