Israelis find who to blame for Flotilla fiasco: Arab Knesset Members

Posted: June 7th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: racism, The Right, the US and us, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

House Committee recommended revoking special privileges from Arab MK Hanin Zoabi. Other Arab MKs received threats from public and house members alike

Today, Israelis took their anger and frustration over the disastrous raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla on Arab Members of Knesset.

The Knesset’s House Committee recommended revoking special privileges from Arab MK Hanin Zoabi, who was on the Mavi Marmara. Though it was never claimed that MK Zoabi had anything to do with the attack on the soldiers, and she definitely didn’t break any law by boarding the ship in Turkey, the decision against her was passed by a majority of seven to one, with only MK Ilan Gilon of Meretz opposing it.

During the debate, Committee Chairman Yariv Levin from Netanyahu’s Likud party expelled from the room Both MK Gilon and Hadash Jewish MK Dov Khenin who tried to defend Zoabi. Gilon later returned to take part in the vote (Khenin is not a committee member).

Haaretz reports:

The Knesset committee recommended rescinding from Zuabi three key privileges usually granted to Knesset Members. One is the privilege to exit the country – which is supposed to prevent Zoabi from fleeing Israel if she commits a felony or has debts in Israel.

Another privilege is carrying a diplomatic passport, which according to the Knesset’s legal adviser, is a privilege that does not grant diplomatic immunity so revoking it would not make it more difficult for Zuabi to fulfill her duties.

The third privilege is the right to have the Knesset cover litigation fees of an MK if he or she is put on trial.

The revocation of Zuabi’s privileges is conditional on the approval of the Knesset plenum.

Zuabi has been receiving death threats in recent days, and there was even a Facebook group calling to execute her. She became the first MK to have bodyguards escorting her even inside the Knesset, after last week several Knesset members tried to prevent her from speaking, and came near to physically attacking her, as can be seen in this video:

UPDATE: Here the rest of MK Zoabi’s speech at the Knesset, this time with English subtitles. Notice the way Knesset chairman Rubi Rivlin (Likud) defended Zoabi (for most part); too bad he stood almost alone against so many house members. Rivlin also said today that the Knesset has reached an “intolerable low” this week.

Arab MK Ahmed Tibi also received death threats today. An anonymous called told his that “your days are numbered. If a beloved Prime Minister was murdered, what’s killing you compared to that?”. You can here the threats (in Hebrew) on the audio player in this report. Notice the comments to the article, many of them claiming Tibi “deserves it”. Arab MK Taleb el-Sana received today death threats by fax. There was also a Facebook group calling to burn him.

UPDATE: MK Tibi received another letter today, saying he has six more months to live.

You don’t have to look far in order to find the people inciting the public against the Arab MKs. This morning, all Arab Knesset members received a letter from their colleague MK Michael Ben-Ari – a known racist and the student of the late Rabi Meir Kahana, whose movement, Kach, was outlawed both in Israel and in the US – informing them that:

“Tomorrow the Knesset committee will decide on revoking the immunity of the Knesset Members who are collaborating with the enemy. The first debate will be regarding your friend MK Zoabi, who led the terror flotilla to Gaza.

“After we deal with her your turn will come! The people had enough with the use of Israeli democracy to destroy the state. Tomorrow it will be Zoabi, and next week yourselves!”

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More flotilla news:

●  The IDF had formed its own internal investigating committee to the raid, led by General (res.) Giora Eiland.

●  It seems that Israel will also appoint a legal inquiry committee into the flotilla, with international experts as observers. The panel won’t be able to collect testimonies from soldiers and officers, and will deal mainly with the legal aspects of the attack. Clearly, this is not the investigation the UN and European community demanded, and the question is whether the White House will accept it (I wrote here why it shouldn’t).

●  Egypt authorities informed today that Gaza border will stay open indefinitely. This is a great victory for the flotilla, but Israel might benefit from this move as well, as it makes Gaza more of Cairo’s problem, something Egypt has been trying to avoid.


Arab Israeli MK joins Facebook hate group calling to burn him, debates members

Posted: May 28th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: racism, The Right | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments »

Being an Arab in Israel is not easy these days. Racism and incitement became a legitimate political currency, the papers are full of anti-Arab articles, human right groups who fight for equal rights for none-Jewish citizens are on the run, and Knesset members are going after the Arab representatives, demanding to strip them of their immunity and press all kind of charges against them.

Half of high school students in Israel (and 81 percent of religious high school students!) thinks Arab citizens shouldn’t enjoy equal rights. 65 percent of the public believes that we should put limits on Arab MKs freedom of speech.

In this political climate, finding Facebook groups such as “Burn MK Taleb El-Sana” – created by a guy name Dor Hasson – is no surprise. “We are tired of the game you play at the Knesset,” write Hasson in the groups’ info page, “your loyalty to the enemy just makes us more and more extreme.” To this he adds a picture of MK El-Sana with red eyes and red horn.

But MK El-Sana (Ra’am-Ta’al), Instead of reporting the group and trying to have it closed, decided to join it, and engage in a debate with the group’s members. Yesterday, he posted this message on the group’s wall:

“Shalom to all the group members and to Dor Hasson. A few days ago the existence of this group was brought to my attention. At first I was furious, but after a few days, I gave it some more thought and reached the conclusion that I will be happy to start a dialogue with you. I don’t believe that people act out of evilness, but out of the faith they have in the truthfulness of their ways. That’s why I decided to join Facebook and talk with you. So, a simple question: do you really want to burn me.”

A few hours later, a group member answered something like “there is a difference between what we want and what we can do. Some would like to do that, but we live in a democracy with the highest morale standards.” (It’s a classic racist move, by the way: never take responsibility for the incitement, but show understanding to those ‘want to do something’.”).

After all the usual rightwing charges were thrown at his face (traitors, fanatics, lairs, “don’t serve in the army”, etc.), MK El-Sana posted a few comments – in a very empathic tone – explaining his tough position as an Arab in a Jewish state.

“Thank you for choosing to answer me,” writes El-Sana. “I know it is hard to start a dialogue with someone you see as your enemy. I wanted to tell you that I am not your enemy. I was born here, in Israel. I grew up here, and just like you, I wish to live country with high moral standards, and that values the life of a human being. I understand that you and your group has criticism on my political activities – and this is legitimate. But to call for someone to be burned, just because you don’t like his views or his ethnic origin – that’s taking it too far…”

The debate goes on – but it doesn’t seem that El-Sana is making any progress (though by now he got some support from people who came across this debate).

a-sana1

"Burn El-Sana" facebook page, with El-Sana's post

Should we engage with this kind of dialogue with just about anyone, and under any circumstances? I’m not that sure.

When it comes to question of policy, I’m a great believer in negotiations. You should always try to have everyone into the political process: Hamas as well as the settlers. Without them, stabilizing this region will be much more difficult. But on a basic human level, I find the debate on the wall of “burn MK El-Sana” group infuriating. Why should an Arab, a public leader who represents hundred of thousands like him, be made to apologize and justify himself – not his actions, but his simple right to live in the place he was born in – in front of a bunch of ignorant bullies? Isn’t answering them just legitimizes their game, or could El-Sana’s approach win him new supporters, not necessarily from the group he was talking to?

As I said, I don’t have a definite answer.

UPDATE: as the blogger Tom writes [Hebrew], there is always the possibility that this is not El-Sana himself debating the group, but someone pretending to be him. Still, the fundamental question remains: is this is a debate worth having, and are those the people we should engage in a dialogue with?