MK Ahmed Tibi on Tuesday condemned plans to name a new space center in his
central Arab village Taiba after Israel’s first and only astronaut, the late
In a letter to the Science and Technology Ministry, the
United Arab List-Ta’al MK said Ramon served in the IAF as a fighter pilot, which
could offend the Arab community.
Calling the decision “distasteful” and
“unjustified,” Tibi noted that during Ramon’s military service, he attacked
civilian targets in Lebanon and participated in the attack on Iraq’s nuclear
“Upon receiving my invitation to the space center’s opening
ceremony, I was very surprised to see that it was being named after Ilan Ramon,”
Tibi said. “Although I admit the circumstances of his death were tragic, I don’t
think it is appropriate to name a space station in an Arab village after
Ramon was killed in the 2003 Columbia space shuttle crash along
with six other crew members. His son Asaf was killed in an F-16 plane crash six
Responding to Tibi’s comments, Science and Technology
Minister Daniel Herschkowitz (Habayit Hayehudi) said the center would be named
“after an Israeli hero who was instrumental in fighting Islamic terrorism both
inside Israel’s borders and outside.”
Herschkowitz said that all of
Israel’s space centers were named after Ramon and if Tibi did not want Taiba’s
center named after him, Taiba would not receive a space center.
“I do not
accept these ridiculous and provocative assertions [by Tibi] that the name would
be acceptable in Ra’anana but not in Taiba,” Herschkowitz said, referencing a
predominantly Jewish city along the coast.
Gadi Ramon, the brother of the
fallen Israeli astronaut, challenged Tibi to decide whether or not he wants to
be a member of the State of Israel.
He added that he does not view being
an Arab and being a Zionist as mutually exclusive.
“I work with many
people from the Arab sector and they treated my brother with respect and
admiration,” Army Radio quoted him as saying.
Yisrael Beytenu MK David
Rotem said this was another in a long line of incidents proving that Arab MKs
work against the interest of their constituencies.
“He is willing to give
up on a space center that would educate Arab children just in order to avoid
honoring an Israeli hero,” Rotem said. “Apparently, instead of naming the center
after Ramon, Tibi prefers to name it after the infamous terrorist who was known
as the engineer, Yihye Ayash.”
UAL leader Ibrahim Sarsur released a
statement in Arabic defending Tibi and calling upon Taiba to return the funding
for the space center to the ministry.
“Israel’s attempt to impose its
culture on our institutions is unacceptable,” Sarsur said. “I can’t imagine
Israel naming a center for the study of peace in Tel Aviv after Yasser Arafat,
so it is illogical to accept naming an institution in an Arab city after an