Joint List MK Ayman Odeh.
(photo credit: FACEBOOK)
The March 6 edition of The Jerusalem Post had a fascinating article that included a quote from the most senior member of the Joint List faction in the Knesset, Ayman Odeh. On a Saudi-owned satellite television station a few days earlier, he had said, “It’s not my place to tell the Palestinian people how they should resist” and that “a popular intifada is most beneficial for the Palestinians.”
This statement comes at a time when tens of Palestinians are losing their lives after committing acts of terrorism against Israelis throughout the land of Israel. It was said at a time when an increasing number of Palestinian teenagers and young adults seem to be motivated to commit violent acts. At the same time, the Palestinian leadership, both within the State of Israel and in Judea and Samaria, refuses to condemn the lethal acts being perpetrated by these Palestinians, which often result in the loss of their lives and the suffering of their families and loved ones.
It is difficult to understand the absence of any real leadership on the part of the Israeli Palestinians and the elected members of the Palestinian Authority. It is a sad state of affairs when these leaders refuse to value the lives of their own constituents.
Their claim is that their acts of violence are a result of the political situation that exists between Israel and the PA and the frustration over the failure to establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
When do we as human beings believe that the frustration we may feel over a political situation demands the loss of the lives of others? Even though the present situation is so often compared to Nazi Germany or to South Africa’s apartheid policy, it is nowhere near either of those situations. Victims of Nazi Germany and black citizens of South Africa will attest to the differences between the present political conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and the situations they lived through in their countries.
There are no laws that restrict the Israeli Arab citizens of Israel from participating fully in Israeli society; Israel has not created multiple levels of citizenships for Jews, Muslims, Christians and Druse. All are subject to the same laws and receive the same benefits as citizens of the democratic State of Israel.
The right to express one’s disagreement with government policy and to stage a protest is guaranteed in Israel and is encouraged, as long as it is done in a peaceful manner.
This does not include throwing rocks at cars, shooting at passersby, stabbing pedestrians with knives or using motorized vehicles to run over people.
Citizens of the PA are subject both to its laws and the laws of the State of Israel as applied to the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria. Instead of sanctifying the lives or their own people as well as the lives of Israeli citizens, the leaders of the Palestinians living in both Israel and the PA territory remain silent, claiming they cannot tell their constituents and fellow Palestinians how to protest the policies and practices of the State of Israel. They act as if they would rather attend funerals and make condolence calls than ensure that their people live productive lives and learn how to appropriately express their social and political disagreements with the ruling authority until a secure and lasting peace between our peoples is achieved.
The present situation is truly quite sad. Leaders such MK Ayman Odeh are leading their own people to their deaths by not speaking out and modeling the way people should behave in a democracy.
How do they expect the Palestinians to create a viable democratic state and society if they do not learn how to express their opinions, support and disagreements with the ruling bodies in an appropriate manner? It will truly be sad, if and when there is a Palestinian state, if these violent expressions become the accepted approach in the new state.
Let us hope that MK Odeh and his colleagues in the Knesset and in the PA will reconsider their approach, exemplify true leadership and appeal to their own people to protest and demonstrate appropriately and not resort to dying on the streets of the land they so desire to govern.
The author is a retired lecturer from Hebrew University’s Rothberg International School.