The Balad bill

Balad aims to include its bill in Israel’s set of Basic Laws, which in effect comprises a quasi-constitution.

June 15, 2013 22:45
3 minute read.
MK HANEEN ZOABI speaks to reporters

Haneen Zoabi 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Balad’s three MKs – Jamal Zahalka, Haneen Zoabi (who participated in the 2010 Mavi Marmara provocation) and Basel Ghattas – have sponsored a bill that seeks to define Israel’s Arab minority as an autonomous national unit, an “indigenous nation” as distinct from “immigrant groupings who are slated for integration.”

Balad aims to include its bill in Israel’s set of Basic Laws, which in effect comprises a quasi-constitution.

In practical terms Balad calls for a collective social and cultural autonomy within the pre-1967 lines. Indisputably, down the road, this is a separatist formulation geared to lay the ground for secession from Israel proper.

Balad’s argumentation is blatantly confrontational. Its bill states that Israeli Arabs “had well preceded the establishment of Israel in their national cohesion and identity” and that they therefore consider themselves “as this country’s native population.”

Today, the law guarantees civil rights on an individual basis but not in the framework of a collective national autonomy.

That Arab national autonomy, Balad’s bill further stipulates, will be granted the right to set up its own national institutions as well as the right to national representation in all state institutions. Israel is required to acknowledge “the special link between the Arab national minority in Israel to the Palestinian nation and all other Arab nationalities.”

All this is fully in keeping with Balad’s platform since Azmi Bishara established the party in 1995. Bishara fled Israel in 2007 following accusations of espionage for Hezbollah during the Second Lebanon War.

Balad always advocated divorcing Israel from its Jewish identity; ending the special status of the Jewish Agency and the Jewish National Fund; abrogating the Law of Return for Jews, while allowing an unlimited influx into Israel of millions of so-called Arab refugees.

The fact that this stands no chance of adoption in the Knesset plenum is beside the point. What counts is that this mindset is increasingly prevalent in Israel’s Arab sector, that it is hardly challenged there and is fast becoming near-consensus.

Already the “proposed constitution” put forth in 2007 by Adala, an organization purportedly aiming to uphold rights of Israel’s Arab citizens, demanded that within-the- Green-Line Israel no longer constitute a Jewish state; that Israel’s Law of Return be abolished; that Israel’s national anthem, flag and emblem be changed; that Israel ratify the Arab “right of return”; that “uprooted” Israeli-Arabs resettle their “confiscated” lands; and much more.

In their own position papers the Mossawa Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel and the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee likewise argued for unconditional administrative Arab-sector autonomy, separate representation for Israeli-Arabs in international organizations, veto power on major legislative/executive decisions, the elimination of Jewish state symbols and an overhaul of immigration policy.

There are barely any discernible differences between the aforementioned and the “Future Vision for Palestinian Arabs in Israel,” prepared by the National Committee of Arab Mayors in Israel, and the “Haifa Covenant,” mostly composed by the Mada el-Carmel Arab Center for Applied Social Research.

While all this challenges Israel’s sovereignty, it more than anything does a colossal disservice to the country’s Arab population. Israeli Arabs’ inherent interests hinge on integration and not segregation – even if it is voluntary and belligerent segregation, as Balad in effect proposes.

Ironically, Balad’s own headliner Zahalka passes up no opportunity to rail against Israel’s “apartheid regime.”

Arab politicians like him, who exploit Israeli democracy to undermine Israel, do not further the cause of coexistence.

They intentionally and cynically do the reverse. They create a vicious cycle whereby they radicalize the Arab sector, turn pugnacious propaganda into a vote-getting ploy and thereby generate further radicalization.

This is the last thing this country’s Arabs need.

Looking around them at the mayhem and severe dysfunction in neighboring states, they can surely conclude that their lot is vastly superior to that of their brethren across our borders.

They live in the Middle East’s freest and most thriving state. Disdainfully deprecating and delegitimizing it, while promulgating inflammatory agendas for its obliteration, is hardly conducive to building bridges. That should be elementary for the Arab-Israeli political leadership that persistently churns out deliberate provocations.

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