Wide view of the Knesset.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
I had the chance to witness an interesting event on September 8 at the university of Helsinki, Finland. A member of the Knesset, Jamal Zahalka, was speaking about the situation in Gaza. Together with him was Amira Hass, an Israeli Jewish journalist who started her speech by stating that she is “an honorary Gazan.”
Zahalka, although speaking in an event that was titled “Peace forum,” and despite himself being a member of the Israeli parliament, concentrated in his speech on demonizing Israel and ensuring that his audience would, by end the night, be hating Israel.
When someone asked him whether Israel was an apartheid state, he responded, “No, but it’s from the same family.” Then he began describing how Israel is much like apartheid – but apparently worse. He said, “We [Israeli Arabs] would actually prefer apartheid. Give us apartheid! At least we would then be allowed to stay in our homes.”
I couldn’t stop thinking of how my South African friends who survived the real apartheid would react upon hearing an Arab member of the Israeli parliament explaining to a group of Europeans how he would prefer apartheid to the current situation in which he is not only allowed to vote but is actually a member of the government.
Zahalka also kept on speaking about Israeli violence against Palestinians, refusing to talk about Hamas terrorism beyond calling it a “struggle for a just cause.”
He asked people whose side they were on: that of the pilot who about to fire a missile into a Gaza building, or that of a baby inside that building. When asked how about the Gazans who demonstrate against Hamas’s policies, demanding peace, and who are executed by Hamas as a result, Zahalka simply repeated that Israel kills Palestinian children.
As if all of that wasn’t enough, Zahalka demanded that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu be prosecuted at the International Criminal Court for his “crimes” against the Palestinians. Hass, on the other hand, explained to the audience that “there is not a single Palestinian who has not been hurt by Israel, and who would not be threatened by Israeli policies.”
Neither condemned Hamas rockets, neither condemned Hamas’s use of UN facilities as rocket launching sites, neither mentioned the plight of Gazans under Hamas rule nor the use of civilians as human shields. Neither brought up the fact that Israeli Arabs have the highest level of education, standard of living and human rights in all Middle East. Zahalka, instead, was calling for the world to pressure Israel by sanctions and boycotts, to push Israel into becoming a “real” democracy.
In my country such a politician would be called a traitor and his place would not be in the parliament.
The audience, however, not surprisingly loved Zahalka and Hass – after all they had confirmed to their listeners that Israel really was as bad as they thought – even worse, in fact.
On the other hand, I had a chance to speak with an Iraqi person attending the event. This Iraqi said to me, “I can not believe that this Arab brother travels the world sympathizing with the Islamist Hamas, while thousands of his brothers are being slaughtered by other Islamists in Syria and Iraq.”
It was quite a strange moment to me, realizing that after hearing two Israeli speakers, the only common sense I heard all evening came from an Iraqi Muslim.
Thanks to people like Hass and Zahalka, the anti-Semitism in Europe has risen to 1930s levels. Their message in the “peace forum” (organized by ICAHD Finland and partly paid for with public money through the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture) was not one of peace but of pure hatred. I am neither Israeli nor Jewish, but I felt absolutely disgusted.
If this is the way these speakers promote peace, no wonder peace hasn’t been achieved.
And Mr. Zahalka, I’d suggest you first speak with South African survivors of apartheid, then with the rest of the Israeli Arabs, before you start asking for apartheid.
I don’t think many of your voters would agree with you.The author has a bachelor’s degree in social sciences.