Arab Knesset leader denounces Israeli racism
The Deputy Speaker of the Israeli Knesset Ahmad Tibi, a Palestinian Israeli elected to the Knesset representing Israel’s oppressed Arab minority, told an American audience on Friday May 5, 2017 that Israel’s government headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is racist, discriminatory and practices Apartheid in the military occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and occupied Jerusalem. Tibi said he supports Two-States but believes that Netanyahu and his racist allies are doing everything they can to prevent equality for non-Jews and achieving peace. He called anyone who denies the existence of Palestinians as “anti-Semitic.”
(Audio podcast of news story and Arab News column below)
By Ray Hanania
Israeli Knesset Deputy Speaker Ahmad Tibi denounced Israel’s government on Friday as a racist body that practices discrimination in Israel against non-Jews and Apartheid against non-Jews in the occupied West Bank, Gaza Strip and Occupied Jerusalem.
Tibi, the guest of the United Holy land Fund (UHLF) which raises money for Palestinian orphans and provides scholarships to Palestinian students, told the audience of more than 500 attendees that Israel’s Knesset has adopted nearly 50 laws that discriminate against Christian and Muslim Palestinian citizens of Israel.
The Palestinian Israeli said that Israel is not a Democracy, despite his being elected to the Knesset with the support of Israel’s oppressed 20 percent minority population, and said that although he is hopeful for support from President Donald Trump and Arab countries like Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia to push for peace, Netanyahu’s government is the obstacle and will block any peace proposals.
“When I am talking about the daily challenges, I am talking about the racist policies towards Palestinians everywhere. Inside Israel there are almost 50 laws discriminating between Jews and Arabs in a state marketing itself as a Democracy,” Tibi told the crowd from a stage adorned by a replication of the Green, Black and Red Palestinian Flag with a large photo of occupied Jerusalem, the Dome of the Rock and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre behind him.
“And oppression and racism is widespread in the Palestinian territories.”
Elected in 1999, Tibi is a member of the Israel Ta’al Political Party, the “Arab Movement for Change.” Ta’al is a member of the “Joint List” formed in 2015 to bring all of the Arab Israeli political parties together to protect their involvement in government.
The other Arab Parties including Ta’al in the “Joint List” are Hadash, the United Arab List, and Balad which together make them the third largest voting block in the 20th Knesset. The Joint List coalition was formed in response to a new law pushed by Netanyahu to strip Arab political parties of their ability to participate in the Knesset by setting a higher standard of vote support.
“We are facing daily challenges,” Tibi said, explaining that as an Israeli Palestinian whose family refused to be pushed out of what became Israel in 1948, he identifies with the Palestinians not just in the occupation but the Palestinian diaspora. “It is challenging because we inside Israel are struggling daily in order to be equal, and we are not. It is important to say it here in the United States where people in the Congress and in Washington D.C. are saying that this is the only Democracy in the Middle East.
“There is discrimination in all fields of life. Infra-structure. Employment. Agriculture. Industry. Religious place. Everything.”
Tibi said “Israel is not a Democracy,” explaining, that Israel applies three standards of policies or “Rules” for its’ citizens. One Rule for Jews, who live in a system of “Democracy,” but another Rule for non-Jews who are denied fundamental Democracy principles.
“Democracy for only 80 percent of the population for the Jews, the Jewish citizens. That’s why I am calling it [Israel] an ethnocracy, an ethnic democracy. More, it is an autocracy,” Tibi said.
“The third rule is the occupation and Apartheid in the Occupied Palestinian territories of 1967,” Tibi said.
“Democracy is full equal rights for all citizens, not ethnic rights for one group, the majority against another group, the minority,” Tibi said.
“When you are discriminating against a minority, it is not a Democracy.”
Tibi said that Israel’s government opposes peace and supports a continuation of the occupation because Israelis are not paying a price for the occupation.
“That is why the occupation is continuing. Because it doesn’t cost,” he explained. “In some areas like in the Jordan Valley [West Bank], even the occupation has benefits [for Israel].”
Asked about the recent meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and President Trump at the White House last week, Tibi said that he is hopeful but doesn’t believe Israel’s government will permit any movement that changes the status quo.
“They should decide on Two-States or on One-State,” Tibi said saying he supports the Two-State Solution which would create a sovereign Palestinian State in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.
“Usually when you are proposing two options, these two options on the table, the Israeli prime minister always choses the 3rd option, which is not there, the status quo, deepening the occupation because he (Netanyahu) can. It doesn’t cost the Israelis.”
Tibi said it is up to the International Community to tell Israel it cannot have the 3rd Option and that it must choose, either One State or Two States.
