Israel Report

August 2001         

The State of Loyalty

By Michael Kleiner - August 17, 2001
Israelis have had it with the Arab MKs. Their incitement, their extremism, their seditious sympathy for our enemies - egregious acts even in the eyes of leftists.

Many Israelis now clamor for the ousting from public life of MKs Ahmed Tibi, Azmi Bishara, and the other Arab nationalists in the Knesset. Some would like to see them jailed for the various felonies they committed while in office and, therefore, protected by parliamentary immunity.

But this hope for justice attests, more than anything, to the Israeli public's obliviousness to the magnitude of the problem.

Underlying the naive belief that, if the Arab MKs with all their provocations are gone, our troubles will be over, is the supposition that the Arab public is basically okay, but misrepresented by its own elected officials. According to popular thought, Arab voters wanted their MKs to improve the quality of life in their villages, but suddenly these politicians strayed and began promoting Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's position in order to undermine Israel as a Jewish state.

How mistaken. Whoever thinks the Arab public dissociates itself from the fulminations of its men in the Knesset is out of touch with reality. Imagine how Tibi was received in Taibe after he likened the chief of General Staff to a murderer, or how Bishara was welcomed back from his trip to Syria, where he infamously called for an all-out Arab war against Israel, or how Taleb a-Sanaa was commended for his public commendation of the terrorist shooting spree in the heart of Tel Aviv.

Were they denounced for their extremist statements against the State of Israel, or embraced and exalted by their community? Tibi's and Bishara's meteoric rise in popularity polls indicates the latter.

The sad truth is that the Arab MKs represent their electorate completely, and understand them far better than many wishfully thinking Israeli analysts. When the Arab MKs compete to be the most provocative in speech and deed, they know this is what their public wants. When MK Abdel Malik Dehamshe says, in a Ma'ariv interview, that one in four Israeli Arabs would like to kill Jews and lay Israel waste, this is, at least, partly credible. Only the figure warrants skepticism. Is it only a quarter of Israel's Arabs who hate Israel? And the remainder - are they Zionists?

In their defense, it should be noted that only a small percentage of Israeli Arabs were originally such extremists. Polls of their support for the intifada bear this out. But incitement by Arab MKs, with their status as Arafat's representatives in the Knesset, have managed to stoke the nationalistic flames among Israeli Arabs, even bringing about a change in their self-identification.

A decade ago, most of this sector defined themselves as Israeli Arabs or Arab Israelis, but now they are "Palestinians." These Palestinian Israelis give positive feedback to the Arab MKs' agitation, making them compete even more fiercely in the rhetoric escalation game.

A demonstration of the effect of this extremism was provided on May 15, Nakba day. That morning, A-Sanaa invited parliamentary reporters into his office to witness his minute's silence. Though the other Arab MKs disavowed his action, it seems Tibi feared A-Sanaa might become the star of "Catastrophe Day," and thus ascended the Knesset podium to charge the chief of General Staff with murder.

Discharging any Arab MK from the Knesset without similarly dealing with his party or voters at the would not solve the problem. An MK ousted by an indictment or felony conviction would simply be replaced by the next man on the list, who would no doubt carry on his predecessor's trouble-making with redoubled vigor.

Certainly, these criminal MKs must be dealt with, but it cannot stop there. If Tibi and Dehamshe incited the Palestinian rabble which threw rocks at Western Wall worshipers on Tisha Be'av, they should also be tried for attempted murder. Bishara's treasonous statements obviously warrant his prosecution as a traitor, but the fact that his Balad party illegally organizes trips to Syria also warrants that it be disbanded.

The helplessness evinced by the attorney-general, state attorney, and the political parties' registrar in the face of the mounting lawlessness of the Arab MKs not only frustrates the Jewish public, but encourages similar behavior in the Arab sector at large. The absence of law enforcement and law compliance harms the rule of law, and the use of freedom of speech as a tool to undermine the very essence of the state, endangers not only its Jewish character, but also its democracy.

Much is made in Israel of the need for "self-preserving democracy," and this can no longer be idle talk. First and foremost, an oath of loyalty must be required of all Knesset members. That is, an MK should swear allegiance not just to the state, but to the State of Israel as a Jewish state. But it is just as important to consider candidly whether an Israeli citizen who openly declares that he seeks the destruction of Israel, and sympathizes with the worst of its enemies, deserves to send representatives to the body responsible for shaping the future and guarding the safety of the Jewish state.

Should not citizenship require loyalty to the state?

(The writer is a Herut MK.)

©2001 - Jerusalem Post

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