(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
MK Azmi Bishara of Balad last week advised the Arab world to keep the embers of the Arab-Israeli conflict ever smoldering. He told Israelis he doesn't want their democracy, called Israel the product of modern history's "greatest daylight robbery" and insisted its citizenship is unwanted by this country's Arabs and was forced on them.
Last week he again traveled to an enemy state without permission - this time to Lebanon, his second visit there this year. In a two-hour tirade at a book fair he gave Israel a no-holds-barred thrashing. Here are a few excerpts from Lebanese news agencies and Al-Safir newspaper:
â€¢ "Israel's is the 20th Century's greatest robbery, perpetrated in broad daylight."
â€¢ "I will never recognize Zionism, even if all Arabs doâ€¦ I will never concede Palestine. The battle will long continue."
â€¢ (Addressing Israelis directly:) "We Arabs aren't interested in your democracy. Give us Palestine and take your democracy with you."
â€¢ "The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians isn't demographic but national. It's not the problem of 1.2 million Arabs living in Israel. They are like all other Arabs, only with Israeli citizenship forced upon them."
â€¢ "This conflict is possibly endlessâ€¦We must keep its embers burningâ€¦Why do some Arab leaders declare readiness to recognize Israel as a state? This is capitulationâ€¦Some Arabs may want to surrender, but they cannot force us to surrender with them. We shall go on fighting."
â€¢ "We are Palestine's original inhabitants, not Jews who came from Russia and Poland."
In his defense, Bishara noted, upon his return to Israel, "I didn't say anything new that I hadn't said in other places. I've spoken like that in the Knesset."
That's precisely the problem. What first fails to elicit a proper response will encourage further and greater impudence and disloyalty later. Israel's tolerance is repeatedly abused and with increasing insolence.
Bishara has long based his political appeal on thumbing his nose at the very state in whose legislature he serves and to which he pro forma owes allegiance.
Indeed Bishara appears to be constantly testing the limits of how far he can go in rejecting Israel's right to exist and encouraging its destruction without paying any price. Thus far he managed to continue with impunity to taunt the country he ostensibly swore to serve and whose taxpayers pay his salary.
The legal system only feebly and partially tackled Bishara's effrontery. In 2001, the Knesset House Committee lifted his immunity allowing for two indictments against him. In 2000, Bishara eulogized Hafez Assad at the Syrian president's Damascus funeral alongside Hizbullah chief Hassan Nassrallah. After profuse praises for Hizbullah, Bishara egged on "the struggle against Israel." He was also indicted for organizing illegal trips to Syria for Israeli Arabs.
So far Bishara beat all raps, claiming the right to freedom of expression.
In 2003, the High Court overturned a Central Election Committee decision to disqualify Balad from running for the 16th Knesset on the grounds that it supported the terrorist onslaught against Israel.
Perhaps it's time - in view of Bishara's latest tongue-lashing against the state which, directly or not, finances his illegal junkets to enemy territory - for this country's legislative and judicial branches to assert our democracy's right to defend itself.
Democracies have the notion of "protected speech." Implicit, however, in this notion is that not all speech is protected. Is it not at least worth examining whether Bishara, even if he is allowed to retain citizenship that he openly disdains, continues to serve in a body representing the state he so thoroughly rejects and desires to destroy? Is there no limit to the abuse we as a nation will tolerate in the name of open-mindedness?
Perhaps this time, should his party credentials be again rejected, our highest court will see fit to uphold that decision.
Bishara the individual, of course, is not the only issue here. By not laying down the law, Israel signals its entire Arab sector that it demands not even a minimum of loyalty, that anything goes. A state which won't defend itself should not be surprised that Bishara's radicalized disciples heed his seditious exhortations.