For most Israelis, Amir Khoury, a Christian Arab, is a hero.
Khoury is the policeman who gave chase earlier this month and helped stop – at the cost of his life – the terrorist in Bnei Brak before he could kill more than the four innocent civilians he had already slain in cold blood.
The Bnei Brak Municipality announced on Sunday that a street in the haredi city would be named after Khoury. Khoury’s father, Jeries, who also served in the police, reacted to the gesture by saying, “We are seeing unity [between Arabs and Jews] that we have not seen for years.”
For Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint List, Khoury is a humiliation.
Why? Because he served in Israel’s security forces.
In a Ramadan greeting Odeh uploaded to Facebook from Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate, where he said he hoped to one day see Palestinian flags flying, Odeh – known to complain that the Israeli police do not do enough to stem crime in the Arab sector – said all those serving in Israel’s security forces should “throw your guns in their faces and tell them our place is not with you.”
Odeh said he has met with groups of “young Palestinians with Israeli citizenship” from “occupied Arab Jerusalem” who have said they were being harmed and humiliated by the security forces.
“It is important for me to tell you from here, the Damascus Gate, that it is a humiliation for one of our sons to join the security forces,” he said.
Odeh then called on a “small minority” of Arabs who have enlisted – he put the number at a few thousand – to leave their jobs. He said they were “humiliating our people, humiliating our families, and humiliating everyone who comes to pray in the blessed Aqsa Mosque.”
So Khoury, for Odeh, is a disgrace. And the historic unity that Khoury’s father spoke about is, for Odeh and his Joint List, a political liability. This is a party that thrives on creating divisions and enmity between Jews and Arabs, not on fostering any kind of integration and unity.
At a time of galloping terrorism, of citizens being shot and stabbed in city streets by fanatics whose terrorist methodology is used not only to kill Jews in Israel, but thousands upon thousands of Muslims around the world, Odeh’s message is that those Arabs who are engaged in a battle against this indiscriminate murder are “humiliating” their people.
There are many messages Odeh could have delivered on the occasion of Ramadan. He could have gone for the traditional: “May the crescent-shaped moon of Ramadan brighten your path toward enlightenment.” Or for the more spiritual, “Ramadan is the month to seek forgiveness for our sins, may Allah accept our prayers and pardon our wrongdoings.”
He could have opted to spend his two-and-a-half-minute video talking about how the deprivation of the body during Ramadan is a time to concentrate on bettering the soul and on becoming a better person.
Instead, what was the message of the leader of the largest Arab party in the Knesset? That Arabs should not serve in the country’s security forces – security forces that also protect them.
Odeh, who likes to fashion himself as an Israeli Palestinian Martin Luther King, had a message not of harmony but rather of division, of perpetual conflict – anything but conciliation, anything but Arabs and Jews living side by side in this country, sharing the space equitably and shouldering part of the responsibility for keeping that space safe.
While Ra’am Party head Mansour Abbas, Odeh’s political rival, is trying to improve the lot of the country’s Arab minority by working with Israel and Israelis, Odeh continues to sow nothing but division and enmity.
Religious Zionist Party MK Itamar Ben-Gvir has been rightly accused since the onset of this most recent wave of violence of “dancing on the blood” of the victims, of going to the sites of some of the attacks and firing up the crowds, tapping into the rage caused by the terrorism to win new followers.
Odeh is doing the same thing.
The terrorism, and the IDF’s response to it, are Odeh’s cue to fan the flames.
Sadly, that seems to be his only political ticket: what Odeh wants to do is make sure the Israeli-Arab conflict endures. He sees an opportunity to ensure that the discourse between Arab and Jew in this land is not one of integration, one of working within the system to get more for Arab-Israelis, issues that his rival Mansour Abbas speaks about; rather, he wants the emphasis to be on the Aqsa Mosque and Palestinian nationalism.
Odeh can’t compete with Abbas on the integration card, on improving the daily lives of Arab-Israelis, so he needs to keep in the forefront the violence and the conflict and the “occupation.”
The “historic unity” that Jeries Khoury talked about is not the stuff that Odeh can cash in on at the ballot box. Odeh’s political oxygen is only conflict and the “evils of Zionism.”
This, he believes, is what resonates with his voters, and this is why he must forever put that at the forefront and look for reasons – such as the recent wave of terrorism and the IDF’s reaction – to keep it there.