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Why Israel fears Azmi Bishara

May 18, 2007 | Page 8

ISRAELI OFFICIALS have announced their intention to charge Azmi Bishara, the leading representative of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel, with aiding the enemy during Israel's war against Lebanon in summer 2006.

Bishara was a founder of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) party and member of the Israeli Knesset, or parliament, until he was forced to resign and go into exile in the face of these charges.

Dr. HAIDAR EID teaches in the English department at Al-Aqsa University in Gaza City. He sent this analysis of the charges against Bishara to Socialist Worker.

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STRIPPING PROF. Azmi Bishara of his parliamentary immunity in 2005 was yet more evidence of Israel's racist treatment of its Palestinian "minority"--the 1.3 million Palestinians who, despite the odds, have remained in their homeland, which became Israel in 1948.

The Israeli parliament voted in favor of stripping Bishara of his immunity because of "his anti-Israeli remarks" and his organizing trips to Syria--considered an "enemy state" by Israel.

Unsurprisingly, this was the first time the Israeli Knesset had taken such a decision since its inception. Never has a Jewish member of parliament been stripped of immunity for making political statements, though racism is the ideology that informs most political statements made by Israeli politicians.

What else to read

The full version of Azmi Bishara's speech is included in the forthcoming Between the Lines: Readings on Israel, the Palestinians, and the U.S. "War on Terror," a new title from Haymarket Books edited by Tikva Honig-Parnass and Toufic Haddad. You can preorder the book from Amazon.

Bishara's statement "Why Israel is after me" is available on the Los Angeles Times Web site.

For a collection of essays on the history of Israel's occupation and Palestinian resistance, read The Struggle for Palestine, edited by Lance Selfa.

The Electronic Intifada Web site provides updates on the current situation in Gaza and the West Bank. For an eyewitness account of life in Gaza under israel's iron siege, read "From Gaza With Love," an Internet blog written by Dr. Mona El-Farra.


The comments that infuriated the Israeli establishment then were his denouncing of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's "warmongering" policies in Palestine and Lebanon, and his suggestion that resistance is a legitimate response to Israeli occupation. Israeli officials interpreted this as "incitement to violence" and "expressing support for terrorism."

The second accusation referred to trips he had organized for 800 Israeli Palestinians to be reunited with relatives in Syria they had not seen since 1948.

This decision to lift Bishara's parliamentary immunity was taken in order to enable the Israeli attorney general to indict Bishara. In other words, the Israeli establishment considered, as it still does, its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip "legitimate," and any resistance to it "illegitimate." That, of course, flies in the face of international law.

Now, in 2007, accusations have been hurled against Bishara in what seems to be an organized campaign by the official Israeli media and the security apparatus. The security apparatus and the political establishment are collaborating to pursue more serious charges than before, encouraged by the demagogic hysteria that has gripped the Israeli street after the humiliating defeat in Lebanon.

As in 2005, the target of this campaign, according to Bishara, is the Palestinian national identity within Israel and the 1967 Occupied Territories.

Bishara's statements and positions emanate from his party's political program, which poses a serious threat to the nature of Israel as "the state of the Jews." The NDA program calls for a secular definition of the state as "the state of all of its citizens."

To recognize the exclusivist nature of the state is the precondition for being welcomed in the Knesset. Different from the Israeli Communist Party, for example, the NDA emphasizes the national identity of Israeli Palestinians, who have been discriminated against for 59 years.

A serious and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian question will not neglect the 1948 Palestinians, and those who were expelled and dispossessed of their lands in 1948. A secular democratic state where all citizens are treated equally, regardless of their religion, sex or color, is the solution that will bring an end to the conflict.

This is partly what Bishara's program is about; this is the reason for the current campaign against him; and this is why the Palestinian national identity of Israeli Palestinians is considered a threat to the Zionist establishment.

The NDA's program makes the necessary link between all Palestinian struggles against the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank and against Israel's ethnically-based displacement, dispossession, discrimination and rights violations of about 1.3 million Palestinian citizens, including some 250,000 internally displaced, as well as the 1948 externally displaced refugees, who are entitled to return, restitution and "Israeli citizenship" under international law.

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