MKs blast Balad head for accepting invite

Jamal Zahalka to speak as part of Israel Apartheid Week.

By REBECCA ANNA STOIL
March 2, 2010 04:58
2 minute read.
MKs blast Balad head for accepting invite

zahalka 248.88. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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Jewish MKs blasted Balad Party chairman MK Jamal Zahalka Monday in advance of his first scheduled stop on an Israeli Apartheid Week speaking tour.

Despite the near across-the-board criticism of Zahalka’s participation, Hadash Chairman MK Muhammad Barakei defended Zahalka’s actions and said he too received invitations and would have liked to participate.

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“I call on the Knesset Speaker and the Knesset Ethics Committee to consider an appropriate response to MKs such as Zahalka,” said MK Moshe Matalon (Israel Beiteinu). “It cannot be that an MK who earns his salary from Israeli taxpayers goes out and lectures against the country and its existence. This hater of Israel ought to earn his living from his audiences and from those who arrange his lectures around the world.”

MK Danny Danon (Likud) echoed Matalon’s calls for an Ethics Committee probe into Zahalka’s conduct.

While joining in the condemnation, MK Robert Tibayev (Kadima) pointed out that Zahalka’s controversial remarks and participation in international Israel Apartheid Week events in England, Canada and the United States actually contradicted Israel’s detractors.

“There is no other state in the world where a member of the parliament goes out on a tour to lecture and incite against his country,” said Tibayev. “The fact that Zahalka does this is the best proof that Israel is truly a democracy of all of its citizens. It is a pity that Zahalka himself takes advantage of his status to incite against his country, but in doing so he proves the very strength of Israeli democracy.”

“Israel Apartheid Week is very important because of Israel’s actions, such as building the security fence, maintaining settler-only roads and engaging in selective detention, among other things,” said Barakei. “When Israel feels the need, it sends representatives around the world to preach its cause, but when it isn’t comfortable, it hides itself away within its borders.”

Knesset officials were unaware Monday of any other MKs planning to participate in international Israel Apartheid Week activities, and Zahalka was the only MK listed as a headliner in the week’s main events. Zahalka was set to begin his tour Monday night at a lecture sponsored by Oxford University’s Arab Cultural Society together with Israeli professors Ilan Pappe and Avi Shlaim, and continue Tuesday at Cambridge University.

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Later in the week Zahalka will cross the Atlantic and lecture in New York City and at Canada’s University of Ottawa and McGill University in Montreal.

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