JOINT LIST CHAIRMAN Ayman Odeh is seen after he was injured last year during a clash with police in Umm al-Hiran, an unrecognized Beduin village in the Negev..
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
Joint List head Ayman Odeh and Israeli politician and water expert Mustafa Abu Raiya called Israel’s policies toward Palestinians apartheid, during several interviews with South African media while on a visit to the country over this week and last.
“We are fighting for the freedom of our people,” Odeh told Radio Islam on Monday. “You have to ask – a country that practices apartheid, does it have any loyalty to its Arab citizens? A country that committed Nakba, does it have any loyalty to its Arab citizens? How do you expect Arab citizens to be loyal? Instead of asking about loyalty, it should be a question of citizenship – put an end to the occupation and give equality to all.”
The two were hosted by the Johannesburg-based Afro-Middle East Center and their main goal, as Odeh explained, was to focus on Palestinian-South African relations and to raise awareness of the plight of the Palestinian people. “We have come to spread our cause in South Africa because South Africa has experienced apartheid, it has a conscience, and we need its solidarity.”
Odeh told online publication The Daily Vox that “in [Israel’s] infrastructure and... law there is apartheid toward the Palestinian citizens [Israeli Arabs]. It is important to tell you two-thirds of children in Israel that live under poverty are Arab children. We are victims but we know our rights.”
Raiya, who is a member of the Israeli Communist Party (Maki), which is part of Odeh’s Hadash and falls under the Joint List – the Knesset’s third largest faction – said: “We [as Israeli Arabs and Palestinians] are not treated equally and we are fighting for our rights – we have stages and steps by Israeli government that looks like apartheid and what happened in South Africa. We need to learn from the ANC and their struggle about how to overcome the apartheid regime... and also learn from the legacy of Nelson Mandela about how to lead the people to their freedom and at the same time to make reconciliation... to live together in peace and a democratic state.”
Raiya added said there are many similarities between the struggles of Palestinians and that which South Africans faced during apartheid.
While speaking with South African media, Odeh also claimed that “the Israeli right wing are afraid of our emerging power [as the Joint List].
“That’s why trying to push us away from any political power,” he said. “In the last election, 82% of Israeli Arabs voted for Joint List. This shows they are major representatives of Israel Arabs.”
He made it clear that they want Israel to be a “country of all its citizens,” “not just a Zionist, Jewish state.”
During their interview with The Daily Vox, the two also lashed out at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. They said that his government “is trying to hijack the institute of the state.”
“He appointed right-wing judges in the Supreme Court, for example.
“Before not all media followed right-wing policy but now [they] do – with the support of Netanyahu. There is some media sponsored by the Right and even right-wing journalists in liberal newspapers. They try to ban or cut funds for every NGO that helps the Palestinians,” they claimed.
Odeh added that many Israeli Arabs boycott three ministries: The Defense Ministry, the Foreign Ministry and Aliya and Integration Ministry. “They are against our national identity. It’s a big sacrifice and very patriotic because we are not guests in Israel.”
Raiya, who is the CEO of Galilee Water and Wastewater Union and is also a pharmacist who received his degree from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said that South Africa does not need Israel’s help to deal with the water crisis in Cape Town.
“I think it’s the fault of the past... It’s a management problem. I think the people of South Africa have enough specialists and professional people to deal with the water. The main thing is for the politicians and decision-makers to let these professionals do their job.”