Israeli Arab lawmakers from the Joint Arab List (from L to R) Osama Saadi, Ahmed Tibi, Ayman Odeh, Masud Ganaim and Haneen Zoabi stand in front of the Dome of the Rock during a visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City July 28, 2015. .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Joint List on Monday said it was weighing whether to lodge a complaint with the attorney-general against Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan for alleged “incitement” and “endangering of life” for remarks he made about MK Ayman Odeh, the leader of the list.
In an interview with Galei Tzahal on Sunday, Erdan launched a fierce personal attack on Odeh after the latter voiced support for the Assad regime in the face of the American, British and French air strikes.
Erdan said about Odeh: “In a costume and with a voice a bit weeping, he has succeeded in misleading and in casting himself as moderate. We are talking about a man who is not ready to condemn a murderer of children who uses chemical weapons. He is a despicable enemy from within, with a seat in the Knesset of Israel.”
The Joint List said in a statement that Erdan’s remarks made Odeh a target for having his blood shed: “Erdan’s words are particularly dangerous because he is responsible for the police, and his statements are a message that the Arab citizens must continue to be treated as enemies.”
Joint List MK Yusuf Jabareen said Erdan’s verbal assault on Odeh was motivated by narrow political considerations.
“He is motivated by the desire to gain popularity in his party now that we might be approaching an election,” he said. “By inciting against Arab leaders, he gains more publicity and unfortunately more popularity... He is trying to keep Arab leaders and parties outside the legitimate political field in Israel.”
“Calling Ayman Odeh an enemy means endangering him,” Jabareen said. “We often hear that we are enemies, supporting terrorists or traitors. When we protested during [US Vice President] Mike Pence’s speech to the Knesset, ministers said we are on the side of enemies and traitors. These kinds of statements can definitely lead to physical attacks on the leaders of the community.”
It is not the first time Erdan has made controversial remarks about Arabs or their leaders. In November 2016, Erdan blamed a spate of forest fires on Arab arsonists
. He said that Arabs whom the police had taken into custody were linked to fires, even calling for the homes of alleged arsonists to be demolished. All of the suspected arsonists were later released from custody.
MEMBERS OF Odeh’s Hadash party demonstrated in Haifa on Saturday night against the air strikes. Jabareen explained this stance by saying that the bombing is part of a broader “American attempt to dictate its plans in the region, including Trump’s declaration on Jerusalem.”
“We’ve witnessed the destruction of Iraq, Yemen and Libya, and we see these plans continue also in Syria,” he said.
Jabareen said he does not believe that Syrian forces carried out a chemical weapons attack in Douma and said that Syria has welcomed an investigative team. "They denied it and I have no reason to doubt this,” Jabareen said. “Why should I believe the terrorist groups on this issue? The conflict is near its end and there doesn’t seem to be any reason for the regime to use chemical weapons at this stage.”
“It was a pretext for America to attack, just as the pretext was used with Iraq, referring to weapons [of mass destruction] that the Iraqi regime [allegedly had],” he said. “There is reason to doubt the American side, not the Syrian side.”
Jabareen said he hoped the Syrian regime would be able to retake all of Syria’s territory and would then hold elections.
“I’d like to see these bloody events behind us,” he said. “I’d like to see Syria united and its people electing their leaders in a democratic way. I hope this will happen after getting rid of all the terrorist groups, keeping the unity of this Arab country and avoiding the disastrous situation in Yemen and Libya.”
MK Masoud Ghanaim (Joint List) said the Syrian regime deserves to be condemned for “murdering its own people more with aerial bombardments than chemical weapons.”
But he voiced opposition to the allied use of force against it. “I am against any foreign involvement in the affairs of any Arab state, whether it is Syria or another state. The Syrian people must be the ones to solve their own problems and not world or regional powers, because they are not interested in the well-being or freedom of the Syrian people but rather in their own interests.”