You want fairness from this aging academic?
This is a time when I''ll side with a prominent Israeli Arab politician, who has been a source of considerable annoyance for us Jews.
But fair is fair. In the last couple of days he earned my commendation.
Ahmed Tibi, MD, is one of the most intelligence of Knesset Members, whose Hebrew does not fall below that of the better educated Jewish Members. He is also outspoken in his criticism of Israeli actions, especially with respect to Arab citizens and Palestinian neighbors. He has skated close to the edge of propriety, when on several occasions he has served as an advisor to Yassir Arafat and other senior personnel of the Palestinian Authority, and traveled internationally with Palestinian leaders as a member of their delegation. It is legitimate for Israelis to question his basic loyalties. Is he one of us or one of them?
He insists on his right to be one of both, and so far has avoided the blatant violations that led to criminal charges for aiding the enemy during a time of war against another bright Knesset Member, Azmi Beshara PhD (political philosophy). Beshara has fled from Israel and its prosecutors, and has been speaking out in Arab countries.
Tibi''s most recent tiff with the establishment produced a decision of the Knesset Ethics Committee to suspend him from several privileges for a period of one week. The charge: his sexist condemnation of Anastassia Michaeli''s throwing a cup of water on Knesset Member Raleb Majadale.
The charge of sexism rests on a phrase that Tibi used in condemning Michaeli, that can be understood is any of several ways, depending on the language employed. His reference was to "cos amok" which can refer to a person "running amok" (i.e., crazily) with a glass, or a "deep vagina." The former tends to proper Hebrew for "cos" with the Hebracized "amok" adopted (according to the Oxford English Dictionary) from Malay or Portuguese. The latter is used as an uncomplimentary term for a woman of doubtful reputation ("cunt" being the closest English equivalent) adopted into Hebrew slang from Arabic.
With only a bit of tolerance, one can view Tibi''s phrase as a clever pun, with or without taking into account his medical specialty in gynecology.
The accusation of sexism is a stretch, convenient to Knesset Members who may have been aching to hold something against the sharpest of their Arab nuisances.
No one should have expected Tibi to accept his suspension laying down. He rose in the Knesset to quote Voltaire in behalf of free speech and to provide its members with a "lesson in Hebrew." There might have been a twinkle in his eyes when he explained that "cos" means glass, as in glass of water; and that "amok" derived from an area in South Asia and conveys the image of someone who has gone crazy (running amok).
It was his bad or good luck that the Knesset Member taking his turn as Chair of the session was Yitzhak Vaknin, a member of the Sephardi ultra-Orthodox party SHAS, who lists his profession as a teacher of automobile repair. http://www.knesset.gov.il/mk/heb/mk.asp?mk_individual_id_t=50
Vaknin tried to quiet Tibi, got into a shouting match with him as to who had the right to instruct the Knesset in morality, and used his authority as the Chair to cut off Tibi''s microphone and then have him escorted from the Knesset. Vaknin''s last words were "Chuztpan. He wants to teach us morality. Another one. He wants us to listen to all the dirt from his mouth. There is no limit to his chutzpah." http://news.walla.co.il/?w=/550/2501344
It should work to Tibi''s advantage within his own community and among a few of us Jews that he was paired up with an ultra-Orthodox Knesset Member with limited patience, vision, and understanding, and no sense of humor, who responded to a clever play on words and a hint of an insult with a loss of temper that came at least as close to anti-Arab racism as Tibi''s earlier denunciation of Michaeli came to sexism.
So far Vaknin has not been suspended from the Knesset, nor even censured for his remarks.