In the 11 years that I have served in the Knesset, I have received numerous
death threats. Pulsa Denura (the term for a rabbinical death curse) has
evidently taken exception to my consistent call for equal rights for the
country’s Palestinian minority.
Recently I received a letter – the second
in as many days – that warned: “You have 180 days to live. Your death will be
sudden and cruel, accompanied by great pain...”
Last month, I was
forcibly removed by armed guards from the Knesset podium. In recent days,
colleagues have faced violent and vulgar rhetoric and one was very nearly
physically attacked by a fellow Knesset member. Much, but not all of this fury,
is a consequence of daring to speak out on behalf of Palestinians in Gaza, a
land cruelly and illegally deprived of essential goods. Yet American elected
officials seem far more concerned with specious claims against humanitarian aid
workers who were violently attacked by Israel in international waters on May
A young dual Turkish-American citizen was killed execution- style on
board the lead ship, with one bullet to the chest and four, at close range, to
the head, according to some reports in the Turkish press. The next day, another
young American, Emily Henochowicz – a college student at New York’s prestigious
Cooper Union – had her eye shot out by an Israeli-fired tear gas canister as she
peacefully protested the flotilla raid in Jerusalem.
Days later, a
Palestinian man married to an American woman was killed at a police checkpoint
in Wadi Joz after what some say was a traffic accident. Israeli police maintain
that the man tried to ram his car into two police officers and then flee on foot
but some witnesses told police and media channels that the man's sudden swerving
of the car was unintentional.
US OFFICIALS have not demanded
accountability for these acts of violence. Instead, too many are busy responding
to AIPAC, which has released a list of Congress members parroting the group’s
They speak of Israel’s right to “defend itself” from
humanitarian workers brutally murdered in international waters by the equivalent
of modern-day pirates. It seems that only in the US Congress is this perverted
Israeli rationale accepted as reality.
The new American president’s
silence is even more disappointing. It reminds us that Palestinian freedom and
equal rights are unlikely to be secured by a United States committed to false
notions of Israeli security.
Since his Cairo speech last year, President
Barack Obama has failed to pursue new policies. In the Middle East, he is
regarded as full of fine, but empty words.
Empty because securing
Palestinian freedom and equal rights requires standing up to
Furthermore, the president is grievously undercut by fellow top
Democrats such as Sen. Charles Schumer, who told an audience at the Orthodox
Union last month that it made sense “to strangle them [Palestinians in Gaza]
economically” because they elected Hamas and “they don’t believe in the Torah,
This may play well with some of Sen. Schumer’s constituents at
the Orthodox Union where he was cheered for his remarks, but it goes over very
poorly with Palestinians agonizing over stunted and malnourished
One can imagine the uproar had he suggested economically
strangling Israelis for electing neo-fascists such as Avigdor
THE ONE glimmer of hope I can see came from President Obama’s
National Security Strategy of May 2010. Promisingly, the document calls
“rights for all Israelis.” But the strategy requires crucial
We have some rights in Israel. The question is whether we
will have equal rights and here the document falls silent. The issue is
the human rights organization Adalah has documented over three dozen
laws that discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel.
As we have
learned with Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, constructive
American support for a “Jewish state” suggests a willingness
to relegate Palestinian citizens of that state to inferior
Israel’s current government clearly opposes equal rights and
its most extreme members are threatening the overthrow of numerous
norms. Foreign Minister Lieberman leads the charge with his loyalty oath
threatens to strip Palestinians of citizenship.
More than 20 bills have
been introduced since Binyamin Netanyahu took office in spring 2009 that
exacerbate discrimination against Israel’s Palestinian minority.
Israel, especially among those on the Right, there is a fierce refusal
any activity or statement, by myself or my colleagues, against
For example, my support of the Libyan flotilla and my calls for
the end of the Gaza blockade, are immediately seen as an attempt to
the security of the state. It seems there is no tolerance for the
Arab, whose differing opinion is promptly attacked for being reckless
Between the Scylla of death threats and the Charybdis of
expulsion, the standing of Palestinian citizens of Israel is as tenuous
has been since the lifting of martial law in 1966. Democratic allies of
must concern themselves not only with its 43-year subjugation of
the occupied territories, but with the mounting threats being directed
minority population by a majority that wrongly deems us a fifth column
demanding to be treated as equal human beings regardless of whether or
believe in the Torah.
The writer is a Palestinian citizen of
is deputy speaker of the Knesset.