Incitement intensifies against Arab MKs - are threats encouraging physical attacks?

Open incitement against Arab Members of Knesset has reached new heights, following the publication of a photograph showing MK Haneen Zoabi meeting with Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) speaker Aziz Dweik in the West Bank (the latter was detained by Israeli occupation forces yesterday).

A subsequent report that two other MKs have previously met with Dweik has only intensified the threats being issued by fellow Knesset Members. Here is a selection of them:

“It’s time to disqualify Balad and end this charade. Elected public officials cannot be allowed to legitimize terrorists who target Israeli citizens.”

MK Alex Miller (Yisrael Beiteinu)

“She is a traitor and should be tried as such.”

MK Uri Ariel (National Union)

“Zoabi has long since forgotten who her public is – she has abandoned them from preliminary action on behalf of various terror groups.”

MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima)

“If the Arab Knesset members sanctify shahids so much, they should become (shahids) themselves…The time has come for Arab Knesset members to realize their place.”

MK Miri Regev (Likud)

“If Israel is a life-affirming state, it must immediately remove the fifth column from the Knesset.”

MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud)

“The Arab MKs are competing who is the greatest traitor and terrorist sponsor while using the weakness of the legal system. The Attorney General must take a firm hand and put an end to the parade of MKs spitting in the State’s face and protect Israel and the Knesset from the terror sponsors amongst us.”

MK Yariv Levin (Likud), Knesset House Committee chair

The attacks have also been focused on calls for the Arab MKs – and the Balad and United Arab List parties – to be excluded from the Knesset. MK Alex Miller put this most strikingly, saying (among other things): “Whoever is not faithful to the state should not enjoy its fruits”.

None of this is surprising. In recent times, Balad MK Said Naffaa has been indicted for his trip to Syria with religious leaders, while at the end of December, Likud MK Danny Danon was reportedly preparing legislation intended to expel Haneen Zoabi, who he described as a “fifth column” whose place is next to “terrorists”.

These attacks, along with articles in the media like the op-ed calling Zoabi a “clear and present danger” to Israel’s “national security”, are furthering an atmosphere where elected members of Israel’s Palestinian minority are surely at risk of physical harm (on top of their political activities being rendered illegitimate).

But as Israel advocacy groups never tire of repeating – ‘Of course Israel is a democracy – we even have Arabs in the Knesset!’


Ben White

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Ben White is a freelance journalist, writer and activist, specialising in Palestine/Israel. His articles have been widely published in the likes of The Guardian‘s Comment is free, Al Jazeera, Electronic Intifada, New Statesman, and many others. He is the author of ‘Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide’ (2009, Pluto Press) and ‘Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination & Democracy’ (2012, Pluto Press). Ben is a researcher/writer for the Journal of Palestine Studies.