Balad chairman Jamal Zahalka defended his party against allegations of espionage during a Knesset committee hearing on Wednesday, dismissing claims that his party paid for young Arab Israelis to attend an indoctrination camp in Morocco.
Zahalka spoke during a joint session of the State Control and House committees that was scheduled after Taiba resident and Balad member Rawi Sultani was indicted for passing information about IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi's security detail to Hizbullah.
"You are a forward intelligence outpost of Hizbullah," House Committee Chairman Yariv Levine (Likud) lashed out at Zahalka minutes after the meeting began.
"The Balad movement is committed to political and nonviolent activity," Zahalka said. "We teach all of our youth - and all Israeli Arab youth - that actions such as this one cause damage to our political efforts."
Actions such as those which Sultani stands accused of run against the party's wishes, Zahalka said. "In recent years, quite a few Israeli Arabs have been accused of security-related offenses - and 99 percent of them were not members of any party, including Balad," he said.
"We are not Zionists and we are not going to become Zionists," Zahalka said. "Nobody is doing us a favor in allowing us to take part in the Knesset. We received our citizenship because we were born here. But we chose a political way of action, and anyone who wants to push us toward any other corner is not just evil, but also stupid."
The camp was sponsored by the international Arab nationalist-democratic movement, and hosted youngsters from many Arab countries. Nearly a dozen Israelis participated in the camp, he said, but they did so as individuals and not as Balad representatives.
The nearly dozen Jewish MKs who were present at Wednesday's hearing were anything but satisfied by Zahalka's explanations.
MK Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi) said the current state of affairs represented a failure of society, and specifically of the Supreme Court, to safeguard Israel from enemy agents acting in the name of democracy. Orlev accused the Jewish public of being too hesitant and, in doing so, failing to defend themselves against enemy activity.
A number of legislators, including Danny Danon (Likud), called on the Knesset to reexamine the laws regarding uses of state funding received by every party. Danon, Levine and State Control Committee Chairman MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) expressed opposition to the fact that taxpayers' funds were filling the coffers of a party whose former leader, Azmi Bishara, is currently a fugitive after fleeing the country while under investigation for aiding the enemy during the Second Lebanon War.
At the end of the session, State Controller Micha Lindenstrauss, who was present - but silent - throughout the hearing, said that within months, he would conclude his probe into the allegations against Balad. He emphasized that his investigation into the Arab party was part of a larger probe into a number of parties' use of state funds.