Raja Za’atra in press conference, December 12, 2018..
(photo credit: FACEBOOK)
After a week-long scandal over his anti-Israel posts on social media, Haifa deputy mayor-designate Raja Zaatry announced Wednesday that his party would instead give the post to another candidate from his party, who has also posted anti-Israel statements on Facebook.
In a press conference in Haifa, Zaatry said he would not apologize for his past statements defending Hezbollah, comparing Zionism to Nazism and the IDF to Islamic State. But he clarified that he is against targeting civilians.
“I am against terror and all harm to innocent people, whether they are Arabs, Jews, Chinese, or Americans” Zaatry said. “But we know that a nation under occupation has a right to oppose occupation with all legitimate means.”
Zaatry praised new Haifa mayor Einat Kalisch Rotem, who decided to appoint him to the sole deputy mayor post. He said she withstood tremendous pressure to remove the Haifa Front (Hadash and Communists) party he heads from the coalition.
“I am proud of my party,” Zaatry said. “We didn’t come to the Haifa city council through a tunnel or on a rocket. We were elected to the council because we promoted peace, social justice and real coexistence.”
But then Zaatry said his party decided after the controversy to give the deputy mayor post to Shahira Shalabi, who was second on the Haifa Front list.
Shalabi expressed support for terrorism during Operation Protective Edge in August 2014, when she posted on Facebook “with spirit and blood, we will redeem Gaza.” When asked at the press conference if she would condemn Hezbollah, she said she preferred to “condemn the occupation.”
“This is a sad day for Israeli democracy, which is bankrupt, with a government that interferes and pursues a young man because of his political views,” Shalabi said. “I won’t be the good Arab who provides the goods. We are partners. We are against terrorism and in favor of rights for the Palestinian people.”
Culture Minister Miri Regev (Likud) called upon Kalisch Rotem not to appoint Shalabi, due to her social media posts. Regev said it would be more fitting for Zaatry to serve as the deputy of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, Hezbollah head Hassan Nasrallah or Hamas head Ismail Haniyeh.
“Such people cannot be given positions of power and salaries from the State of Israel, whose destruction they support,” Regev said.
If the appointment is approved by the city council, Shalabi will be the first Arab female to serve as deputy mayor of Haifa.
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