Comment: Bishara betrayed his own - Israeli Arabs

Bishara is responsible for fact that many Jews regard Arab citizens as "fifth column."

azmi bishara 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
azmi bishara 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Azmi Bishara not only betrayed the state, but also the 70,000 people who voted for him in the last parliamentary election. And the damage he has done to the cause of Israel's entire Arab minority is almost irreparable. Bishara is responsible, among other things, for the fact that many Jews today regard Arab citizens as a "fifth column" and a major security threat. His high-profile visits to Damascus and Beirut, as well as his fiery statements against the state, played into the hands of those here who view Arab citizens as a "strategic threat." The majority of Israeli Arabs would have liked to see Bishara fight for equality and better government services in the Arab sector. They would have preferred to see him exploit his position as an MK to obtain more funds for local Arab councils and municipalities and to absorb a higher number of Arab university graduates in the public sector. But Bishara knew very well that his chances of winning media attention were not going to come from dealing with sewage or overcrowded classrooms in the Arab sector. On the other hand, meetings with Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah or Syrian dictator Hafez Assad, and later his son, Bashar, were the best means to make headlines. Bishara has repeatedly come under fire from many Arab reformists for allying himself with the Assads' ruthless regime. Bishara aspired to win the admiration of the masses throughout the Arab world. He deliberately provoked the Israeli establishment with the hope that it would take measures against him, turning the Christian MK into a champion of the Arab and Muslim world. To a certain degree, he succeeded in achieving his goal by assuming the role of a "persecuted" Arab forced by the Jews to flee his homeland. In an interview with a local Arab radio station two weeks ago, Bishara hinted that he was about to resign from the Knesset because he was way "above" Israeli politics. In other words, he was saying that he was too important to serve as a parliamentarian in Israel. But Bishara forgot to mention that no one forced him to run in the general election and to serve as an MK for the past decade. Nor did anyone ask him to present his candidacy for the post of prime minister in Israel in 1996. By delaying his resignation, Bishara was perhaps trying to imitate his mentor and ideologue, former Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser, who enjoyed seeing his constituents and the Arab masses beg him not to quit. Undoubtedly, Bishara was disappointed to see that the Arab masses in Israel did not take to the streets to implore him to stay on. Bishara chose to resign without offering his supporters a good explanation as to his motives. Instead of remaining here to respond to the serious allegations against him, he chose to run away, leaving his followers shocked and bewildered. Bishara has yet to explain to his colleagues and followers the source of the millions of shekels that he is said to have received from foreign parties. Moreover, he needs to explain what he did with the money. He is no different than those who dispatch suicide bombers. The leaders will fight to the last soldier, but are never prepared to make personal sacrifices. Bishara ran away as soon as he realized that he could spend many years behind bars. On an optimistic note, Bishara's case could serve as a wake-up call for Israel's Arab citizens, many of whom may finally realize that schmoozing with such dubious figures as Nasrallah and Assad does not serve their interests. Bishara's decision to "disengage" from Israel could pave the way for restoring confidence between Jews and Arabs in Israel. That is, of course, on condition that new Bisharas don't emerge in the near future.