MK Jamal Zahalka (chairman of the Joint List’s Balad component) loves to grab the limelight. At any venue and at any pretext he’ll stage self-scripted horror shows, casting himself in the starring role, which inevitably involves shouting indignantly in apparent outof- control righteous rage.
This has become the provocative staple of his parliamentary activity, bankrolled by the Jewish state’s taxpayers.
The abuse he hurled at both Jewish visitors and police on the Temple Mount last week, significantly during the Succot festival, is only the latest production he mounted.
There was nothing spontaneous and unrehearsed about his performance. He positioned himself at the Mugrabi Gate – the only one through which non-Muslims may enter. Why he waited just there isn’t difficult to work out.
No sooner were Jews allowed in than his histrionics began.
He accosted the unresponsive visitors with pejoratives such as “criminals, fascists, racists” and “lunatics.” He hectored at policemen for letting the visitors through (according to the status quo) and punctuated his screams with “Get out of here! You have no place here! You are not wanted here! By what right are you here?” But the most damning indications of his true motives are the videos he proudly released of himself aggressively confronting the visiting Jews.
Had this not been premeditated, odds are that Zahalka wouldn’t upload to the social media evidence of his hysterics.
But Zahalka was pleased by his routine. He knows his electorate and he has good reason to assume that his seemingly stirring defense of exclusive Muslim rights on the Mount and his simultaneous anti-Jewish outbursts can only score him political points in his constituency.
It’s via vehement theatrics that the self-professed atheist and graduate of the Hebrew University’s pharmacy school earned his political stripes. He rose to prominence through sensational in-your-face effrontery – the more bellicose and taunting, the greater its effect and the greater the returns on his investment in inflammatory melodramas.
Zahalka’s repertoire is impressive, opening with his stint as understudy to the absconded spy Azmi Bishara, his predecessor as leader of Balad.
Zahalka boosted his reputation early on with earsplitting, abrasive heckling in the Knesset plenum that repeatedly disrupted speeches by Shimon Peres and Amir Peretz. He has since lashed out blusterously at a host of MKs, most recently at Labor dove Stav Shaffir.
He illegally visited Syria and Lebanon, met with Hamas hotshots and hobnobbed with convicted Hamas collaborator and agitator Raed Salah, chief of the Islamic Movement’s Northern Branch. Zahalka continually calls Israel a “terror state,” lambastes Ehud Barak as “a war criminal” and refers to Benjamin Netanyahu as “the Angel of Death.”
In 2013 – with his then-fellow Balad MKs Haneen Zoabi (who participated in the 2010 Mavi Marmara provocation) and Basel Ghattas – Zahalka sponsored legislation to define Israel’s Arab minority as an autonomous national unit, an “indigenous nation” as distinct from “colonialist immigrant groupings slated for integration.”
While stunts to challenge Israel’s sovereignty form the leitmotif of Zahalka’s polemics, they more than anything do a colossal disservice to Israel’s Arab population. Israeli Arabs’ inherent interests hinge on integration and not segregation – even if it’s voluntary and belligerent segregation, as Zahalka in effect advocates.
Ironically, Zahalka passes up no opportunity to rail against Israel’s “apartheid regime.”
Sadly, he gets away with his subversion and will likely suffer no repercussions from fanning the flames on the Temple Mount either. Arab politicians such as he, 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 thus generate further radicalization.
This is the last thing this country’s Arabs need.
Looking around them at the mayhem and deadly dysfunction in neighboring states, they can surely conclude that their lot is vastly superior to that of their brethren across the borders.
They live in the Middle East’s freest and most thriving state. Disdainfully deprecating and delegitimizing it, while promulgating seditious agendas for its obliteration, is hardly conducive to building bridges. That should be elementary.