MK Eitam calls for 'removal' of Arabs

MK Tibi: "His remarks would have sounded more authentic in German."

effi eitam 88 (photo credit: )
effi eitam 88
(photo credit: )
MK Effie Eitam called Sunday for the expulsion of Arabs from the West Bank and the removal of Israeli Arabs from the political scene, igniting the most recent in a series of clashes between Arab and Israeli Knesset members. "We have to expel most Arabs from Judea and Samaria," Eitam said at a memorial service for Lt. Amihai Merhavia, a soldier who was killed in the battle for Bint Jbail in South Lebanon. "We can't deal with all these Arabs, and we can't give up the territory, because we've already seen what they do there. Some of them might have to stay under certain conditions, but most of them will have to go." Eitam also launched a pointed attack at Arab Knesset members, whom he labeled "traitors." "We've got to remove Israeli Arabs from the political scene. We've allowed a fifth column to grow here - a group of traitors. We can't have a hostile group like this in our political system," said Eitam. Left wing and Arab MKs slammed Eitam's remarks as "racist," and Hadash chairman Muhammad Barakei and Meretz chairman Yossi Beilin called on Attorney- General Menahem Mazuz to press criminal charges against Eitam for "racist incitement." Beilin added that Eitam's statement constituted "racist incitement [that] even crosses the red lines of the extreme Right. A Jewish democratic state cannot live with such statements." According to an amendment to the law of parliamentary immunity, an MK's immunity can be lifted if they incite racism or ethnic prejudice. "These comments would have sounded more authentic if he had said them in German," said MK Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List). "These types of remarks are the lowest form of racism in Israeli society." It was the first time that Eitam has publicly supported the deportation of Palestinians, a move that was espoused by National Union founder Rehavam Ze'evi as the "transfer" model. Eitam's comments came in the wake of a highly controversial weekend visit of Balad MKs Azmi Bishara, Jamal Zahalka and Wasal Taha to Syria. On Sunday, the attorney-general announced that he was opening an investigation against the MKs for violating a 2001 law that bans politicians from visiting enemy states, prompting Bishara to announce that he was "willing to pay the price" for the trip to Syria. "Arab solidarity cannot be maintained without paying a price," Bishara said Monday to the London-based newspaper Al-Hayat. Their trip "proves why Israel has to remove Israeli Arabs from our political system," said Eitam. Several hours after Eitam made the comments, he attended a meeting of the Knesset Interior Committee, where Interior Minister Roni Bar-On reiterated his request that the Foreign Ministry revoke the passports of the Balad MKs. During that meeting, Bar-On reignited a fight with Arab representatives of the North by repeating his claim that Arab municipalities mismanaged funds and fled responsibility during the war. Two weeks ago, when Bar-On first made the statement during the committee meeting, the Arab representatives present responded with shouts of "scoundrel" and "racist" and were eventually removed from the room. On Monday, different representatives attended the meeting but the results were the same. One local municipality leader asked Bar-On about the comments he made, and began shouting: "You scoundrel, you have sold yourself to the state," when Bar-On said that he stood by his comments. That leader, along with several local leaders from Nahariya, all had to be forcibly removed by security guards and nearly exchanged blows with the guards as they were dragged from the room. "I'd like to ask who invited these people here," said Eitam after the commotion had died down. "This exactly proves my point. We allow these people into our political system and we allow them into our committees and what do we get but violence and disruption?" There have been ongoing tensions between Israeli and Arab MKs since the start of the 17th Knesset. Eitam's colleague, MK Zevulun Orlev (NU-NRP), proposed a law at the end of the last Knesset session that would ban MKs from the Knesset who "support or identify" with a terror organization. That law has been revived this week with both Eitam and Orlev arguing that it is more necessary than ever. "We are witness to many steps to push [Palestinians] aside and expel them from their homeland," said Barakei. "This is not democracy."