“We are in the 21st Century. The International Community should not accept any promulgation of the lie of Apartheid and intervention of Palestinians. Netanyahu should choose the Two State Solution, as I am supporting, or the One State Solution,” Tibi said. “If it is the One State Solution, it can be one of both [either] a One State Solution of Apartheid with no rights to vote to Palestinians, only for Jews, or a One State Solution that is one person one vote.”
Later in an interview, Tibi told this reporter, “There will be no peace between Israelis and Palestinians with this government led by Benjamin Netanyahu and Naftali Bennett (Israeli Education Minister). There is not one (cabinet) minister who is supporting the Two-State Solution and a Palestinian State. Meanwhile, all of the Palestinian ministers support the Two State Solution.”
Tibi denounced those in the Israeli government saying those who deny the existence of Palestinians are “anti-Semitic.”
“There are ministers in the government who are saying ‘ma fishie Fulasteen.’ There are no Palestinian people. Is this anti-Semitism or not? This is anti-Semitism. Neglecting the very presence of the Palestinian people is anti-Semitic,” Tibi said.
“There is racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. We are confronting all this phenomena day by day. That is why I am saying challenges. Daily challenges. … There are those in the Israeli government calling for the deportation, the transfer of Palestinians from Wadi Ar and the Triangle (Galilee) including by (Avigdor) Lieberman, the Defense Minister of Israel, who came to this homeland 30, 40 years ago.”
Tibi also expressed solidarity with Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian political leader who was imprisoned 15 years ago on charges of involvement in violent crime. But Barghouti and Palestinians have responded that Israel initiated the violence against civilians and forced Palestinians to defend themselves.
Barghouti was blamed for Israeli deaths that took place during the 2nd Intifada which was sparked after an extremist disciple of Benjamin Netanyahu murdered Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 and destroyed the peace process signed in 1993. Rabin’s successors failed to hold on to the government and peace, and it was hijacked by Netanyahu and international war criminal Ariel Sharon in 2000.
The Second Intifada (rebellion) began on Sept. 28, 2000 when Sharon surrounded by a thousand armed Israeli soldiers and police occupied the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque plaza declaring that it would only be Jewish — the site is the alleged location of the old Temple from 2,000 years ago established by the Hebrews.
The Second Intifada continued through Feb. 8, 2005 following an agreement to end it reached by Sharon and Abbas. During the period, more than 3,000 Palestinian civilians were murdered by Israeli soldiers. About 1,000 Israeli soldiers and civilians were killed by protestors during the resistance. Another 60 foreigners were killed, including many Israelis who held dual nationality and served in the Israeli military or were armed members of Israel’s illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.
More than 1600 Palestinian prisoners launched a hunger strike with Barghouti on April 17 to protest the lack of basic human rights in prison, the absence of legal processes for the political prisoners, and the inability of prisoner’s families to visit them.
In an interview following his speech, Tibi, who is Muslim, said that both Muslims and Christians are victimized by Israeli racism and discrimination inside Israel and under occupation, but he acknowledged that Christians are especially being targeted by Israeli propaganda.
“Ask the Christians in Bethlehem how they are oppressed by the occupation, by the occupation barriers, by the limitations of movement,” Tibi said. “Ask the Christian Clergy being attacked in East Jerusalem by (Jewish) radicals.”
Tibi noted that in 1948, Israel’s military forced the Christian Palestinian residents in two villages in the Galilee along the Green Line, Iqrit and Bir’im, to leave their homes and flee to Lebanon and Jordan. An Israeli Supreme Court ruling ordered that they be allowed to return to the village but Israel’s governments have consistently refused to allow them to return.
The Israeli Supreme Court issued its order in 1951, but as a specific insult to the Christians of Palestine, the Israeli Military and the Israeli governments went to Iqrit and destroyed the village, razing all of the homes including the Christian church there and doing it in the most spiteful manner possible by destroying the properties and village on Christmas Day in 1951 to make the Supreme Court order unenforceable.
“Ask the Christians of Iqrit what Israel did and how Israeli Democracy treated them,” he said.
Tibi also praised the United Holy Land Fund for its charitable efforts to raise funds to help educate Palestinians living in Israel and under occupation, and to support orphans whose parents have been killed by Israeli violence. The fundraising event raised more than $120,000.
Tibi urged Palestinians in America to fully engage in American society at every level to advocate the truth about Palestine and the oppression facing the Palestinians people.
Video of Ahmad Tibi speech in Arabic and English, followed by interview with Ray Hanania
(Ray Hanania is an award winning Palestinian American writer, author and former Chicago City Hall reporter. He is president of Urban Strategies Group Media and Consulting based in Chicago. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)