Whose interests?

Whatever else may be said about MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al), he cannot be accused of inconsistency or ambiguity.

January 28, 2010 11:44
3 minute read.
ahmed tibi solemn 298

ahmed tibi solemn 298. (photo credit: Ori Porat)


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Whatever else may be said about MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta'al), he cannot be accused of inconsistency or ambiguity. Tibi's animus towards the Jewish state is unwavering, as is his pugnaciousness.

Yasser Arafat's former adviser misses precious few opportunities to throw monkey wrenches into the Jewish state's interests, combating Israel on most every front.

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Thus, last week, he chose an unprecedented visit to the Knesset by Palestinian journalists - organized by the Mideast Press Club, hosted by Kadima's Tzahi Hanegbi and addressed, among others, by Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin - to urge the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development not to allow Israel into its ranks. Capitalizing on the fact that a phalanx of TV cameras was lined up to record the event, a rare instance of interaction between Palestinian and Israeli journalists, held uniquely with the participation of several senior legislators inside the parliament building, Tibi made the plea knowing that it would resonate widely.

True, he didn't invoke the old Arab League boycott, but instead he argued that the OECD must bar Israel until its Arab citizens enjoy full equality.

It sounds high-minded, but is it?

EQUALITY MAY be in the eye of the beholder and subject to distortive manipulation. For Tibi, who openly calls for the dismantling of Israel as a Jewish state and for replacing it with a "state-of-all-its-citizens," nothing may signify equality until all Jewish symbols are gone - the flag, national anthem, state emblem and the declaration of independence. Tibi's notion of equality may not be satisfied until Jewish immigration is curtailed while the "Right of Return" is implemented, inundating the post-Jewish state with millions of hostile Arabs.

However, by measurable economic criteria it must be admitted that Israel's Arab citizens enjoy a higher standard of living and incomparably greater freedoms than do their brethren in the Arab world.


Certainly the century-long conflict erects and fortifies psychological barriers. Things could be unimaginably better were the walls of antagonism and suspicion brought down and if neighbors weren't also enemies. Yet there are those who benefit from fanning the flames.

Unfortunately, incendiary rhetoric within Israel's Arab sector pays off handsomely in political profit. In recent popularity polls conducted by Israel's three largest Arab papers, Tibi emerged the winner by a hefty margin.

The tragedy is that Israeli-Arab politicians like Tibi - who serves in Israel's parliament but describes himself as a Palestinian Arab and is included abroad in Palestinian delegations - radicalize their constituents. The radicalized Arab sector then votes for increasingly radical representatives, who expediently pour more oil on the flames. A vicious cycle is triggered which inescapably harms the prospects of Israel's Arab citizens. Instead of coexistence and attendant removal of whatever can be construed as discriminatory, confrontation-mongering by Israeli-Arab politicians breeds adversity.

The paradox is that they thereby do severe damage to the very population they claim to look after. If Tibi genuinely cared for his constituency's welfare, he would advocate that the OECD forthwith accept Israel with open arms. Whatever improves Israel's economy, after all, will inevitably improve the lot of Israeli Arabs. A struggling economy with fewer resources and job opportunities won't work in any Israeli's favor.

Instead, by pleading that Israel be excluded, Tibi indicates that peaceful economic progress is not his objective. Vilifying Israel takes precedence over cooperating with it.

TIBI'S OWN biography, though, belies some of his complaints. The state he so maligns did not prevent him from studying medicine at the prestigious Hebrew University Medical School, where many aspiring Jewish-Israeli applicants are rejected (including Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, with whom he duelled at last week's Knesset meeting). Tibi declares that "no one did me a favor. I passed my exams. That has nothing to do with equality."

But it intrinsically does.

Equality is when all that counts is merit. Inequality is being disqualified despite high qualifications. If anything, Tibi's experience underscores Israel's inordinate broadmindedness. As an intern, he was fired after he got into a fight with his hospital's security guard, who he claimed used a racial slur against him, but then was reinstated. He went on to advise Arafat through successive terror spates. He represented the Palestinians in negotiating sessions...

And the Supreme Court overrode a 2003 Central Election Committee ban on his Knesset candidacy.

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