Joint List MK Bassel Ghattas has called on the world to boycott and sanction Israel, repeatedly comparing the Jewish state to apartheid South Africa, in a recording obtained by The Jerusalem Post.
Ghattas made the statements last week at the World Social Forum in Montreal, which is meant to be a farleft alternative to the annual World Economic Forum in Davos. The Canadian federal government revoked its partnership with the forum because of anti-Semitic content, policies and promotional materials, as well as the exclusion of Jewish Israelis and supporters of Israel.
One session blamed worldwide terrorism and imperialism on Zionists, which was promoted with a caricature featuring classic anti-Semitic imagery of a hook-nosed man with forelocks, a beard, and a black hat controlling Uncle Sam. The session was later canceled, and the caricature removed from the website.
Ghattas spoke at multiple events at the conference, which was sponsored by Canadian Friends of Sabeel, an organization whose goal is to convince churches to divest from Israel.
B’nai Brith Canada sent an observer to the WSF, who recorded Ghattas’s speeches, among others.
The MK from Balad, one of the parties making up the Joint List, called Israel an oppressive, racist and apartheid state, saying he is pessimistic that there will be peace soon, and international sanctions were the most effective way to combat Israel.
“The only way for this society to change is the way of South Africa... international pressure, international sanctions, saying one basic elementary thing: Justice for Palestine,” he stated. “Without boycotts and sanctions, Israel will not do and comply with international law.”
The Defense Ministry said that “the real harm to Israeli democracy is Ghattas and his friends, who serve in the Israeli parliament while sabotaging it from the inside.”
Ghattas said international pressure is “the only mechanism Israel is afraid of,” and the only way “to force Israel to comply with international law. I can promise you one thing, that it will not take time like in South Africa for Israel to change. Israelis are very connected to the world and very sensitive to the world, and once serious action is taken by the international community, Israel will obey,” he argued.
Ghattas added that “BDS [boycott, divestment and sanctions] and popular movements are the major and the most elementary step that have to be taken in order to make governments and international bodies held accountable.”
The Joint List MK argued that the “occupation” is not only of the West Bank, but that all of Israel is “settler colonialism” and an “apartheid regime. When we say colonial settlers...
this is the right description for Israel as a whole, Israel dominating what was called Israel in the 1967 borders and all the other areas that were in the 1967 war occupied by Israel. We, as Palestinian citizens that have Israeli citizenship after 1948, are still victims of this colonial settler regime,” he said.
At another point in the speech, Ghattas said that when it comes to the “apartheid regime, the differentiation as if inside 1967 borders [or out] – this differentiation does not exist, actually. Perhaps in some aspects the level... of the racism or apartheid is different, but the same colonial settler apartheid reality is all over Palestine.”
All of Israel, Ghattas argued, has been taken over by “settlers.” He backed up his statement by saying that such people have an outsize influence on the Likud central committee, falsely claiming the body chooses the party’s lists for the Knesset.
He also claimed that a third of Israel’s ministers live in settlements, when, in fact, only four out of 29 ministers and deputy ministers do. He also implied that Israel is less democratic because Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein are “settlers,” but while Edelstein identifies with his former home in Gush Etzion, he is recently remarried and moved to his wife’s home in Herzliya.
Edelstein declined comment.
Ghattas discussed his and fellow Balad MKs’ Haneen Zoabi and Jamal Zahalka’s visit earlier this year with the families of terrorists whose bodies were being held by Israel because of the families’ refusal to have a modest funeral.
“We met with Palestinian families in Jerusalem that lost their sons in the last uprising, intifada, that the bodies of their sons are not released up to today to bury them, and we just went to hear their stories and follow up with the government,” Ghattas said.
The MK failed to mention that these sons had attacked Israelis. The group included the father of Baha Alian, who, together with an accomplice, killed three people by shooting and stabbing passengers on a bus in Jerusalem’s Armon Hanatziv neighborhood on October 13. Police shot and killed Alian during the attack.
Ghattas lamented that “from Bibi Netanyahu to the last Israel minister incited against us, that we went to terrorists’ families and we encourage, embolden terrorism.”
In addition, Ghattas misled the crowd in stating none of the sons was buried. At least one family agreed to the Public Security Ministry’s conditions, that they hold a funeral at night, without a major parade glorifying martyrdom, and was able to bury its son.
Ghattas complained that the law inspired by the visit with terrorists’ families, which would allow lawmakers encouraging terrorism to be expelled from the Knesset following an impeachment process and a threefourths vote, is undemocratic.
“Israel kept saying we are the only democracy in the Middle East, a villa in the jungle. The Expulsion Law makes my service in parliament under question,” he stated.
In Canada, the House of Commons can also eject members. The House’s website reads: “The power of the House to expel one of its Members derives from its traditional authority to determine whether members are qualified to sit. A criminal conviction is not necessary for the House to expel a member; the House may judge a member unworthy to sit in the plenum chamber for any conduct unbecoming the character of a member.”
Ghattas threatened, in the name of Israeli Arabs, to stop participating in Israeli politics, because of his arguments that it is undemocratic.
“We still think politically that it is a wise thing to do,” he said. “Going to the Knesset is like going to the battle.
We go there in order to protect our rights, in order to do our case, in order to unveil the mask of Israeli democracy and try to minimize and oppose the continuous attempt of the Israeli right-wing, and most of the time the Israeli Jewish consensus of creating almost on a daily basis racist legislation,” he stated.
However, he said, “this is not going to continue for a long time, because the margins of Israeli democracy, which we decided to use, are getting narrower all the time. We are in the years before getting to the decision to decide not to participate in this game...We decided to play the game, the Israeli democratic election and parliamentary game, but we are discovering that you are changing the rules... It’s our choice to decide whether to continue or not.”
Instead, Ghattas posited, Israeli Arabs are likely to form their own representative body, outside of the Knesset.
Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Avi Dichter said that “Ghattas is continuing his pattern of being in the Knesset and speaking against it and the democratic values by which it operates.”
Dichter referred to Azmi Bishara, a founder of the Balad Party who fled the country while under investigation for giving information to Hezbollah during the Second Lebanon War, calling Bishara Ghattas’s “spiritual father... who betrayed the State of Israel.”
“Ghattas is sounding the voice of his master, and could be prophesizing his future in relation to loyalty to the state,” Dichter warned. “There are those who may say Ghattas is shooting at passengers on the bus in which he is riding... Ghattas is riding on the donkey of his Messiah, Bishara, but those of us watching on the sidelines can’t tell who’s the donkey, the one on top, or the one on the bottom.”
MK Itzik Shmuly (Zionist Union) said that he opposes to government’s policies, but boycotting is a “stupid act that will not bring a solution with the Palestinians and weakens the Israeli Left. Ghattas is not a person who represents dialogue, peace and coexistence, and it is pretty ridiculous that he is invited anywhere to talk about such things following his pathetic provocations. He’s not interested in promoting peace; he wants to erase Israel from the map.”
According to Shmuly, if Ghattas were to invest a quarter of his efforts to slander Israel on helping the population that voted him in, Israeli Arabs’ situation would be much better.