Odeh should retract his outrageous comments - editorial

MK Ayman Odeh issued comments telling Arabs in security forces to lay down their weapons and Jews to refuse to serve in the West Bank.

 Joint list leader MK Ayman Odeh speeks during a discussion on the "Kafr Kassem massacre," during a plenum session in the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on October 27, 2021.  (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
Joint list leader MK Ayman Odeh speeks during a discussion on the "Kafr Kassem massacre," during a plenum session in the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on October 27, 2021.
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

Knesset Member Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint List, triggered outrage on Sunday when he called on Arabs serving in security forces to give up their weapons and quit.

In a Ramadan video that he posted from Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate, he said, “It is humiliating for our sons to join the security forces of the occupation... The young people must not join the occupation forces. Throw their weapons in their faces and tell them that our place is not with you.”

Damascus Gate, it should be noted, has been the flashpoint of ongoing clashes between Palestinians and the Israel Police since the start of Ramadan last week.

Odeh added fuel to the fire by later calling on Jewish Israelis to refuse to serve in the West Bank. “Don’t serve in the occupation forces, don’t kill,” he told N12. “I actually see Israelis with us in the fight against the occupation and for peace. We need peace and there is no way to achieve it without ending the occupation and establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel.”

Odeh’s comments, which sparked calls to investigate him for inciting violence, are outrageous. Israel is facing the deadliest wave of terror in recent years. The victims of the recent attack in Bnei Brak included a Christian Arab police officer, Amir Khoury, who was fatally wounded as he shot the terrorist in a firefight.

 Members of Israeli ZAKA team clean blood from the site after a shooting terror attack on Dizengoff street on April 8, 2022 in Tel Aviv (credit: Amir Levy/Getty Images) Members of Israeli ZAKA team clean blood from the site after a shooting terror attack on Dizengoff street on April 8, 2022 in Tel Aviv (credit: Amir Levy/Getty Images)

What Odeh is doing from the opposition ranks – in the midst of a coalition crisis in which the government has lost its majority in the Knesset – is basically cheap politics that undermines the delicate fabric of the State of Israel and the integration of Arabs into Israeli society.

As the head of the coalition’s Ra’am party Mansour Abbas noted, Odeh apparently thought that his party might be asked by the government to support it after last week’s defection of Yamina MK Idit Silman – and his comments were aimed at thwarting any potential partnership.

“There are forces trying to crush us and our shared life,” Abbas said. “We must be a stronger force than them. The entire Arab sector has come out against the recent wave of terror attacks, even people who hold opposite views than I do.”

We urge Odeh to issue a retraction of his words, saying that like any moral human being, he does not encourage terrorism or violence, and he is not rejecting the right of all Arabs to serve in Israeli security forces across the country and is not inciting them to a rebellion.

If he doesn’t retract, then a legal process should be launched by the relevant authorities to indict him for incitement and a political process should be launched to oust him and the other 12 members of his party (if they in fact support him) from the Knesset.

In television interviews this week, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett made it clear that the Joint List would not be invited to join the ranks of the coalition and he accused Odeh of forging “an alliance of trolls” with the Likud and Religious Zionist Party aimed at toppling the government.

“Odeh’s way is not the right way,” Bennett said, saying he prefers Mansour Abbas, “who recognizes Israel as Jewish, who is moderate and who wants to build connections and lower crime in Arab society.”

Bennett’s direct message to Arab Israelis serving in the police and the IDF was salient and correct. “The people of Israel are proud of you,” he declared. “Don’t give in to this bullying.”

Odeh later clarified that he was not referring to Arab Israelis serving within Israel, but only in what he considers “occupied territory,” which for him includes Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The Jerusalem Post’s Herb Keinon put it best when he wrote: “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 this country – sharing the space equitably and shouldering part of the responsibility for keeping that space safe.”

Odeh once said that his service on the Haifa City Council made it clear to him that Arabs and Jews must work together. His latest rant is a textbook example of how to destroy the chances of coexistence rather than help build it up. We urge him to recant.