mk taha 298.88.
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The temerity of some of our Arab parliamentarians never fails to surprise. Even after recurrent junkets to enemy states like Lebanon and Syria, after hurling invective at the state to which ostensibly they owe allegiance and after raking in political capital from radicalizing their electorate, they still intermittently manage to shock us anew.
The latest to achieve the feat is Balad MK Wasal Taha, who proudly proclaimed in an Internet chat on the popular Arabic-language Islam-on-Line site that he had recommended that Palestinians not attack civilians but choose the "military option, set up armed units in order to attack IDF encampments, confront Israeli soldiers, fight them and take both the soldiers and occupation captive."
Taha later stated that his remarks were "mistranslated." "I am not the Hamas chief of staff" he said, "I am not ordering any kidnappings." But then he repeated his claim that "the murder and massive attacks on Gaza have left Palestinians with two options: either to harm innocent civilians or to confront the army, and they picked the more difficult choice of confronting the Israel Defense Forces, capturing [Cpl. Gilad] Shalit in the process."
Even Fatah officials, while condemning Israel, have blamed Hamas for continuing to attack Israel and bringing on the inevitable Israeli responses which, equally inevitably, cause Palestinian suffering. By refusing to see, much less acknowledge, Hamas's responsibility for this situation and justifying Hamas's attacks, Taha is not only siding with violent attacks against the state he was sworn to represent, but is effectively siding with Hamas's positions over those of Fatah in the intra-Palestinian feud.
Taha's legitimization of the attack against the IDF inside sovereign Israeli territory continued with his complaint that Israel "tried to label this 'a kidnapping' and refer to the soldier as a 'hostage.' But kidnapping is something perpetrated by gangsters, terrorists and such. Shalit is a prisoner - not a hostage. He was captured in an action by an organized, legitimate side, which Israel seeks to diminish by portraying as terrorist."
Israel, he further claimed, "is in cahoots with America, which declared war on Islam and Muslims under the heading of 'the war against terror.'"
Taha was introduced to forum participants as hailing from the "part of Palestine occupied in 1948," a description to which he voiced no objection.
This isn't Taha's idiosyncratic quirk. His statements were echoed and amplified by ex-MK Abdul Malik Dahamshe, who told Nazareth's Arabic-language Kul el-Arab that the raid "was an honorable and legitimate operation." He also praised the rocketing of Sderot and other Israeli towns, underscoring and elaborating on this theme to every Israeli radio interviewer who gave him airtime.
While some Israeli Arab local authority heads have often taken more moderate and constructive positions, extremist rhetoric and actions by Arab Knesset members has also included the recent Ta'al-Ra'am MKs' meeting with Hamas higher-ups and MK Azmi Bishara's repeated excursions to Damascus and Beirut, his hobnobbing with terror's head honchos there and his fiery oratory urging fellow Arabs to battle Israel.
Bishara sometimes seems to be battling with other Arab Knesset members for the distinction of who is most anti-Israeli. Apparently, their perception is that the more extreme they are seen to be, the greater their vote-getting potential. The danger, patently, is of a deepening vicious cycle, wherein political profit accrues from inflammatory rhetoric and radicalized voters elect ever more extreme representatives. It is a cycle that Israeli Arabs, for their good and that of the country, can and must break.
No nation - least of all one in the throes of an existential struggle for survival - can tolerate its own elected leaders proffering advice with immunity to the enemy while guns blaze. This has nothing to do with freedom of expression. It has everything to do with Israel's self-preservation instincts and even the respect expected of its citizenry for legal authority.
Hence the broadening parliamentary support for NRP MK Zevulun Orlev's initiative to repeal Knesset membership from any MK who supports a terror organization or advocates violent attacks on Israeli soldiers or civilians.
Across the political spectrum, indeed, there is little sympathy for Taha. MK Ran Cohen (Meretz), for instance, has accused him of "sending immoral messages which incite to terror and war. Taha's solidarity with the Palestinians," Cohen rightly stressed, "cannot justify a call to kidnap soldiers and resort to violence."