Arab-Israeli advocacy group sounds alarm to int'l community over new gov't

Group fears gov't might try to infringe on the rights of the Arab minority, engage in "incitement."

An Arab-Israeli advocacy center is going on the offensive against what it sees as potentially harmful policies that the new government may espouse. Jafar Farah, the director of the Haifa-based Mossawa Center, said he and former Labor MK Nadia Hilou met with six German MPs on Thursday to discuss the Arab community's concerns vis-a-vis the government. In recent weeks, Farah has met with 13 ambassadors, including those from Britain, Belgium, Poland and Sweden, to discuss the same issues. And on April 19, he will leave for a 10-day trip to the United States, where he hopes to meet with members of US President Barack Obama's administration, Congressmen and representatives of Jewish and Arab-American organizations. "We don't have big hopes for this government. We feel that this new government will - at least, part of it - be targeting the Arab community and will... complicate the Middle East conflict with confrontations between Jews and Arabs," Farah said. He fears that the new right-wing government might try to infringe on the rights of the Arab minority, and engage in incitement as well as in "house demolitions and other policies that may affect badly the relationship between Arabs and Jews." Some Arab Israelis consider remarks by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman of Israel Beiteinu as well as members of the National Union (which is in the opposition) as "incitement." Lieberman has proposed that all citizens, including Arabs, pledge loyalty to Israel as a Jewish state, and supports exchanging Arab towns for West Bank settlements in the event of a peace deal with the Palestinians. He has also referred to the "enemy within," apparently meaning Arab Israelis. Farah said he was particularly concerned that a former member of the now outlawed Kach party, Michael Ben-Ari, has become an MK. "You have people who clearly say that they want to undermine the status of the [Arab] community," Farah said. During his trip to the US, he hopes to raise awareness "about the risks we may face in the near future," and to build contacts in the new administration and with NGOs. However, a US official said Thursday that while "we're concerned about coexistence and we're concerned about peace and mutual understanding, I can't envision us getting publicly involved in an internal [Israeli] political issue." The State Department, did, however, issue an annual rights report that examines perceived rights violations in every country of the world, he said. Lieberman denies that he is racist or fascist. "I stand at the head of the most diverse political party in the Knesset... I find it a bit rich to be called a bigot," he wrote in a February piece in New York Jewish Week. He also wrote that while Israel Beiteinu had no objection to the nonviolent expression of opinion by Israeli Arabs, "it is violent speech that forms a clear and present danger that we refuse to tolerate." Deputy Minister for the Development of the Negev and the Galilee Ayoub Kara, a Druse from the Likud, also defended the new government's position vis-a-vis minorities. "Mossawa is a political organization, political people stand behind it, with all due respect, they have learned to damage the Right... [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu said unequivocally that he continues the same line as the previous government when it comes to peace."