[News] Azmi Bishara - Why Israel is after me?
news at freedomarchives.org
Thu May 3 11:42:14 EDT 2007
Why Israel is after me
By Azmi Bishara
AZMI BISHARA was a member of the Knesset until his resignation in April.
May 3, 2007
Amman, Jordan I AM A PALESTINIAN from Nazareth,
a citizen of Israel and was, until last month, a
member of the Israeli parliament.
But now, in an ironic twist reminiscent of
France's Dreyfus affair in which a French Jew
was accused of disloyalty to the state the
government of Israel is accusing me of aiding the
enemy during Israel's failed war against Lebanon in July.
Israeli police apparently suspect me of passing
information to a foreign agent and of receiving
money in return. Under Israeli law, anyone a
journalist or a personal friend can be defined
as a "foreign agent" by the Israeli security
apparatus. Such charges can lead to life
imprisonment or even the death penalty.
The allegations are ridiculous. Needless to say,
Hezbollah Israel's enemy in Lebanon has
independently gathered more security information
about Israel than any Arab Knesset member could
possibly provide. What's more, unlike those in
Israel's parliament who have been involved in
acts of violence, I have never used violence or
participated in wars. My instruments of
persuasion, in contrast, are simply words in books, articles and speeches.
These trumped-up charges, which I firmly reject
and deny, are only the latest in a series of
attempts to silence me and others involved in the
struggle of the Palestinian Arab citizens of
Israel to live in a state of all its citizens,
not one that grants rights and privileges to Jews that it denies to non-Jews.
When Israel was established in 1948, more than
700,000 Palestinians were expelled or fled in
fear. My family was among the minority that
escaped that fate, remaining instead on the land
where we had long lived. The Israeli state,
established exclusively for Jews, embarked
immediately on transforming us into foreigners in our own country.
For the first 18 years of Israeli statehood, we,
as Israeli citizens, lived under military rule
with pass laws that controlled our every
movement. We watched Jewish Israeli towns spring
up over destroyed Palestinian villages.
Today we make up 20% of Israel's population. We
do not drink at separate water fountains or sit
at the back of the bus. We vote and can serve in
the parliament. But we face legal, institutional
and informal discrimination in all spheres of life.
More than 20 Israeli laws explicitly privilege
Jews over non-Jews. The Law of Return, for
example, grants automatic citizenship to Jews
from anywhere in the world. Yet Palestinian
refugees are denied the right to return to the
country they were forced to leave in 1948. The
Basic Law of Human Dignity and Liberty Israel's
"Bill of Rights" defines the state as "Jewish"
rather than a state for all its citizens. Thus
Israel is more for Jews living in Los Angeles or
Paris than it is for native Palestinians.
Israel acknowledges itself to be a state of one
particular religious group. Anyone committed to
democracy will readily admit that equal
citizenship cannot exist under such conditions.
Most of our children attend schools that are
separate but unequal. According to recent polls,
two-thirds of Israeli Jews would refuse to live
next to an Arab and nearly half would not allow a Palestinian into their home.
I have certainly ruffled feathers in Israel. In
addition to speaking out on the subjects above, I
have also asserted the right of the Lebanese
people, and of Palestinians in the West Bank and
Gaza Strip, to resist Israel's illegal military
occupation. I do not see those who fight for freedom as my enemies.
This may discomfort Jewish Israelis, but they
cannot deny us our history and identity any more
than we can negate the ties that bind them to
world Jewry. After all, it is not we, but Israeli
Jews who immigrated to this land. Immigrants
might be asked to give up their former identity
in exchange for equal citizenship, but we are not immigrants.
During my years in the Knesset, the attorney
general indicted me for voicing my political
opinions (the charges were dropped), lobbied to
have my parliamentary immunity revoked and sought
unsuccessfully to disqualify my political party
from participating in elections all because I
believe Israel should be a state for all its
citizens and because I have spoken out against
Israeli military occupation. Last year, Cabinet
member Avigdor Lieberman an immigrant from
Moldova declared that Palestinian citizens of
Israel "have no place here," that we should "take
our bundles and get lost." After I met with a
leader of the Palestinian Authority from Hamas,
Lieberman called for my execution.
The Israeli authorities are trying to intimidate
not just me but all Palestinian citizens of
Israel. But we will not be intimidated. We will
not bow to permanent servitude in the land of our
ancestors or to being severed from our natural
connections to the Arab world. Our community
leaders joined together recently to issue a
blueprint for a state free of ethnic and
religious discrimination in all spheres. If we
turn back from our path to freedom now, we will
consign future generations to the discrimination we have faced for six decades.
Americans know from their own history of
institutional discrimination the tactics that
have been used against civil rights leaders.
These include telephone bugging, police
surveillance, political delegitimization and
criminalization of dissent through false
accusations. Israel is continuing to use these
tactics at a time when the world no longer
tolerates such practices as compatible with democracy.
Why then does the U.S. government continue to
fully support a country whose very identity and
institutions are based on ethnic and religious
discrimination that victimize its own citizens?
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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