'We're the original owners of this land'

Bishara: Israel couldn't rise to challenge I posed; repeats he'll quit Knesset.

azmi bishara (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
azmi bishara
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Balad party chairman Azmi Bishara, who left Israel two weeks ago before announcing his plans to resign for the Knesset, attacked the state in a radio interview on Friday, saying "it was unable to rise to the challenge he posed to its Jewish nature and to Zionism." "We [Arabs] are the original owners of this land," he told Nazareth's A-Shams Radio. "They want us to act like guests in our own country and to prove all the time that all is well. All is not well. We are Palestinian Arabs, the children of this land, and we will act in a manner befitting a people who oppose occupation and aggression." National Religious Party chairman Zevulun Orlev has collected the signatures necessary to call a special Knesset session during the legislature's spring recess to discuss the Bishara issue and the loyalty of Arab MKs to the state.
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  • Politics: The rise of 'Bish-Arabism' Bishara said Israel could not stand the solidarity he had shown with the Lebanese during the recent war. "I am more democratic, liberal and left-wing than they [Jewish Israelis] are," he added. Bishara reiterated that he planned to resign from the Knesset and said he did not intend to return to Israel in the near future. He refused to disclose his current location. The MK told A-Shams that he intended to travel to Qatar on Sunday and then to participate in an international Arab conference in Bahrain. "I want privacy," he said "I don't want be hounded by the media." Bishara said the accusations being leveled against him were severe and security related. He said he could not elaborate due to the gag order placed on the case, preferring to exclaim: "Now the rules of the game have changed. When you hear the accusations made against me you will understand that there are now different rules." The gag order will be challenged in the High Court of Justice on Sunday morning by a group of media outlets and Arab political parties. Bishara has vowed to not return to Israel until the gag order is removed. Bishara said reports he was seeking political asylum abroad were baseless. "I am an MK who still has immunity and I have the right to travel," he said. Bishara also accused the Israeli media of an "unprecedented hate campaign that started in 2000." Islamic Movement officials praised the secular Christian Bishara at a mass rally on Saturday. MK Ibrahim Sarsour of the United Arab List told the protesters that by targeting Bishara, Israel was targeting all of its Arabs. Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.